Hot yoga, which refers to yoga practiced in a heated environment, is gaining popularity.
The room temperature during 'hot yoga' sessions generally reaches till 90 to 105 degrees. The theory behind it is that hot yoga helps the body to sweat out toxins while allowing the practitioner to safely achieve deeper poses. Bikram is a common form of hot yoga.
While the practice can offer health benefits and a sense of well-being, people practicing hot yoga, especially beginners, should take certain precautions, according to Diana Zotos, a certified yoga instructor and physical therapist in the Rehabilitation Department at Hospital for Special Surgery in Manhattan.
"Yoga of any type is physically challenging, and the heated environment of hot yoga makes the practice especially demanding," Zotos said.
"The heat makes people feel as if they can stretch deeper into poses and can give them a false sense of flexibility. This can lead to muscle strains or damage to the joint, including ligaments and cartilage."
Zotos said people over 40 who have never done Bikram yoga may be at greater risk of injury, and she recommended they familiarize themselves with it prior to trying a class.
"There are many books and videos that describe this style and can demonstrate the poses and techniques."
"Since classes are constructed of the same 26 poses, people can become familiar with them beforehand."
Beginners should keep in mind that poses will require a certain level of leg, core and upper body strength, as well as balance, Zotos insisted.
People should also have a tolerance for stretching and moderate flexibility in their legs and spine.
"The heat factor also puts more strain on the heart and challenges endurance. That being said, people should be of good cardiovascular health; have healthy hip, knee, spine and shoulder joints; shouldn't have balance or neurological issues; and should have a general tolerance for excessive heat," she advised.
Zotos said that it's especially important that anyone who has hypertension, low blood pressure or heart disease check with their cardiologist before trying hot yoga.