I don’t like heat. While I love the idea of going to a pristine white sandy beach and lazing around in the sunshine, the reality is that after 20 minutes I’ve either gone bright red from sunburn, every insect in a 20 mile radius has pilgrimaged to my skin for a group feed, or both. My disdain for the heat transcends into the concept of a ‘hot’ yoga class. While there is no sunshine (and hopefully) no bugs in a heated studio, the practice of yoga asana is meant to be rigorous enough that the inner fire is stimulated enough through breath and effort, without the need for extra heat that can be depleting and give one a false sense of flexibility, potentially leading to injury. Further, the ‘detoxifying’ myth surrounding heated physical pursuits is just that;a myth.*
With a lack of any other options for my practice today (and having missed yesterday’s class for a much needed acupuncture appointment), I opted for the Hot Power Hour class at Indaba Yoga Studio from 12:30-1:30pm with Hortense Suleyman. Up until the last moments my mind fought my body from going into the studio, but in the end, my body won. At least, I thought to myself, it would only be an hour.
Despite my resistance to heat and the concept of hot yoga, I was pleasantly surprised. It had been a year since attending the class, and what I found was a down to earth and friendly teacher who has refined her sequencing and her ability to language both technical instruction and intention setting, something often lost in a shorter, more physically driven class. Overall, it was a fun hour that led me into a practice that felt good and away from any reminders that I was actually practicing in a hot room full of sweaty people.
*As this LA times article explains, some toxins are released through sweat, but many are not. According to Dr. Dee Anna Glaser, professor of Dermatology at St. Louis University:
[in] the big picture, sweat has only one function: Cooling you down when you overheat. “Sweating for the sake of sweating has no benefits,” she says. “Sweating heavily is not going to release a lot of toxins.”
In fact, Glaser says, heavy sweating can impair your body’s natural detoxification system. As she explains, the liver and kidneys — not the sweat glands — are the organs we count on to filter toxins from our blood. If you don’t drink enough water to compensate for a good sweat, dehydration could stress the kidneys and keep them from doing their job. “If you’re not careful, heavy sweating can be a bad thing,” she says.
Sweating definitely won’t help clear the body of mercury or other metals, says Donald Smith, a professor of environmental toxicology at UC Santa Cruz, who studies treatments for metal poisoning. Almost all toxic metals in the body are excreted through urine or feces, he says. And less than 1% are lost through sweat. In other words, you’ll do far more detoxifying in the bathroom than you ever could in a sauna.
Another resource for hot yoga mythbusting: http://theyogadr.com/sweating-cool/ I especially like this bit:
And if youâ€™re a meth addict, thereâ€™s some evidence that the body detoxifies from this and a few other lipophilic drugs (anti-seizure medicine for instance) through sweating. I doubt the people smoking meth are the same ones who frequent the clubs to exercise in extreme temperatures. Maybe. You never know.