The question: I am contemplating trying hot yoga, what are the pros and cons?
The answer: I don't love hot yoga as it tends to make me slightly nauseous. Personal preference aside, I don't think hot yoga is appropriate for beginners. Participants should be familiar with traditional yoga (or at least other forms of flexibility-based exercise), so that they have the mind-body awareness to know what is an appropriate range of motion for their body.
Those familiar with my work might be surprised by my definitiveness. I tend to be more diplomatic, but I stand behind my opinion! When stretching, as you approach the limits of your flexibility, your body provides a pain response. This pain response is a good thing – it tells you how far you can safely stretch without injuring yourself. Heat delays the pain response, allowing you to stretch further.
That may sound like a good thing; in fact, people often go to hot yoga for that very reason. The problem is, heat doesn't actually make you more flexible, it just delays the pain response, thus making it more likely you will overstretch and hurt yourself.
My suggestion, if you decide you want to go to hot yoga, is to participate in some regular yoga classes first to figure out your personal limits. Then, when you go to hot yoga, don't be seduced by your ego or a teacher encouraging you to "go deeper." Work within your limits: Stop stretching before you feel pain, not when you feel pain.
If you can afford it, invest in a few one-on-one or semi-private sessions. Yoga classes in general can be dangerous for beginners. It can be hard for the instructor to get to everyone due to the sheer volume of participants.
Trainer's tip: A balance of flexibility and strength is needed for optimum muscular and joint function.
Excessive flexibility, without the corresponding strength, can lead to unstable joints. Strength, without flexibility, can lead to muscles that become strained from something as simple as bending down to tie your shoes.
If you are naturally flexible, prioritize traditional strength exercises over yoga. If you do yoga, don't "hang out in your joints." Instead, focus on the strength-building aspect of yoga. If you are strong and relatively inflexible, prioritize yoga. But be careful, don't yank or bounce in the pose.
Kathleen Trotter has been a personal trainer and Pilates equipment specialist for 10 years. Her website is www.kathleentrotter.com.
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