Beginners of type of yoga need precautions



marianne helm/canadian press


Owner Tammy Beck, centre, instructs a yoga class at Hot Yoga Winnipeg.


Pam Porath is a marathon runner who spent three years going to yoga classes as a way to supplement her training.

But she was caught off guard by the way she felt at the end of her first hot yoga class two years ago, where she spent 90 minutes stretching and sweating in a second-floor studio heated to about 37.5 C.

“The first time, when I hit the bottom of those stairs, it felt like I had just run 26 miles,” says Porath, a customer-service representative. “It was that exact same feeling, a huge exhilaration, and, surprisingly enough, a real fresh feeling at the end of it all.”

Hot Yoga has become an increasingly popular workout practised around the world. There are several similar forms which all aim to strengthen and stretch the muscles, ligaments and joints while also calming the mind and reducing stress.

For example, Bikram yoga, which Porath practises at Hot Yoga Winnipeg, is a series of 26 postures while Moksha is a series of 40 postures.

Porath gives hot yoga much of the credit for the fact she is now sleeping better, her acne has cleared up and she no longer needs medication for a hypothyroid condition that had bothered her for years.

Stacey Burnette says hot yoga has helped her manage a nerve problem in her left leg that resulted in her having a spinal cord stimulator surgically implanted.

She used to have it turned on and pulsing every day for much of the day, but now says she only needs it about once a month.

“The pain is hardly there now,” says Burnette, 25, who works as an analyst for the Manitoba government. “I know it’s not all due to hot yoga, but it’s definitely helped.”

While sports medicine specialists say hot yoga can result in tangible health benefits, they caution it is not for everyone and participants need to be prepared.

“Yoga in general has many benefits in terms of flexibility and muscle tone, but the differentiating feature here is the heat so you just need a little bit of caution,” said Dr. Merrilee Zetaruk, a Winnipeg pediatrician specializing in sports medicine.

Zetaruk says pregnant women should avoid the classes as well as children, and seniors who may be in frail health.

Some medications used to treat heart conditions and other ailments may interfere with a patient’s ability to regulate their temperature properly so people could be more likely to overheat.

People also need to be aware that a past episode of heat stroke or heat exhaustion could make hot yoga a risky activity.

“Somebody who has had heat illness in the past would be more vulnerable to having it again, so they should probably avoid participation in hot yoga,” said Zetaruk.

hot yoga tip

  • To avoid feeling dizzy or weak, hot yoga participants should increase their water intake 60-90 minutes before the class and then drink about one cup every 30 minutes during the class.