Bikram yoga, also known as hot yoga, is known to be more beneficial to the heart than other types of yoga. However, scientists now say that this claim may not actually have basis in reality.
What can Bikram yoga do for us that other types of yoga can't?
This brand of yoga may have landed in hot water in recent years for unsavory reasons, but many people still swear by it. It’s a series of 26 yoga poses practiced in a room heated to a temperature of just over 40 degrees Celsius (or 104 degrees Fahrenheit), thus the moniker “hot yoga”. One of the health claims of Bikram yoga is that it’s better for the heart than the yoga practiced in room temperature, because it can improve the function of the inner blood vessel lining.
But does practicing yoga in high temperatures really benefit the heart more? A new study has found that no, it actually doesn’t. The heat component in Bikram yoga doesn’t really make the technique any more effective than yoga practiced in normal temperatures.
The 26 Bikram yoga poses
Thus, if you can’t take the heat, you don’t need to get out of the yoga studio. Researchers say that the heart benefits of Bikram yoga—or any other type of yoga—doesn’t actually rely on the heat of the environment you’re practicing your poses in.
“The postures and the breathing exercises are enough in the absence of the heated environment to elicit some beneficial adaptations that could reduce the risk of heart disease,” said Dr Stacey Hunter, one of the researchers. Thus, if you’re not really comfortable engaging in physical activity in a really hot room, you actually don’t have to.
Researchers chose a group of middle-aged adults with sedentary lifestyles but are otherwise healthy as participants in their study. 19 of these adults went on with their lives as usual, while 14 participated in 12 weeks of three 90 minute-long Bikram yoga classes at room temperature. 19 more participants took Bikram yoga classes at a temperature of 40.5 degrees Celsius.
The research team also took factors such as weight, blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and the ability of an artery in the forearm to dilate when blood flow is increased. The dilation of the artery would indicate how well the inner blood vessel lining functions.
We can reap cardiovascular benefits from any type of yoga.
Unsurprisingly, the results showed that the participants who did not go to yoga classes did not improve in health. However, both groups that attended yoga classes enjoyed the same health benefits regardless of the temperature of the room in which they practiced their poses. The results also showed that yoga didn’t have much of an effect on blood pressure, blood lipids, cholesterol levels, or weight. The findings do note, however, that those who participated in hot yoga lost a little bit of body fat, likely because they used a little more energy.
Aging isn’t all that merciful on our bodies, and one effect is the loss of flexibility in our blood vessels. As we get older, our vessels start to lose the ability to expand and contract as they once did. Studies have found that yoga does indeed help improve the way our blood vessels expand and contract, which is linked to improving heart health. However, Bikram yoga isn’t the only type of yoga that will help you achieve this.
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