10,000 Vinyasas

Sweating And Yoga

by on Mar.09, 2010, under teaching, Yoga

Yoga studios, by and large, extol the benefits of a hot, sweaty practice, to the point of many studios having specifically heated rooms in which to practice. The idea is that a perspiring warm body is more flexible and less prone to injuries, as well as making one more able to get deeper into poses. There’s also some suggestion (which I have always wondered whether is backed by medical research) that sweating removes “toxins” from the body.

I understand all that.

However, for me, personally, sweating profusely produces some negative effects, primarily because, for whatever reason, I always sweat more than anyone in the class. I’m always just astounded at the end of some long practices, when I observe other members of the class with little or no sweat, while I’m completely soaked. Further, I find that at a certain point, a lot of sweat produces more stress on my practice, leading it to start faltering if it continues long enough. There’s also the distraction of “sweat management,” that is, the towels, the wiping, the headbands and blankets. I know for certain that my sweating isn’t confined to yoga, because I experienced the same thing in running and other cardio activities, with the same results: my performance suffers. I was always a “cold weather runner,” whereas some of my running buddies did better in the South Texas heat.

At any rate, I do have some issues with the reflexive insistence on more heat that we find in yoga studios, since I’m usually the one most affected by this. Also, it seems odd that an instructor who insists on heat and no air movement (read: fans) then becomes too squeamish to adjust a hot, sweaty body (I’m not kidding; this happens…a lot). After some reflection, I suppose there really is no good solution to this, unless I’m just willing to do most of my practices in an environment I have more control over, which isn’t likely at this point.

On the other hand, teaching at a gym is quite different: there’s no conscious effort to heat the room, and in fact, some rooms are much colder than they need to be. The students, unused to yoga studio environments, do not recognize the benefits of sweating and a warmer room, and do things like drink water during the practice (this is frowned upon, if not outright outlawed in some yoga studios, as it reduces the benefits of ujjayi breathing. Well, anyway, I suppose my sweating is just an issue that I’ll have to deal with internally, and just get used to occasional bouts of stress.

2 Comments for this entry

  • Becky

    I’m skeptical and curious about the benefits of yoga in a heated room, especially the toxins part.

    I did hot vinyasa twice a week at Synergy before I discovered Yoga Shala, and I noticed a few things:

    1. I sweat less after practicing consistently for a while.

    2. Men seem to sweat way more than women.

    3. It feels good to get sweaty and not act gross about it. The teachers there don’t act like sweat is gross and will even touch your feet at the end of class.

    4. My flexibility did improve a lot, but that could just be from a consistent practice. (It’s improved way more since I started going to Yoga Shala/teacher training, but again consistent practice tends to do that, so it’s hard to tell if the heat helped or not.)

    5. Being outside in the Texas heat started to feel like no big deal. “What are you guys whining about, we’re just walking around outside, it’s not like we’re holding challenging poses with vinyasas in between.”

    I also think that when it’s hot outside, it’s really wasteful and strange to practice yoga in a heated room of an air conditioned building. One rationale behind the heated room is to simulate the heat of India. During summer in Texas there is no simulation necessary, and outside is so much better.

  • carl

    I have to agree, after teaching yoga for awhile, that men do tend to sweat more. My whining about sweating reflects the fact that I sweat more than most or all men, as well as women. When I took Ken’s primary series class in the summertime, he would just open up the garage door in the practice room and let all that warm, humid air come in. Talk about suffering through…I got in the habit of turning on the fans, and that helped some. Apparently now, turning on the fans is verboten in that space. Oh well…

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