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Heating Up Your Yoga Practice: From the Inside Out
by Tarra J. Madore



There is something wonderful about a good sweat – especially when you are sweating from your yoga practice. Glistening from head to toe from a strong practice makes you feel like you have gotten a great workout and cleansed your system. With the increased interest in doing yoga in heated environments it is valuable to note that there is an actual difference between sweating as a by-product of using muscular energy and as a response to being in a heated environment. There are many misconceptions about sweating, body heat and fat loss as they relate to yoga and other physical activities.

The Physiology of Sweat

We know that sweating is a form of excretion and it does help rid the body of toxins. One of the biggest misconceptions about sweat is that the more you sweat, the more fat you burn. Sweating does not cause nor indicate fat loss. Sweating is your body's reaction to increased temperatures and is the primary method used to cool the body. In order for the body to function optimally, body temperature must remain relatively constant. Luckily, we have a regulatory system, called thermoregulation, in place to keep our body temperature relatively constant in any type of environment. So when we walk into a cold room our body responds by constricting the blood vessels in order to preserve heat. When we walk into a hot space we begin to sweat to allow for heat to dissipate through evaporation. Both cold and hot temperatures can wreak havoc on our body systems. The cold air conditioning in the summer can cause the blood vessels to constrict and muscles to contract. This increases the workload of the heart. The heart will have to pump harder to get blood to all areas of the body. Most people know that the summer midday sun is so hot that it is not recommended to do work or exercise outside during the sun’s peak hours, really between 10am and 4pm. Runners tend to run outdoors in the early morning or late evening when the sun is not as hot. This is smart thinking on their part because when you lose too much water through sweating, you cause dehydration.

Our body is made up of about 75% water, varying slightly depending on age and other factors. When you lose water, you do technically lose weight. This fact makes increased sweating during practice excessively attractive to some people. Even though you drop water weight quickly, you gain it right back by taking in the water necessary for replenishing your system. Dehydration occurs when you lose more water than you take in. So whenever you are sweating, you must drink water. One of the main causes of dehydration is hard work or exercise in excessively high temperatures. The body is smart enough to trigger the thirst mechanism in response to water loss. When you are thirsty, you need to drink. If you do not replenish water naturally the body has to employ more drastic measures to keep alive. The body will begin to decrease urine output, the mouth gets dry, your eyes stop tearing, your muscles cramp, you may have heart palpitations, you get lightheaded and may experience nausea or vomiting. You can experience one or all of these warning signs. Dehydration is serious and can lead to many problems including organ failures, coma and death.

Want to Heat up your Practice?

Most people don’t want to practice yoga in excessively cold environments. However, many want to practice in excessive heat. The idea to cleanse the body is a good one. I love a good sweat. However, if you are in a room that makes you sweat before you begin your practice, you will be fighting against your body’s natural mechanisms to keep you healthy and safe. If you are sweating from the outside temperature (outside your body) then your body is already starting its cooling response and will continue to try and cool itself throughout your practice in order to maintain proper function. With that in mind, your muscles will not create the heat needed to burn calories and burn fat. On the other hand if you practice in a mild temperature, you will, through your practice create a different kind of heat by working your muscles. By allowing your muscles to generate your heat, you will definitely work up a sweat while also burning calories and fat. A room with a temperature between 72 and 78 is an amazing sanctuary for a strong and flexible practice space. That temperature range is not a hard rule, rather a general guideline. It keeps your muscles warm, yet allows you to crank up the heat from the inside out. That translates to a sweat that builds up from your hard work not from the outside temperature. It is not recommended to practice in a space with temperatures cooler than 72 degrees as this may cause the body's natural thermoregulation system to restrict blood flow to keep the core warm. If you do enjoy a yoga practice where the room is heated to a temperature above 78 degrees, please be sure to do so with the guidance of a well-trained instructor and be sure to replenish water often.

So heat up your practice safely and efficiently by working your muscles deeply. A good strong practice can open you in ways you never thought possible.


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About the Author

Tarra Piparo Madore is a yoga instructor and retired chiropractor who has studied at Palmer College of Chiropractic, Himalayan Institute and most recently with senior certified Anusara teachers Naime Jezzeny and Sue Elkind. She is Director of Inner Light Yoga Center in North Brunswick, NJ and is also Co-Publisher and Creative Director for New Jersey Namaste News magazine.








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