It’s called “hot” yoga because it’s practiced in sweltering temperatures, and some research has hinted that it might improve heart health more than traditional yoga.
But a new study suggests that adding heat to your Half Moon pose doesn’t boost its cardiac benefits.
“We were surprised by the result that a non-heated practice seemed to have the same benefit on vascular health as the heated practice,” admitted study author Stacy Hunter. She is an assistant professor of exercise and sports science in the department of health and human performance at Texas State University in San Marcos.
“Previous research has documented reductions in cardiovascular disease risk with sauna therapy alone,” Hunter explained. “So we thought that the heated environment in Bikram [hot] yoga would cause a greater response and have more benefit.”
The researchers noted that Bikram yoga has a global following, and entails running through a sequence of 26 standard yoga poses in 105-degree heat.
At issue was whether Bikram yoga invigorated a process known as vasodilation, Hunter said. Vasodilation is associated with the production of nitric oxide, which helps to ward off inflammation. As such, vigorous vasodilation may ultimately slow or delay hardening of the arteries, which is a known risk factor for heart attack or stroke.
In an earlier study, Hunter’s team found that middle-aged Bikram yoga participants experienced increased vasodilation.
But the question remained about whether this was sparked by the high-temperature environment of Bikram, or whether it might also happen among those performing yoga in normal temperatures.