9, 3, 0.5 and 7: Hot Yoga By The Numbers

9, 3, 0.5 and 7: Hot Yoga By The Numbers

Shane BarnhillWednesday,31 December 2014

Earlier this year, in May, I started going to hot yoga class about twice each week. I was motivated to start practicing hot yoga — not just regular old yoga, mind you, but the hot kind, where the room temperature is 105 degrees Fahrenheit and humidifiers practically turn the studio into a steam room — in order to improve my flexibility and improve as a hockey player. I enjoy playing hockey, but until May I had often struggled during games due to muscle tightness and occasional cramps. It’s kind of hard to get into a low, crouching stance in order to take away a passing lane when you’re afraid of pulling your groin muscle; consequently, I turned to yoga to loosen up and add strength in the process.

And the results?

Well, first off, I accomplished my main goal: a dramatic improvement in my flexibility. I still do some stretching before each hockey game, but I’m already so limber from my yoga practice that there really isn’t any muscle tightness to stretch out. That alone has made my hot yoga practice worth it.

But I have experienced some additional, unexpected health benefits from hot yoga. Here they are, by the numbers:

9: Pounds that I lost over the summer, and have managed to keep off this year. At 179 lbs., I wasn’t a heavy guy to begin with when I started hot yoga. Weight loss wasn’t really a goal of mine, but it’s a nice added benefit. I feel much leaner, and the 170-175 pound range feels like my optimal weight.

3: Inches that I shed from my waistline, from May to September. I guess I should have figured that working out vigorously in a hot room a couple times a week would help me trim up, but again, this wasn’t really a goal of mine. Anyway, whatever minor beer belly I once had is now just a memory, which is good, if the news that belly fat is associated with reduced lifespans is true.

0.5: Inches taller that I’ve “grown” since starting yoga. When I went in for my annual physical, my doctor was puzzled by my new height. “Guys your age don’t usually have a growth spurt,” she joked, after double checking my records to verify that I had previously measured 1/2 inch shorter during my previous visits. The likely explanation for this odd occurrence is a slight elongation of my spine from various yoga poses. I haven’t really grown, but I am taller. Yoga teachers talk about this phenomenon all the time (or at least it feels like they do when I’m in class), but until my surprise measurement at my doctor’s office, I had always rolled my eyes at the notion of spine lengthening.

7: Fewer resting heartbeats per minute that I now average. Before starting hot yoga, my resting heart rate was in the very bottom edge of the normal range. Now, it’s down in the range of elite athletes, which is funny to me, given how hard I struggle just to get through each 60-80 minute hot yoga class.

In summary, hot yoga is pretty damn good for you. I’m not trying to be some sort of an evangelist for yoga, but it’s done some amazing things for my health. As I look back on 2014, taking up hot yoga is certainly one my top highlights of the year.

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