Heating Up Your Yoga Practice: From the Inside Out 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. We know that sweating helps to rid the body of toxins. The crazy thing is that some people think, the more you sweat, the more fat you burn and that’s just not true.

The physiology of sweat Sweat occurs as a means to cool your body. The body temperature must remain relatively constant for the body to function optimally. After all, we are warm blooded creatures. If our body temperature changed to our surrounding environment, we would not be able to sustain life. Luckily, we have a regulatory system, called thermoregulation, in place to keep our body temp. relatively constant in any type of environment. So when we walk into a cold room our body responds by constricting the body vessels in order to preserve heat. When we walk into a hot space we begin to sweat to allow for heat to dissipate. Both cold and hot temperatures can wreak havoc on our body systems. The cold air condition 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 at 2 pm in the summer the sun is so hot. It is not recommend 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. It is smart! When you lose too much water through sweating, you cause dehydration. Our body is made up of about 75% water. It goes up and down a bit with age. When you lose water, you lose weight. It makes sweating excessively attractive to some people.

However, the problem is that the water must be replenished. Even though you drop water weight quickly, you gain it right back by drinking water again. And you have to drink the water or your body will shut down. 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 is 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 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 system shut down, coma and death. 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. It has to maintain proper function. With that in mind, your muscles will not create 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 heat by working your muscles, they will create energy (heat), burn calories, burn fat and you will sweat from the inside out. That is effective and efficient for the body.

Want to heat up your practice? You want to practice in a warm room. The warmth will allow your muscles to feel good. You do not want to practice in a cold room. 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. 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. Written for Namaste News 2011