When it comes to staying invested in my own health, appealing to both my temperature and vanity is a very, very good trick.
At 46-and-a-half, staying warm and looking youthful are basically the two engines as to why I bother to do anything that could be construed as exercise. Accordingly, over the decades, I have discovered some options, both natural and nutsy-kookoo, to simultaneously raise my body temperature and infuse my complexion with an ageless glow.
Touted by medical professionals of all backgrounds for its health-boosting properties, the benefits of exercise with heat include increasing the extensibility of collagen tissues; decreasing joint stiffness; reducing pain; relieving muscle spasms; reducing inflammation, aids in healing and increasing blood flow.
While these statements may seem bold, the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) cites that Bikram yogis have reported improved lower body strength, lower and upper body range of motion, and even an uptick in overall balance. It may, with regular practice, also improve glucose tolerance, bone mineral density, blood lipid profile, arterial stiffness, mindfulness and perceived stress.
Tarzan say, Fire, good!
To which I say, Where do I sign?!
There is an emerging body of evidence to suggest that some like it hot AF for very good reasons.
Recently, I have come across a delightful handful of options and venues through which I can get my sweat on and keep the sag off, but when it comes to the “apex predator” of stoking the eternal flame, there is but one accessible option offering the most blistering of glorious infernos: Bikram Yoga.
Basically a whole-body detox delivered in a stifling sarcophagus, Bikram’s schvitzy devotees practice in one of 600 worldwide studios equipped to heat things up to a mind-melting 105 degrees and is then mercilessly infused with a soupy 40 percent humidity. Within this controlled environment inspired by the deepest depths of Hell, the brave and crazy are led through an hour-and-a-half heart-thumping standardized sweatfest of 26 yoga postures and two breathing exercises.
Indeed, the choreography of the postures paired with the blast of triple-digit temperatures seem to offer a measurable method for optimizing the human experience.
While on paper this sounds especially insane, there is an emerging body of evidence to suggest that some like it hot AF for very good reasons.
According to a 2015 report published by the NCBI, there is some evidence to suggest that the swampy environment in Bikram yoga, in tandem with the physical activity of the postures, has been shown to increase active and passive range of motion of the muscles comparable to static stretching or an active warm-up.
“The heat…ahhh, the heat,” says Kiley Enmark, Bikram teacher extraordinaire with 105F, Chicago’s original Bikram Yoga studio. Taking her training in 2011 and teaching full time since 2014, Kiley’s technicolor energy and glowing complexion are just two of the obvious benefits of a regular hot yoga practice.
“During class, you’ll work every muscle, tissue, organ, and gland,” Enmark asserts. “Stretching and compressing. Moving and breathing. It’s a full-body workout from the inside out.”
"Your metabolism will be kick started. Your stress levels will plummet. You will cleanse and detox."
-Kiley Enmark, Bikram instructor at 105F
Sold! With 2,000 hot yoga classes in the books, Bikram studios all over the world have hosted my heat-seeking mission. Having taken classes in English, French, Dutch, Danish, Italian and Estonian, this devoted level of peripatetic perspiration ignites hours of body heat and lights up my face!
Top 5 Bikram Yoga Tips
This is what everyone says because it is true. Hydration before, during and after class is the easiest way to ensure maximum joy, i.e., you will not puke or pass out. I have done both, and a lack of hydration did not help. Drink water. Lots and lots of water. Sometimes Bikram teachers will psych you out and tell you that you don’t need water during class. F ’em. It’s your class and your kidneys.
- Keep skincare clean
Bikram yoga asks a lot of your skin. Do yourself and your epithelial cells a favor and take good care of it before and after class. Don’t take class with makeup on (trust me). I like to noodle around with different skincare regimens with seasons, age, etc, but Okamura offers some awesome products for the vain and sweaty.
- Get loose with juice
Fresh juice and hot yoga are wonderful bedmates. A deep dose of vitamins and botanicals and enzymes coupled with a prescription of Bikram’s therapeutic method is the Falcon Heavy of naturally energizing engines. And it’s all legal! Throw in some CBD and bone broth and you are an unstoppable force of perspiring power!
- Take it off
Abandon all hope of being normally garbed in a Bikram class. Dishabille is de rigueur! The method’s scalding torture is crafted to deliver the fire, so the least amount of clothing worn in a Bikram class is the best amount of clothing. The heat, the humidity, the poses, the pace—the more of your person exposed to this treatment, the better.
- Let it roll
Torrential sheets of sweat is just one of the many side effects of attending a Bikram class. You will want to wipe, swipe and rub your face all the time. Resist the urge! That sweat is your body’s grateful tears weeping with the pleasure of being warm. Let it out, let it go, let it roll. After class, your flushed face and sticky skin will look and feel aglow from the inside!
“Your flexibility will improve. Your digestive system will function better. Your metabolism will be kick started. Your stress levels will plummet. You will cleanse and detox,” Enmark confidently predicts.
Heat and humans have been canoodling for eons. From the first flames of fire sparking to illuminated light, the incendiary embrace of the inferno entices those who are cold and hurting with an embrace that is hot and healing.
Stay tuned for more of Stephanie’s “Hot Box Detox,” in which she reveals all of her sweaty secrets for Milk Punch Media.