Many claims are made about the benefits of hot yoga. These ideas are often publicized by enthusiastic hot yoga devotees expressing their fanatic love of the program of their guru. To evaluate the truth of these claims it’s necessary to move beyond bias and take an honest look at the nature of hot yoga.
According to the teachings of Patanjali, the ‘father of modern yoga’, the asana is one part of an eight-limbed system leading to greater understanding. Asana is meant primarily to purify and strengthen the body, preparing it for lengthy meditations and raised levels of energy. In this setting, hot yoga is best suited to assist in the removal of ama, or waste.
Ama is considered the cause of all diseases. It is a byproduct of improper metabolic processes. This is not only related to digestion, but also includes the creation of all parts of entire body. Ayurveda clarifies that there are seven tissue systems formed in the making of the human body. Any fault in the creation of these tissues can result in the accumulation of ama, causing disease. Heat helps to stoke the Agni, and aids in the efficient fabrication of these building mechanisms.
The body removes ama in three ways: sweating, urination and defecation. Hot yoga improves metabolism, which helps to direct toxins to their proper removal areas. Only small amounts of toxins are actually sweated out. Most leave in urine and feces. The urinary system is the body’s temperature regulator, so practicing hot yoga will promote frequent urination, thereby expelling the ama that has been stored in this system.
Hot yoga directs added heat to the digestive fires, insuring that food will be broken down properly and ama removed. Cleansing through asana is not limited to the physical realm. Once the gross ama is removed, prana, subtle energy, is allowed to surge freely throughout the energetic body. Subtle ama is also known as karma. Removing karmas from the subtle body is the overall goal of any asana practice. This starts the awakening process described by Patanjali.
A person who practices yoga is called a yogi, someone aspiring toward higher understanding. Yoga demands that you look closer at your actions and intentions. Enjoy your asana class, but be careful not to become complacent. Explore the rich wisdom at the foundation of yoga. The benefits of hot yoga are the top most tip of the iceberg.