Hey, with flu season here,
we need all the help we can get!

In Kansas City this past week, temperatures dropped to 12 billion degrees below zero. That’s what it felt like, anyway, after a summer that seemed to last through November. In the New Year, hot yoga might be just the thing to get you through the winter.

Some make big health claims for hot yoga, including heightened immunity from colds, flu, and other season grossness. A certain writer’s husband says, “Hot yoga is my flu shot.” (Disclaimer: Said husband practices hot yoga at Yoga Fix three days a week, and he is healthy, although his yoga towel gives his car immunity from smelling good.)

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves, here. What is hot yoga? If you haven’t tried it or had a friend (or husband) go on about it at length, hot yoga is a sequence of 26 hatha yoga poses performed in a room heated to 105 – 115 degrees F.

F that, you say? Resistance is futile. If enthusiasts have their way, we’ll all be gasping “Namaste” from pools of sweat after 90 minutes of exotic torture. Hot yogis can be downright evangelical about the benefits of their strenuous, slippery sequence.

Why these 26 poses? And what’s with the heat? The sequence is derived from “Bikram” yoga, founded by Bikram Choudhury, the Harvey Weinstein of Eastern exercise who abandoned his lucrative yoga empire in the U.S. when multiple charges of sexual assault chased him (sweating profusely) back to India.

But, I digress. What about those health benefits? There’s little solid research on hot yoga and immunity. It’s tricky science because, unlike drug research, you can’t do “blind” studies (people tend to know they’re doing yoga when they’re doing it). And the problem with existing research is that the sample size is often small and there’s rarely long-term follow-up.

hot yoga

That said, a few somewhat dubious studies show an increase in T-cells among regular hot yoga practitioners. Somewhat better studies show a decrease in inflammation—and if you pay attention to health news, you know that inflammation is the new tobacco, with links to cancer and other diseases now fairly well-established.

The downside? Increased possibilities for dehydration and injury. Don’t ignore your electrolytes after even a short-form 60-minute hot yoga class. And be careful: heat can fool you into overstretching.

Maybe the biggest health boost is from the placebo effect: you think it’s good for you, so it is. This winter, just walking into a heated room may feel like it’s saving your life. Add a good teacher, better balance and flexibility and your life is likely to feel more worth saving.

Where can you go to see if hot yoga is for you? Try out a 60-minute class first at Yoga Fix in Mission. The only other studio offering daily hot yoga classes (not counting Bikram Yoga in midtown) is Yoga Six in Leawood. Hagoyah in Waldo (also a hair salon) has two variations: “hot box detox” and “Sweaty Serenity.” KC Yoga Center offers one hot class per week in the River Market and “Heated Yoga Flow” at its Zona Rosa location. And InBliss Yoga in NKC heats the room for an “Ashtanga Mix” class.

So, heat and beat cold and flu season. Or at least sweat out the meds later.

This year’s flu is chalking up to be the worst!