Hotpod Yoga, Pilates in a hot studio, Aerial Yoga – what is it and is it worth doing?

For the last couple of years a new Yoga- and Pilates-trend popped-up all over the world…Hotpod Yoga.  Founded in 2013 by Nick Higgins and Max Henderson, it was brought to South Africa in 2015 by Daniela de Bruyn.  Her goal, she says, was to make Yoga more accessible to people who are not perfection-seeking yogis.  So, how does this differ from the traditional Yoga-classes that you do in a studio or at the gym?

Firstly; it is done in a pod – an inflatable, cocoon-like space, that is heated to 37°C, instead of a studio. 

Secondly; the idea of the heated area (pod) is to increase the body’s flexibility, raises your heartbeat and makes you sweat more (cardio-workout with a twist).

The advantages are that you are more supple, due to the heat your heartrate goes up, thus you’re having a cardio-workout as well, and you sweat.

The drawbacks, however, are that you can over-stretch (as the heat makes your muscles more flexible and you try poses that you would otherwise not be able to do), you can become nauseous and/or dizzy of all the heat, even though you sweat you do not loose weight but water, and lastly, if you are pregnant, have high blood pressure or suffer from claustrophobia, the heated space can worsen it.

What about Hot Pilates? 

This is Pilates done in a warm studio, using the same moves and principles of Pilates, it also raises your heartrate, body temperature and you build up a sweat.

As with Hotpod Yoga, one should be aware that you can overstretch and or get dizzy / nauseous, if not careful. 

In 2013 a study from the American Council on Exercise, monitored a group of people’s heart rate, rate of perceived exertion and their core temperature, whilst doing a yoga class at 21 degrees Celsius.  A day later they monitored the same class doing yoga at 33 degrees Celsius.

The results?  All participants’ heart rates and core temperatures were about the same during both these classes.  Researchers also found that only if temperature were 35 degrees Celsius or more, results can differ.  All in all, the researchers found that hot yoga (hotpod yoga) were as safe as regular yoga and that the participants’ heart rates were similar during both these classes.

Another “new” kid on the block, is Aerial (Suspension) Yoga.  It combines Yoga-stretches, Aerial exercises, Strength training, Pilates movements and stretching.  Instead of exercising on the floor all the time, a sling / hammock (made from soft fabric), is used.  This is suspended from the ceiling to hip height in order to distribute the person’s body weight between the floor and the sling.  This, according to those doing these classes, help with core strength-building, balance and flexibility.  Because the yoga poses are done in the sling, the latter helps the person to use gravity to deepen the stretch and focus more on alignment.  When you “hang” upside down in the sling your spinal cord is decompressed, thus a person can feel taller.                           

As a Rehabilitation specialist and a master trainer in Pilates and Yoga, I would only make a couple of suggestions if you have never tried any of these three exercise-methods.

Firstly; do it in a normal studio (not in a hotpod or in a sling), so that you can learn what your body can and cannot do.

Secondly; it is important to build core strength, balance and control (of both body and mind), in Yoga and Pilates, to really reap the benefits.

Thirdly; if you have high blood pressure, is pregnant, suffer from claustrophobia, have low blood pressure (which can make you dizzy when in overheated spaces), or any injury (especially back, neck, knees and hips), it is best not to start in a hot studio or doing Aerial yoga. Double-jointed people should be extra cautious as you can easily injure yourself.  For someone who is not normally very flexibly, the hot yoga- and Pilates can make it easier to do the exercises / poses, as well as Aerial yoga.  However, even flexible people can overstretch if working out in a very hot studio / environment or in a sling.

Best to always consult your doctor before trying one of the above routines; especially if you have never done it before and/or have any medical history. Always listen to your body!  Start at the beginner’s level (especially if you are a new member) and work your way up to advanced level.  Do not jump intermediate level as you can end up injuring yourself. ��

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