Bikram Yoga and the Crazy Benefits of Sweating Your A@@ Off


We spend loads of money on antiperspirants, dry wick clothing, and air conditioning trying to keep from sweating. So why would anyone purposefully sweat? Detox, endorphins, and regulation of body temperature are my top three. Let’s investigate the reasons to purposefully sweat and my favorite ways to do it.

Some people sweat too much and some people not enough. The thyroid gland is your body’s thermostat. If your thyroid is over-functioning one of the symptoms you may experience is too much sweating. If your thyroid is under-functioning one of the symptoms you may experience is not being able to sweat easily. Hypothyroidism or low functioning thyroid is rampant in America. Often due to an iodine deficiency or an autoimmune condition called Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. If you wear socks and a hat to bed…in the summer, you might be hypothyroid. These people are usually intolerant to cold and although they gravitate to heat they can get uncomfortable when overheated as well. Skin is our number one detox organ. If we don’t sweat, we don’t detoxify from the toxins that we create, ingest, or are exposed to. If sweating doesn’t come easy then it should be encouraged for our health’s sake.

Endorphins, our feel good hormone, gets released when we exercise to the point of sweating. A reduction in pain, anxiety, depression, and stress are all associated with this happy hormone. If you have ever experienced a “runner’s high” you can thank endorphins. This can occur from activity other than running as well. Meditation, massage, laughter, and sex can also release endorphins. 20 to 30 minutes of any of these activities can release this powerful chemical with effects lasting from 2 to 24 hours. Even sitting in an infrared sauna can have these great effects. Check out the article here. 

The thyroid gland, our thermostat, helps us maintain our temperature in a very narrow range. When our environment is cold we shiver. Shivering is a reflex that causes muscles to release energy and create heat. Sweating is our natural air conditioning. The evaporation of water from our skin cools the body with a loss of body heat. Water and minerals can be lost when we sweat too much resulting in a need to replenish these fluids and minerals with water and electrolyte drinks. Gatorade has too much sugar and artificial colors and flavors. I prefer Catalyte from Thorne Research or Endura from Metagenics. You can find them both here. 

My favorite ways to go about sweating is with infrared sauna and hot yoga. Infrared, or dry sauna, uses light to create heat as opposed to steam (wet sauna). It’s great for joint health, to kill off viruses and bacteria, relax muscles, improve mood and assist in detoxification. It can be an opportunity to meditate or read a book, just make sure to avoid using your cell phone since the phone can overheat in the 120 to 130-degree room.

When I was first introduced to Bikram yoga I had no idea what I was getting into. I knew the room would be hot but when I first entered it felt wonderful since I have a tendency to be cold (I have a collection of sleep hats). Lying there waiting for the class to start allowed my body to figure out how to breathe in such a hot environment. The fun started soon after we stood up and started moving. Having a hard time sweating myself, I was astonished to experience sweat pouring off me. You couldn’t possibly attend class without a large towel or two. I was happy to find that instead of feeling drained after, I was full of energy. It was a great experience.

What I really love about Bikram yoga is that it always consists of 26 yoga poses always in the same order. It only takes a few visits to see improvements in balance, form, and flexibility. That can be very encouraging when you are not a natural pretzel. If you have had enough or need a rest it is not considered rude to lie down on your back in a position called savasana. Try not to snore. If you choose to try it, let me offer some advice:

  1. Bring a large absorbent towel or two in addition to a yoga mat
  2. Dress in as little clothing as your modesty allows
  3. Bring a large thermos of ice water and a bottle of an electrolyte drink
  4. If you are like me, with a nose like a bloodhound, choose the first class offered in the morning. If you go to a class in the middle or end of the day you will adapt to the smell of sweaty bodies from the previous classes but it may take a minute or two.
Don’t let the sweat put you off. If you have never experienced Bikram yoga before, you owe it to yourself to give it a go. Whatever form you choose, include sweating in your health care regimen. It will make you happy.

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