Fitness fads come and go, but people have practiced yoga for well over 5,000 years. That’s not to say yoga hasn’t changed throughout time. While the idea behind yoga remains the union of breath and body, some studios have begun offering a cool new form — literally — called cold yoga.
Cold yoga practitioners cite several reasons why turning down the temps makes yoga more effective. For years, hot yoga has remained the only temperature trend. But can dialing down the thermostat really lead to greater fitness gains?
So what is cold yoga?
While the term cold yoga may make one envision sherpas on Everest practicing downward-facing yak in the snow, cold yoga doesn’t exactly require venturing outdoors in an ice storm. Most cold yoga studios contain climate-control technology that keeps the practice space between 45 and 66 degrees Fahrenheit.
As opposed to a traditional yoga practice where many wear very little clothing, cold yoga invites students to don their ski gear… or at least some long-sleeved shirts and leggings to help conserve body heat). This makes the class extra appealing for those with body-image issues who prefer covering up a bit while working out.
Many of the poses practiced in cold yoga remain identical to those used in other types of yoga. Also, most cold yoga studios turn on the heat at the conclusion of the workout so students can comfortably end their chilly workout by relaxing in a warm Savasana (ahhh).
How exactly does cold yoga work?
Cold yoga works on the principle that when exposed to cooler temperatures, the body’s metabolism revs up simply to help the individual stay warm. Researchers discovered that study subjects who slept in a room heated only to 66 degrees demonstrated a 1% increase in metabolism over those sleeping in 75 degree temperatures.
In addition, when people work out in a heated environment, their perception of their exertion level subsequently increases. Working out in warm climates makes people feel as if they’re working harder than they actually are.
Cooling down the room encourages exercisers to work out harder and longer, thus burning more calories.
Cold yoga also offers additional benefits for those susceptible to infection, such as those with compromised immune systems due to disease or who take certain medications that lower immune response. Because the room remains cool, germs cannot multiply the way they can in warm environments.
Yoga as a trend —
Cold yoga isn’t the only emerging trend among yoga-philes. In fact, it seems that yoga has really burst onto the scene as the new workout that everyone has their own take on.
One emerging yoga trend in states that have legalized recreational marijuana involves incorporating the use of cannabis into your yoga practice to aid in meditation and relaxation.
Food yoga marks yet another emerging trend. No, food yoga doesn’t mean scarfing down a slice of pizza while performing a handstand or backbend. Rather, food yoga involves incorporating yogic principles (such as the principal to act with kindness and compassion) when making everyday food choices.
For the animal lover in all of us, many yoga studios and even local area Humane Societies now offer pet-friendly yoga classes. Pet parents find practicing yoga with Fido or Fluffy strengthens their bond with their pets as well as elevates their moods.
Finally, many practitioners like to mix up the medium in which yoga practice takes place. Aqua yoga classes build core strength and balance safely, as practitioners bend and stretch while balanced atop floating boogie boards in a pool. Meanwhile, aerial yoga classes use specialized trapezes suspended from the ceiling to allow participants to soar while they stretch.
Stretching your body and mind —
While there seems to be a yoga practice for every type of person, it is still unknown if cold yoga will catch on to a more mass appeal. One thing is for certain however, people do tend to crave variety in their workout regimens — so adding in a cold yoga class to one’s regular repertoire can certainly spice up a stale routine… no sweat included!
Illustration by: Juliet Romano.