Is Hot Yoga Safe During Pregnancy?

Yoga is a popular form of exercise and is an excellent way to get in shape and stay in shape. For most women, yoga is a very safe exercise during pregnancy, even if you are just starting out with it. Although there are a small number of poses or postures that health experts say should be avoided during pregnancy, for the most part yoga is very safe during pregnancy and it has a lot of big benefits.

But what about hot yoga, a very popular form of this ancient practice? That is where the advice changes: Many health experts say that pregnant women should not participate in hot yoga classes.

In general, yoga combines physical poses, stretching exercises, breathing techniques, and meditation. Although it was originally an ancient Hindu spiritual discipline it is practiced around the world as a nonreligious exercise regimen for mind and body. In a yoga class, you are taught postures or poses that help improve your muscle tone, flexibility, and balance.

Doing yoga regularly has a lot of other benefits, too, such as reducing stress, anxiety, and depression and improving fitness. It can even help you get better sleep.

There are several styles of yoga, including hatha, vinyasa, kundalini, anusara, and Bikram. They differ in their underling philosophies, with some concentrating more on the meditation aspects of the exercise and others more on the physical, and they may use different poses.

What is different about hot yoga is that the exercises that are performed in a heated room that may also be very humid. Usually, the temperature of the room is set to between 90 and 105 degrees F (35 to 40 degrees C). The yoga exercises themselves may be no different than in a regular yoga class. One form of hot yoga is Bikram yoga, but hatha and vinyasa yoga are also sometimes done in a heated room.

It is the heat of hot yoga that is cause for concern rather than the actual exercises or poses that are used.

An article in a Canadian Medical Journal advised that women should avoid hot yoga during their pregnancies. The article noted that raised body temperature, called hyperthermia, is known to potentially cause problems for both a pregnant woman and her baby. In hyperthermia, your core body temperature rises from what it normally is. For most people, normal core body temperature is around 98.6 degrees F.

Hyperthermia during the first three months of a pregnancy can double the risk of certain types of birth defects, notably what are called neural tube defects, which are defects of the spinal column and head, such as spina bifida and anencephaly. It can also increase the risk of birth defects of the abdominal wall and intestinal system.

For the mother, excessive heat can cause her to become exhausted faster, which means that it increases the risk of a fall or a slip that can cause muscle damage or torn cartilage. Overheating can also cause overstretching of the muscles. As pregnancy progresses. The muscles and ligaments of the body become looser, which may increase the risk of injury during hot yoga.

Any situation with high heat can cause excessive sweating, which can reduce blood volume and put stress on the baby. The added heat and dehydration may also cause a drop in blood pressure, the report noted, which can lead to dizziness or fainting, again raising the risk of a fall and an injury.

The report looked at data from hyperthermia from all causes including a high fever, sitting in a sauna or hot tub, or using an electric blanket, but not hot yoga. However, the increased risks caused by hyperthermia were applicable to hot yoga. “With the increased risk of [neural tube defects] and possibly of other malformations in pregnant women exposed to excessive heat, practicing hot yoga should be avoided,” the authors concluded.

Keep in mind that regular exercise during pregnancy is good for you.  Hot yoga is just one form of yoga, and other forms are considered safe during pregnancy so you can choose another type that avoids hot rooms. There are also yoga classes in some areas that are designed for pregnant women.

Other types of exercise are also good choices during pregnancy. These include walking, swimming, or aerobics exercise in a pool. Before you start any new exercise program, ask your obstetrician or midwife about it.

If you have already been practicing hot yoga for some time, tell your health professional and ask when you can resume it.

Valerie DeBenedette
Valerie DeBenedette is an experienced health and medical writer who lives about an hour north of New York City with a dog that is smaller than her cat. Her work has appeared in magazines, newspapers, newsletters, and on websites. She is a member of the National Association of Science Writers.

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