Over the summer we published this blog post discussing existing research on heat and humidity in relation to COVID-19. (Hint: it was good news for Bikram Yogis!)
A new study came out this month which has even more to say on the subject. Where back in May, scientists observed that areas with higher temps and humidity experienced less spread of COVID, the recent findings suggest it's not quite that simple.
Wait... can we still do Bikram Yoga??
Before I dive in any deeper, I'd like to point out that in no way am I claiming that being in our yoga room will guarantee that you do not catch the novel coronavirus. The truth is that any time you leave your home or are around other people, you are at some risk of catching COVID. This post is addressing the scientific findings that some environments pose more risk than others.
Here is what the science says:
"Our research shows that the viability of coronavirus is higher at low air temperature values below or equal to 75 F (25°C) and at high relative humidity values greater than or equal to 65%," says Prof. Dimitris Drikakis, one of the new study's authors.
"Therefore, countries with the above weather conditions or indoor places with the above environmental conditions (at those conditions) are more at risk."
Check out this chart (circle added for reference) from the study showing the concentration of airborne contaminated droplets:
The study found there was less risk of catching COVID at temperatures above 75 and humidity below 65%.
Hooray: that's US! (See the red circle on the image above.)
We keep our hot room at a perfectly sweet spot for sweating: 105 degrees Fahrenheit (40 Celsius) with 40-60% humidity (In most classes, especially now with our limited capacity, humidity actually remains between 40-50%.)
Scientists now understand that how well COVID spreads in the air is due to a combination of factors which include not only heat and humidity but also (when outdoors) wind and (when indoors) ventilation.
For indoor spaces, proper ventilation is advised, as well as the use of air purification systems to help reduce concentration levels of any contagions in the air.
Here at Home we've always been fans of good air quality.
Yogis who've practiced in stuffier hot studios often remark at how much better they breathe in our room! That's in part because of our Demand Control Ventilation system.
The DCV maintains indoor air quality by automatically adjusting the amount of outside air coming into the hot room when the CO2 reaches a specific level.
In order to further increase the flow of outside air in keeping with current recommendations, this setting is currently at “0” which means we are bringing in the maximum amount of outside air (around 50%) during class. The air which is recycled is constantly cleaned by the iWave air purification system.
"We should also avoid places of low temperature," says Drikakis.
We've been saying that for years! ;)
Check out this post for a rundown of the many benefits of heat for all kinds of reasons. And read this if you have any concerns about "handling" the heat. Most importantly, join us in Home's hot room: we're here 7 days a week.
Click here to book your class!
Did you know that using heat for healing is old-school?
Far from being a fad, heat therapy has been used in many cultures (as far back as ancient Egypt) as a medical treatment for a variety of aches and pains? Makes sense if you think about it, since an increase in temperature to an area of the body promotes circulation and blood flow there. And blood is how each part of your amazing body receives the nutrients it craves, and removes the waste it needs gone
What heat does:
Heat relaxes tense muscles and (by improving circulation) helps heal damaged tissue, ease soreness and relieve joint pain caused by arthritis or just being a stiff dude. Heat therapy can be "dry heat" like using a heating pad or sitting in a sauna, or "moist heat" like soaking in a hot spring or applying steamed towels. At 105 degrees and 40% humidity (your clothes basically become steamed towels!) our hot room environment here at Home is kind of... both.
Heat has even been found to be an effective treatment for depression!
This area of research is relatively new, but already this study has even looked specifically at using heated yoga to treat depression and anxiety and (surprise surprise!) it works. Bonus: no crummy side effects like other anti-depressants.
There's lots of evidence exposure to warm temperatures can elevate your mood. Scientists have observed that brain areas which process pleasant stimulation activate when the skin is warmed. Activity in the medial orbitofrontal cortex for example is low in depression, but it’s increased by warm stimulation.
While being in the heat helps us feel happier, doing yoga poses in the heat also provides an added challenge to the mind, and through that challenge hot yogis cultivate the oh-so-practical mental qualities of Faith, Self Discipline, Concentration, Determination and Patience!
Athletes use heat training for improved endurance.
A rapid increase in the volume of blood's plasma when it's hot seems to boost performance in athletes! It does so by helping move excess heat out to the skin and cool you off, among other things. The jury's still out on whether heat training helps improve endurance in regular temperatures, but... concentration and determination definitely do.
Heat may also keep you saf(er)
Check out this blog post here for what science has found about the effects of heat and humidity on COVID-19 transmission rates. (Hint: it's good news for Bikram yogis!)
A blacksmith doesn't try to take a piece of iron and change its shape by just pounding away at it cold. You have to heat it up first! In the same way, we're trying to change (improve!) both both body and mind when we practice yoga. Keeping toasty helps you do it!
Ready to try? Book your next heat therapy- I mean, hot yoga- sesh here.
What duds you sport in the hot room can really make a difference.
Watch this video to learn the science behind shorty shorts, then read on for 4 tips to consider when choosing what to wear to your next class...
1. Bare skin is part of your body's cooling strategy.
Your body cools itself by way of the evaporation of sweat off your skin's surface. Therefore, the more of your skin exposed to the air, the cooler you will feel, even in a hot environment.
For the same reason you probably wear tank tops and shorts in the summer, clothes that leave (at least) your arms and legs uncovered are the healthiest choice for hot yoga.
2. Loose clothing traps body heat.
Ever tried sleeping in a hammock? You'll get COLD at night because the hammock's fabric sits snug against your skin. There's no space to trap your body heat in there.
Similarly, when you wear tight-fitting clothing in hot yoga, your body heat escapes, which means you will feel cooler.
3. Downsize your yoga clothes to super-size body positivity.
Look, we get it. Your whole life you have been sent the message (from the media, peers who are not your real friends, possibly even your parents) that your body is somehow flawed or not good enough.
Too many of us have accepted that messaging to the point that we try to hide our "imperfect" bodies-- even from ourselves!
You may have discovered by now: there is no hiding under the bright lights of the yoga room. You also may have noticed: you are the only one in class who bats an eye about the size of your thighs or a little hanging skin around your middle from those babies you brought into the world! So, who are you hiding from?
Revealing your body to yourself in the mirror for 90 minutes at a time will cause you to appreciate your body more-- not only for its physical beauty (and yes it has that!) but also for the amazing things it does for you every day as it carries you through your life.
4. Don't miss out on the gift of a teacher.
Your certified Bikram yoga teachers are highly trained and constantly honing our craft with continuing education. Of the gifts your teacher offers you are personalized verbal corrections.
We have had hundreds of hours of education (and thousands of hours of experience) in this yoga system, and you get to borrow our eyes!
However, we can only let you know to make an adjustment in a posture IF we can see your alignment! Baggy clothes get in the way of us helping you use correct technique.
You are the most important person in your life.
In the end, of course, this is all up to you. We understand there may be many reasons for every choice of attire.
Just like when we give instructions in class: our role here is to offer the information we know to be useful for practicing Bikram yoga, and you get to choose what you do with that.
Your Bikram yoga teacher will love you unconditionally, no matter what you wear to class!
"I started practicing Bikram Yoga in July 2017 when I met Kay, Orlo and Alva at the St. Johns Bizarre. They handed me a schedule and a free class card, and that was the beginning of a new me. I previously had taken other yoga classes on and off, for 4 years. So when asked to try Bikram yoga, something I had never heard of at the time, I said "WHY NOT." (I am not a person who does a lot of research prior to jumping into something new, and I soon learned what the images of flames on the schedule card meant!)
"I have a condition called Chilblains, which causes inflammation of small blood vessels in your skin that occur in response to repeated exposure to cold. For the past 6 years, my fingers turn purple and swell during winter. I was taking the highest dose recommended for anti-inflammatory medicine, but even that was not enough. The only cure for my condition is heat, and Bikram offers that and so much more. Every pose that requires grabbing your fingers or stepping on them, is helping heal the internal pain. I have been able to cut my anti-inflammatory dosing in half, my purple, swollen fingers are looking normal for the first time in six years during the winter, and I feel amazing.
"I would like to thank all the instructors and members for being so supportive and encouraging!"
Studio leader, yoga-doer and life-lover, Kay D.