The researchers conclude that the vascular benefits of Bikram yoga seem to stem more from practicing the asanas and less from the heated environment.
"Previous research has documented reductions in cardiovascular disease risk with sauna therapy alone", Hunter explained. Many more studios worldwide advertise a more generic form of hot yoga. While the yoga practice-founded and popularised in the 70s by Bikram Choudhry-has always been a favourite of people seeking to add an extra level of difficulty to their practice, there's new evidence to suggest the addition of 40°c heat does nothing to make it more beneficial than other forms of yoga.
At issue was whether Bikram yoga invigorated a process known as vasodilation, Hunter said. It found that it can possibly delay the progression of atherosclerosis, which is a disease in which plaque builds up inside arteries and can cause heart attack or stroke. And women who are pregnant may also way to avoid hot yoga, given that any increase in a woman's core body temperature can have an impact on a developing fetus, the Washington Post reported.
However, they found the same improvement in a middle-aged group that completed the same Bikram yoga program in a normal-temperature environment.
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One of the yoga groups exercised in a room heated to 40.5 C, the other at 23 C.
The participants, aged between 40-60 years, were divided into three study groups: those who practised yoga at 40C, those who practised yoga at room temperature (23C), and those who didn't perform the exercise at all. The intervention lasted for 12 weeks and participants were asked to attend three Bikram yoga classes per week.
However the United States study is the first to determine if it is the heat or simply the yoga itself which provides the health boost.
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"Individuals interested in improving heart and vascular health should follow evidence-based recommendations regarding physical activity, healthy diet, maintaining healthy body weight, blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and not smoking", he added.
Hunter said that her team anticipated heated classes would have more of an effect on vascular function.
Bikram Yoga International did not respond to a request from HealthDay for comment.
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