It was hot this weekend in the Valley of Heart’s Delight. I know, it was probably hot everywhere in North America. Inuit were probably laying around in Tuktoyaktuk, fanning themselves, drinking ice tea, and asking “Hot enough for you today?”.
But it was still hot in Silicon Valley. I did my usual run on the Los Gatos Creek trail on Sunday and came back dripping. It didn’t help that I got a late start and was running during the heat of the day. I took a cold shower and lay down in front of the fan, and I was still sweating.
All of which made me wonder why some people insist on exercising in the heat. A friend was telling me about going to a local Bikram Yoga studio. It’s known as “Hot Yoga” because they recommend a temperature of at “least 105F degrees and about 40% humidity”. And lately the temperature in the studio has been around 120 degrees.
Right. Personally, I don’t want to get in a 120 degree room unless it’s a Swedish sauna, and I can hop out every few minutes and roll around in the snow. (Preferrably with the Swedish Bikini Team). Otherwise, that just sounds like so much torture. So why does Bikram Yoga require such high temperatures?
“Because sweat helps move the toxins out of your body,” explains Radha Garcia, owner of Bikram’s Yoga College of India in Boulder, Colorado. “Your body is like a sponge. To cleanse it, you need to wring it out to allow fresh blood and oxygen to circulate and keep your immune system running smoothly.”
Hmm… I must have missed that one in biology class. Maybe it was a warm day and I fell asleep. So how does this form of Yoga work?
By the tourniquet effect: stretching, balancing (using gravity), and creating pressure all at the same time. The blood supply in arteries and veins is being cut off, creating pressure. When released, a lock gate effect is created, causing blood to rush through veins and arteries, flushing them out.
See – there’s another thing I must have missed. I always heard that tourniquets were bad. And I never heard of the “lock gate effect” for flushing out arteries.
In fact, the Yogi says the high temperature helps “keep the body from overheating (contrary to popular misconception)”. What? And yet the Red Cross is still perpetuating that misconception today. They kept telling me about heat stroke in a first-aid class I took, and not once did they recommend putting someone in a tourniquet in a 105 degree room.
This is the kind of ancient wisdom that can only come from India. (Actually Bikram brought that ancient wisdom to the USA in 1971). This is the same culture that advocates the health benefits of drinking urine. And of bathing in and drinking the water of the “Sacred” Ganges river, which is so polluted that cremated corpses, livestock carcasses, and raw sewage float past the holy sites. (I suppose by that measure, drinking urine is just a way of cutting out the middleman).
So I think I’ll stop complaining about running in the heat. That doesn’t seem seem so bad anymore. I only hope for the sake of those detainees in Gitmo that Rumsfeld hasn’t heard of Bikram.