Does spending 90 minutes in a 105-degree room at 40% humidity with 25 people sound like fun to you? Me neither, but the other night I gave Bikram Yoga a shot. What I didn’t think about was the effect on my high blood pressure. Bad move, Dot.
During Bikram Yoga, or hot yoga, you go through 26 poses in 90 minutes. The challenge for folks with high blood pressure is heat raises your heart rate and that increases blood pressure. Since the room is sauna-like, dehydration is another challenge. When you’re dehydrated your BP spikes.
I prepared for class 24 hours in advance by drinking a lot of water – approximately half of my weight in ounces. I’m on medication to control my BP and it’s improved over the last year because of my weight loss. So I thought my biggest challenge was acclimating to the heat. Ha!
Walking into the studio was like hitting a wall of heat. I’m talking lava hot! It was hard to focus on anything, as the heat was so oppressive. Once the class started, I settled in and the first 15 minutes were OK.
After that I slowly became a hot mess over the next 75 minutes. Sweat kept rolling into my eyes. I got more and more fidgety. I kept telling myself, “I can’t do this…it’s too fricking hot. I’m going to die from heat stroke.”
Trying to focus my mind on the poses and not the heat, I started making slower and more purposeful movements. The heat worked wonders on my muscles. My stretches were deeper than in my regular yoga class and my right knee felt great. Unfortunately we had to turn over on our stomachs.
That’s when the wheels fell off!
After Cobra pose I started feeling a little overwhelmed, dizzy and sick. I could feel a headache coming on and my stomach was rumbling, and not in a good way. At that point I stopped doing the poses and rested. At that point I should have left the room, but didn’t. It still hadn’t dawned on me that my blood pressure was spiking. I thought I was pushing myself too hard in the heat.
The rest helped and I pulled it together for the last 10 minutes of stretches.
When it came time for us to rest at the end, I immediately got up, quickly folded-up my mat and towel and escaped the furnace.
Ah, a hallway never felt so good. I stood still for a few minutes basking in the glory that is room temperature. By the time I walked into the locker room to peel off my wet clothes, my headache started receding and I felt steady on my feet.
I left, exhausted and in desperate need of more water. By the time I got home the headache was gone and my stomach felt fine. But the next morning, my injured knee swelled to the size of a small grapefruit and was painful to walk on. What the heck was going on now?
A friend told me I might have over-exerted myself – apparently an issue with hot yoga. The heat warms up the muscles, allowing for the deep stretching. The problem is people do too much and end up with injuries. I did notice I could do things in hot yoga I couldn’t do in my regular yoga class. Great!
Clearly hot yoga and high blood pressure is not a good combo. I might try Bikram again, but not until I’m at least 50 pounds lighter and off the BP meds. So in the meantime, it’s back to regular yoga for me.