Vinyasa yoga. Restorative yoga. Yin Yoga. Astanga yoga. Prenatal yoga. Aerial yoga. Happy Hour yoga. Couples yoga. Goat yoga. Dog yoga. Even yoga raves. Take a quick look around the internets and it doesn't take long to see that the "system of physical postures, breathing techniques, and sometimes meditation" known as yoga has become as varied as those who practice it.
But with the seemingly endless ways to practice yoga, how do we know which type of yoga poses the best challenge for us. Well, according to a recent story on the TODAY Show, if you're looking for the one form of yoga to rule them all, that form may just be hot yoga.
The TODAY Show's Stephanie Larratt tells us that hot yoga has become one of the hottest fitness trends of the past decade. "The mental, physical and spiritual practice has fans all over the world, from Meghan Markle (aka the Duchess of Sussex) to Lady Gaga," she writes.
Why, you ask? Well, according to Edward Laskowski, M.D., co-director of Mayo Clinic's Department of Sports Medicine in Rochester, doing yoga in a room that's been heated to anywhere from 80 to 109 degrees with 40 percent humidity is not only good for our mind and spirit, but pretty much our entire body.
"Heat, in general, dilates the blood vessels so it brings blood flow to the muscles," Dr. Laskowski tells TODAY. "Muscles need blood flow when they are working, they need oxygen that is delivered by the blood. Many people like to exercise in a hot environment because it loosens up the muscle." And because it also helps to tone and strengthen our heart, Dr. Laskowski says. "The demands of the poses and also the hot environment you are in raises the heart rate so you are getting some cardiovascular or heart conditioning in there," he tells TODAY.
Despite these benefits, hot yoga is not for everyone. Those who are pregnant, have heart disease, have suffered a stroke, are prone to dehydration, and those who just have a general distaste for or intolerance of heat should "consult your physician before trying a hot yoga class," Dr. Laskowski says. But all things being equal, he says "if you have no health concerns, you don't have any problems with heat-related illness, and that is what you like to do, it probably is OK."
Consider warming up your winter by grabbing a yoga mat, some water, and checking out the hottest yoga studio near you. For more on the health benefits of yoga, click here, here, here and here. Then downward dog, mountain pose, bridge pose, cat/cow pose and/or seated spinal twist your way to leave a comment below before using the handy social media tools to share this story with all your yoga-loving friends. Namasté.