Let’s Talk Hot Yoga & Body Detox

If you’ve seen anything about hot yoga online or talked with certain yoga teachers, studios, or students you’ve probably seen/heard claims that these heated classes remove toxins from the body through sweat. Here’s the thing…that’s bullshit.

Let’s start with an short anatomy lesson to understand how the body actually detoxes itself.

The Liver

This is a large, meaty organ located on the right side of your body under your rib cage. The liver filters all the blood coming from the stomach and intestines, breaks, balances, and creates nutrients for the body to use. It also metabolizes drugs, making them easier for the body to use. Some of the others things the liver does – production of bile to help carry away waste and break down fats in the small intestine during digestion, produce certain proteins for plasma, store & release glucose, conversion of ammonia into urea which is major organic component of urine, clears the blood of drugs and other harmful substances. When the liver breaks down harmful substances they are released into blood or bile. Bile by-products enter the intestines and exit the body as poop. Blood by-products are filtered out by the kidneys and exit the body as pee.

The Kidneys

Your kidneys are two bean shaped organs about the size of your fist located below your rib cage on either side of your spine. These organs filter your blood of by-products from the liver, waste from food you eat and normal breakdown of active muscle, and extra water. These are then exit the body as urine.

Basically, if your liver and kidneys are functioning properly and you are pooping and peeing then your body is removing toxins all on its own. It doesn’t need your help.

Right now you might be thinking, “But wait. What about sweat? Sweat isn’t mentioned in either of those descriptions. My yoga teacher says that sweating helps the body detox.” Let’s talk about perspiration.

Perspiration

Perspiration, aka sweating, in your body’s way of cooling itself. Clear liquid is excreted from sweat glands either due to increased body temperature (i.e. fever or being in a hot room) and/or the activation of your sympathetic nervous system (when you are anxious) resulting in the release of adrenaline.

Tada! That’s it.

Now, some people are going to argue that studies have found heavy metals in sweat. While this might happen, when you actually look at the levels of heavy metals they are so minuscule that there’s no benefit. And there’s really no proof that these heavy metals were “sweated” out, but could be found on the surface of the skin because we are constantly being exposed to heavy metals in many ways. However, for the fun of it let’s pretend for a second that the level of heavy metals found in sweat would actually be of benefit to the body. If you are someone who doesn’t rinse off or change clothes after getting sweaty, this means your body would be reabsorbing everything in your sweat and you would be undoing everything.

I have taught a lot of hot yoga classes over the last three years. Some students genuinely enjoy the heat, and I’ve had some students with arthritis tell me the heat makes their joints feel better. Those are valid reasons to be in a hot yoga class. However, a lot of students come to the practice because of the misinformation that is floating around. Hot yoga will not help you “sweat out” a cold or hangover.

Your body is actually quite an intelligent machine. Let it do its job. If you start to notice concerning changes, please contact a medical professional.

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Self-Care Sunday, Episode 2: Bath Time

Bathing dates back to Ancient Greece and has been practiced by many cultures. Bathing can be done for hygiene, therapeutic, and religious purposes. I want to focus on the therapeutic aspect of bathing. While bathing can help with the rehabilitation of an injury, many people bathe for relaxation.

Bathing, aka soaking, is one of my personal favorite methods of self-care. For me it’s a great time to be with myself and my thoughts. It also relieves physical pain. I was diagnosed with my first knee issue shortly before I turned 11, and the conditions piled up for years. I’ve had surgery to partially remove a tumor from my right knee, several bouts of bursitis, Osgood Schlatter Disease, and Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome aka Runner’s Knee. At one point, if I remember correctly it was when I diagnosed with Runner’s Knee, the doctor told me I should NEVER use stairs again. I was about 16 years old. To say the least, I’ve struggled with knee pain for about 18 years. It comes and goes. But I find when the pain is particularly uncomfortable a hot bath helps me find relief.

Isn’t soaking just sitting in a tub of water?

Well, put like that is sounds pretty lame. True, sitting in a tub of water with lights blazing can be pretty underwhelming, so while the tub is filling set the mood. Create some ambiance by dimming the lights or lighting a candle or two. Decide if you’d like music or not, and if so, what type of music. My musical choice varies depending on my mood. I’ll listen to anything from instrumental to Birdy to East Forest to Def Leppard. Listen to whatever is appealing in the moment. Then it’s time to decide if you want to add anything to the tub; Epsom salt, essential oils, bubbles, bath bomb, bath salt (not the synthetic kind that make people zombie-like). This, too, depends on my mood, but I’m partial to tub tea. Tub tea is a mixture that steeps in the water as a person soaks. The different elements of the mixture offer different benefits, some physical and some aromatic. I’m currently using a Chamomile Calendula Tub Tea mixture. The recipe can be found at the bottom of the post.

What are some benefits of bathing?

Soaking in a tub of water can do the following:

  • Increased blood circulation
  • Muscle relaxation
  • General relaxation
  • Improved sleep
  • It’s been reported that soaking can help with Diabetes by reducing levels of glucose and sugar in the blood
  • Steam from the hot water can help reduce mucus and clear nasal passages
  • Relieve pressure on joints

These are just a handful of benefits. If you don’t have a tub, don’t worry. You can still take get some of these benefits from a hot shower. While there are some limitations with showering, you can use salt or sugar scrubs to exfoliate skin. For aromatherapy you can hang a bundle eucalyptus stems from the shower head. The steam from the water will help to release oil from the eucalyptus leaves.

Chamomile Calendula Tub Tea

Self-Care Sunday, Episode 1: What is Self-Care

Welcome to Self-Care Sunday!

For quite a while now, I have been wanting to do a series of posts on self-care. However, I have also been hesitant about this idea. My intention with these posts is to provide readers with ideas for different ways to care for themselves. These posts are not meant to say one thing is better than another, and these posts are not meant to be the “be all and end all” of self-care. I think there is a real lack of self-care in people’s lives. For many, they feel self-care is selfish. It’s not selfish to take care of yourself. Showing oneself love, kindness, and compassion allows that person to show love, kindness, and compassion to others.

What the heck is self-care?

Self-care is the care for oneself, according to Merriam-Webster, but so many of us still don’t know what that means. Self-care is the practices, activities, and routines that support ones physical, mental, and emotional health. It is what refuels, rather than takes away.

Like I mentioned above, many people have come to think self-care is something selfish. As in, “How dare you take time for yourself to fill your figurative cup of well-being, instead of continuing to give all of your energy to beings, even when you no longer have any energy to give!” Self-care is actually quite the opposite of selfishness. By taking care of ones needs and refueling themselves the person is then able to take better care of others. Our world must be quite ill for self-care to be considered a negative thing.

How does someone practice self-care?

Here are some tips for practicing self-care.

  • Actively pursue it. Schedule it. Write it on the calendar. Block out time for yourself.
  • Have a clear intention that this is for your well-being. If you’re just doing something without a clear intention, then the result won’t be very fulfilling.
  • Figure out what you like and dislike. There’s no point in doing something you don’t like, even if the internet says you should do it. Not everyone has the same needs so test out different things to find what works for you.

With all of that being said, self-care is not always a “pretty” thing like bath bombs and coffee dates. Sometimes it’s looking at failures, re-evaluating, and trying again, if necessary. Sometimes it’s disappointing others by saying no to something. But most of all, self-care isn’t about fixing oneself. The focus is on taking care of oneself, and it is a necessary and essential thing for a balanced life.

My goal is to post a different method of self-care each Sunday creating a series of offerings to readers. These offerings will range from taking a bath to movement to stepping away from something negative. I’m quite excited for this series, and I hope you are, too. If you ever have a suggestion or have a self-care practice you love and would like me to share, please leave a comment and I will do my best to add it to my list.

Tune in next Sunday for episode 2!