While we often hear about yoga’s lengthy list of benefits, we rarely encounter the less-than-savory side effects. Generally, the potentially adverse side effects are uncommon, remaining as a shadow behind the spotlight-soaked benefits. So, when you experience these unwanted side effects, you might be caught by surprise.
Maybe it’s nausea after an intense hot yoga class, or perhaps it’s an overwhelming sense of dizziness and fatigue. Either way, these feelings are unwelcome, especially when you’re getting your sweat on in an invigorating hot yoga class. So, can hot yoga actually make you sick? Let’s find out.
Why Do I Feel Sick After Hot Yoga?
While soreness and tiredness are typical side effects of participating in a hot yoga class, feeling sick is not. If you feel physically ill, there’s a good chance you’re doing something wrong, and your body is trying to communicate that to you. Hot yoga is an intense workout, but it shouldn’t elicit feelings of illness.
Luckily, many of the culprits behind the sick feeling are simple and fixable. Here are a few of the most common causes of feeling unwell after hot yoga.
Hot yoga is by no means a beginner workout. Classes take place in sweltering yoga studios, where the room temperature is set to 100 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. On top of that, the humidity levels in the room are usually set between 40% and 60%, making the room feel much hotter than usual.
The humidity and heat levels in the room make it difficult for your body to regulate its temperature, making you feel sick. Your body controls its temperature by sweating, so when cool air around you hits your skin, it helps you cool down. However, in a hot yoga studio, the sweat on your skin meets nothing but hot, humid air, making it difficult for your body to cool off.
This can cause you to overheat, making you feel dizzy, nauseous, or lightheaded. So, if you begin to feel this way during your hot yoga class, your body is telling you to slow down. Politely excuse yourself from the class and exit the room. Find a cooler location to give your body a chance to cool off.
You can simply leave the heated studio and sit on a bench in the lobby or locker room. These areas are usually much cooler and more comfortable than the temperatures in the studio, so you don’t necessarily need to leave the building altogether.
Sit on a bench or chair and focus on breathing and calming your heart rate. As you cool down, the sick feelings associated with overheating should dissipate. However, overheating in a hot yoga class can lead to heat stroke and heat exhaustion, so if your symptoms persist or you feel extremely ill, seek medical attention.
Pushing Too Hard
If you’ve participated in a hot yoga class, you know they’re nothing to scoff at. The class pushes your body to its limits with the high heat, humidity, and intense flows. While challenging your body is an excellent way to build strength and endurance, you need to listen to your body.
Pushing your body too hard in hot yoga can result in numerous symptoms, including dizziness, soreness, nausea, excess fatigue, excessive sweatiness, and a high pulse rate. If you feel these symptoms and believe you might be pushing your body too hard, you need to slow down.
If you feel comfortable enough to remain in the class, move into a calmer pose to slow your heart rate and breathing, like child’s pose or hero’s pose. Remain in the pose for several deep, even breaths until you feel comfortable enough to continue the class.
Yoga instructors are familiar with overexertion, so don’t be ashamed or embarrassed by taking a breather. They would rather you take a beat and listen to your body than push too hard and injure yourself.
If you don’t feel comfortable remaining in the room or feel as though you’re overheating, politely excuse yourself from class. Leave the room and find a cool, calm location to relax and breathe, like the locker room or a bench near the studio.
Once you feel well, you can return to the class if you’d like. However, don’t feel obligated to continue with the class, especially if you still feel unwell.
Eating Too Much
Although eating before participating in a hot yoga class is essential, you should avoid large, nutrient-dense meals. In many cases, overeating before your hot yoga class will result in feelings of nausea, causing all sorts of discomfort throughout the class.
So, to avoid these feelings, avoid eating large meals before class. If you plan on eating a substantial meal before participating in hot yoga, ensure you allow your body plenty of time to work through digestion. Food usually takes two to four hours to move into your small intestine from your stomach, although it can take longer for certain foods.
However, feelings of discomfort and nausea can still persist, even if the food has moved from your stomach into your small intestine. The flows and sequences in hot yoga can place pressure on the digestive tract, including your stomach and small intestines, so you might still notice these feelings.
To avoid feeling nauseous or uncomfortable during your hot yoga session, avoid eating a heavy meal at least several hours before your yoga session. Try to stick with a light, easily digestible snack that will give your body plenty of energy without bogging you down.
If you feel nauseous after eating a large meal, the feeling likely won’t dissipate until you relieve pressure on your digestive tract. The intense flows, packed with forward folds and similar exercises, can place pressure on your abdomen, leading to this feeling. So, if you feel this way during your hot yoga class, politely excuse yourself from class.
Generally, it’s best to wait until your food has time to digest before participating in your next exercise class. So, you might need to skip the rest of your yoga class while you wait for your digestive tract to do its work.
Eating Too Soon
Similar to eating a large meal before your hot yoga class, eating too soon before starting can cause issues for you. You may feel nauseous or uncomfortable, especially if you eat a few minutes before starting class.
Ideally, you should eat a small, light snack about 30 minutes to an hour before you start your class. This way, you aren’t eating so soon before class that you feel sick when you start. Here are a few snack ideas to power you through your next hot yoga class:
- A handful of nuts, like almonds
- A healthy granola bar
- A healthy energy bite (or two, depending on the serving size)
- A homemade smoothie or protein shake
- A small bowl of yogurt and fresh fruit
- A piece of high-fiber fruit with a side of protein, like an apple with peanut butter.
Select one of the snacks above or something similar before your yoga class. You should feel okay if you eat your snack with at least half an hour to spare before class starts. Of course, you might need to bump back your snacking time to an hour (or longer) before class starts – it all depends on you!
Not Eating Enough
Although eating too much or too soon before your yoga class can wreak havoc on your performance, not eating enough can detrimentally affect you, too. It’s a fine balance between eating enough at the right time to avoid nausea and not eating enough and feeling faint.
Remember, hot yoga classes are intense. Between the sweaty 105-degree temperature and muscle-burning flows, your heart rate is sure to climb. So, if you don’t eat enough to supply your body with plenty of energy, you might feel ill.
If you don’t eat enough before class, you’ll probably feel shaky, nervous, or faint/dizzy. You might also notice an increased heart rate or blood pressure that surpasses your normal range (even for hot yoga). If this is the case, your body is trying to communicate something: it doesn’t have enough energy to power through the class.
Your blood sugar may drop far too low to supply the necessary energy for hot yoga. This is called hypoglycemia and is a common side effect of not consuming enough food before exercising. According to Harvard Health, your brain needs plenty of blood sugar (or blood glucose) to function correctly. So, when your blood sugar dips too low, it can interfere with your brain’s ability to work, resulting in dizziness.
Excuse yourself from class if you begin to feel dizzy, faint, nervous, or shaky. Quietly and politely leave the room. Consume a small snack as soon as possible to bring up your blood sugar. If you can, consume a fast-acting source of sugar, like a juice box, a piece of fruit, or a piece of candy.
Once your blood sugar rises and you begin to feel better, consume a long-acting source of sugar, like crackers and cheese or a sandwich with slices of meat. This will help stabilize your blood sugar, ensuring you don’t experience a sharp drop shortly after.
Poor hydration is your enemy, especially in a hot yoga class. Staying hydrated is essential given the conditions in a hot yoga class, with its high humidity, sky-high temperatures, and intense flows. You’ll lose fluids via sweat as you challenge yourself through the course, so you must be vigilant with your hydration levels.
If you don’t consume enough water, you might experience headaches, dizziness, and fatigue, especially as you try to work through your class. On top of that, you might have difficulty concentrating or notice your heartbeat and breathing rate are faster than usual.
These symptoms can point to dehydration. So, ensure you’re staying hydrated by consuming plenty of water before, during, and after class. Avoid drinking large amounts of water right before or during your hot yoga class, as this can cause feelings of discomfort.
Instead, try to drink plenty of water several hours before class. Consume water as needed throughout the class, ensuring you don’t go overboard and make yourself sick. After class, continue drinking plenty of water.
Adding electrolytes to your water doesn’t hurt, as you’ll lose salt in your sweat. So, to replenish depleted stores, add electrolytes to your water. You can add a small amount of sea salt to your water, as sea salt contains essential electrolytes. Or, add a hydration multiplier drink mix to your water or sip an electrolyte-packed sports drink. Ideally, choose an option without large quantities of sugar, as this can contribute to dehydration.
How To Avoid Feelings Of Sickness During A Hot Yoga Class
The key to avoiding feelings of illness during your hot yoga class is identifying the root cause of the problem. Evaluate your symptoms and rule out potential culprits until you find the most likely cause.
For example, if you’re feeling dizzy and notice headaches during class, there’s a good chance you’re dehydrated. So, correct the issue by upping your water intake. Add electrolytes to your water or incorporate electrolyte-rich foods, like watermelon or avocado.
Or, let’s say you’re feeling exhausted during your yoga class, but you’re eating within a reasonable time frame before class, drinking plenty of water, and aren’t overheating. In this particular case, your body might be exhausted from pushing too hard. Take a day or two off, focusing on rest and recovery, as your body needs rest.
It all comes down to your symptoms and potential culprits. If you can narrow it down to a potential cause, try to adjust your habits to avoid those feelings. However, if the feelings persist, despite your best efforts, it might be time to seek medical attention.
Can Yoga Release Toxins And Make You Feel Sick?
Hot yoga, as well as other types of yoga, is often regarded as a detoxifying exercise regime. Many hot yoga advocates rave about yoga’s health benefits, including detoxifying and cleansing perks. However, while you do sweat profusely throughout a hot yoga session, your body isn’t shedding toxins through the skin.
Your body sweats to regulate its temperature, and in the process, you lose water and salt through your skin. While some folks may say that your sweat in hot yoga escorts toxins out of your body, this is far from the truth.
Instead, the sweat is simply that: sweat. It consists of 99% water with trace amounts of salt, carbohydrates, proteins, and urea. When it comes to toxins, your internal organs do all the grunt work. Your body filters out toxins using the liver, kidneys, and intestines, so sweating loads of toxins from the skin doesn’t happen.