(Picture: Ella Byworth for Metro.co.uk/ladavie/Getty)By now, you will have heard of the benefits of hot yoga.
Also known as Bikram yoga, the practice – which is held in a room heated to 40C (104F) – is apparently better for you than regular yoga (though not everyone agrees) because the heat allows the body’s blood vessels to dilate, which lowers your blood pressure.
But what about doing yoga in the complete opposite environment?
A few years ago, snowga became a thing and yogis grabbed their mats to venture outside. Just this week, a snowga session was held at the indoor ski slope Chill Factore in Manchester – but is there really a benefit to doing yoga in cold temperatures?
Carolyn Billingham, who is a Kundalini and Nigra yoga teacher, tells Metro.co.uk that while extreme temperatures – both hot and cold – can be beneficial during some form of exercise-related relaxation techniques such as ice baths or cryotherapy, cold yoga isn’t particularly advisable.
‘While the benefits of extreme temperatures on our bodies and health are widely documented by fitness and alternative trends, such as ice baths, cryotherapy, hot yoga, saunas etc., practising yoga in cold temperatures has one massive drawback for yogis,’ she said.
‘Our muscles contract and become brittle in the cold, thus making us susceptible for injury which can be a real problem if you are stretching yourself in any asana (yogic postures).
‘Even with a flow of movement and the breath work (pranayama), which would heat up the body, the potential of the immediate drop in temperature when we rest is huge.’
Although there are some positive aspects of cold yoga, Carolyn believes that since these same benefits can be found in regular yoga, it cancels out the need to work out in frosty temperatures.
She said: ‘The argument for cold temperature yoga is reduced inflammation, weight loss and a balanced hormone level, with the production of endorphins a mood enhancer, but all of these things can be experienced in yoga anyway.
‘So you might be better taking the health benefit of a brief cold shower or even ice bath and leaving yoga to a studio or living room where you can better enjoy the benefits of increased flexibility, reduction of stress, lung expansion, heart health and improved glandular and nervous system to name but a few.’
(Picture: Ella Byworth for Metro.co.uk)According to Brrrn, pioneers of cold yoga, frosty temperatures can improve endurance and recovery, as well as enhance focus and increase energy.
‘In ambient or hot environments, your perceived rate of exertion is higher,’ Brrrn co-founder Johnny Adamic, said in an interview with Yoga Journal last year.
‘This means your body thinks it’s working harder than it actually is, while in cooler temperatures anywhere from 40-64°F [4.4-17.7C] – your perceived rate of exertion is lower, which means you can work out harder and sustain your maximal best performance for longer.’
But take this with a pinch of salt; the brand is built around cold workouts, so it makes sense it would agree there is a positive side to it.
Unfortunately, there isn’t much research on the topic (as most findings revolve around cold weather sports, as opposed to controlled temperature sessions that take place indoors), however, one study from 2011 on immunological changes in athletes revealed that ‘environmental extremes’ can affect the body’s immune system.
The study admits there is not a certain link between ‘immunological changes’, but that there is a chance ‘vigorous exercise in subfreezing temperatures’ could lead to ‘increased risk of infection’.
However, this study specifically looked at athletes who train and compete during winter months – so it’s unclear how these results would compare to yoga workouts in a controlled environment.
As for doing outdoor exercises in cold conditions, another study mentions a risk of frostbite or hypothermia.
On the topic of snowga specifically, Carolyn doesn’t recommend it, but does admit it could help get the lymphatic system moving.
‘In Kundalini yoga, as taught by Yoga Bhajan, there is a practice that daily cold showers – hydrotherapy or Ishnaan – open the blood capillaries and according to him this clears toxins at the deepest level of the body, which is of course an amazing health benefit.
‘It wakes up our circulation and strengthens the nervous system. However, this is a system where we experience the extreme cold for a short period of time – whereas snow yoga would be for much longer.
‘There are some potential health concerns with yoga in the snow around inadequate layering of clothes, with dangerous drops in temperature causing hypothermia or even frostbite. Those with heart conditions low or high blood pressure would also want to take advice on this beforehand too.
‘Of course, the appeal here is that when it is cold your body regulates its temperature a little better, so you burn more fat. Yoga is also about a flow and extreme hot and cold temperatures are also really good for moving the lymphatic system which helps keep the liver and kidneys free from blockages.’
Overall, there seems to be more downsides to cold yoga than is worth the hassle.
But if you’re considering trying it or any other form of cold exercise, it’s advisable to discuss it with a health professional or your local GP first.
Especially as your individual health could be a determining factor in whether it would be good or bad for you personally.
MORE: How to stay safe when practicing yoga at home
MORE: You can now do yoga in a field full of alpacas
MORE: The easiest yoga poses for beginners