Hot yoga and epilepsy: is it safe?

  • November 22, 2023
  • 3
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Woman doing hot yoga

Sometimes it feels good to sweat it out! This is perhaps one reason why a growing number of people are trying out various types of hot yoga. Hot yoga involves doing yoga stretches and positions in hot and humid rooms. It is intended to enhance flexibility and strength – among other things.

If you have epilepsy and are thinking about going to a hot yoga class, it's important to weigh up the pros and cons. It’s well known that higher temperature can cause seizures, so attending a hot yoga class with epilepsy could potentially pose a risk. 

Let's learn more about hot yoga and epilepsy – and look at whether this is an appropriate exercise for people with the condition.

What is hot yoga?

There are various kinds of hot yoga practice, including Bikram yoga, which is probably the most well known. Unlike in regular yoga classes, which happen at normal room temperature, hot yoga happens in spaces that can be as warm as 105 degrees Fahrenheit. They also often have relatively high levels of humidity.

A study of people doing Bikram yoga found a number of benefits to the practice:

  • It can improve flexibility
  • It also improves strength
  • It can help with body fat loss

People enjoy hot yoga for other reasons too. It makes you sweat more which can feel good, it can tackle feelings of stress, and it can feel like you’re doing a more intense workout.

Hot yoga and epilepsy - safety considerations

The topic of hot yoga and epilepsy has not attracted much scientific research so far. It’s therefore not possible to definitely say whether or not it's safe to do this exercise if you have a seizure disorder.

That being said, exposure to heat is a common seizure trigger for many people with epilepsy. For example, a survey in the UK found that 62% of people with uncontrolled epilepsy said that they had more seizures when temperatures were warmer. Another study found that an elevated body temperature can trigger seizures. This is an issue for hot yoga, since a higher core temperature is a natural side-effect of the practice.

Doing hot yoga also causes people to sweat a lot, which means they lose electrolytes (mainly sodium – or salt). Having lower sodium levels in your bloodstream can also trigger seizures - even for people who don't have epilepsy.

A final concern about hot yoga and epilepsy is the risk of dehydration caused by excessive sweating. Dehydration can also make it more likely that you'll have a seizure and again, this is a side-effect of hot yoga.

Hot, hot, hot: Epilepsy and warm weather

Speak to your doctor about hot yoga and epilepsy

If you are thinking of taking up a new exercise like hot yoga, then it's always a good idea to speak with your doctor first. They can advise you on whether they think it's right for you based on your medical history and level of seizure control.

If your seizures are in control, and you don’t find high temperatures a trigger for you, you might decide on trying hot yoga out. As with many things in life, it’s worth starting low and slow. Here are a couple of things you might want to think about:

  • Consider attending a beginner’s class where the room is warmer than normal yoga, but not as sweltering as a 105-degree Bikram yoga class.
  • Tell the instructor about your epilepsy, so they know what to do if you have a seizure.
  • Make sure you stay hydrated, and bring along an isotonic sports drink to replenish electrolytes you lose during the session
  • Take regular breaks

If you’re new to yoga, read our introductory blog to the sport – or read about doing other kinds of exercise with epilepsy

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