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Self-Care

What Is Infrared Yoga? A Naturopathic Doctor Explains

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Curious what would happen if two cult-favorite wellness trends met and had a baby? Two words: Infrared Yoga. Infrared yoga ticks all the right boxes for holistic health fans. It delivers the physical, mental, and spiritual benefits of your regular yoga practice, but amplifies the physical detox aspect similar to a session in an infrared sauna.

Using FAR infrared heat lamps, each sixty-minute hot yoga class warms your muscles directly, boosting your flexibility and helping you work up a sweat. Thanks to the dramatically improved efficacy of the practice, it simultaneously makes each class a therapeutic self-care session, as well.

You may have heard of “goat yoga” — a trend that unfailingly makes us smile — but we think infrared yoga could be here to stay. Keep reading to find out why.

Infrared Light: What is it?

​“Infrared is a light that emits heat and is absorbed by the skin,” explains Dr. Nadia Musavvir, Los Angeles- and Chicago-based Naturopathic Doctor.“It penetrates skin and is absorbed by the body, enhancing cellular repair.” First developed by NASA to help astronauts maintain muscle mass in space, multiple studies document the health benefits of FAR infrared light exposure, ranging from improved circulation, to anti-inflammatory and detoxifying effects.

Since their emergence, the use of infrared LED lights has risen in prominence in both the wellness and beauty worlds. Studies have linked the complementary alternative modality (CAM) of treatment with improvement in several chronic illnesses, including cardiovascular disease and diabetes mellitis.

When it comes to skincare, infrared LED beds — such as the patented Revitalight used at the celebrity esthetician Joanna Vargas’ New York and Los Angeles-based spas — provide an A-list glow. Each session in the healing, “anti-tanning” bed reverses sun damage, boosts collagen pro- duction, heals skin reactions and inflammation, and even expedites downtime following dermato- logical procedures like laser treatments. High-profile clients including Julianne Moore, Rashida Jones, and Rachel Brosnahan, are reportedly fans.

The use of infrared light in skincare is especially effective because of its ability to bypass the skin barrier. By delivering energy at the cellular level, infrared light can promote healing much more ef- ficiently and directly. By contrast, active ingredients in topical skincare must be smaller than 500 Daltons to absorb beneath the outermost layers of the dermis, which makes infrared light a game- changer.

Still, the exact mechanism by which the health benefits are relayed remains elusive. Researchers do know that infrared light boosts microcirculation, which is one way that it promotes accelerated lymphatic drainage, the body’s natural mechanism for the elimination of toxins.

Infrared Yoga: The Benefits

The holistic health spa Eco Chateau, a chain of luxury wellness spas in Southern California, has offered infrared sauna memberships for years. Their clients notice improved metabolic rate, cardiac output, softer skin, and peace of mind. Now, one of their San Diego locations has begun offering sessions in a larger-sized “Yoga Sauna,” allowing guests to practice yoga simultaneously.

As yoga is yet another mindfulness practice that is lauded for its detoxifying properties via sweat, physicality, and mindful breathing practices, the two self-care practices go together well.

Experienced yogis already understand the improved quality of life that comes with a regular yoga practice. The multidimensional effects of hot yoga are noticeable on various levels — from improved flexibility and sweating, to improved mindfulness and mental clarity. These effects are also cumulative, deepening over time.

Musavvir corroborates, “Yoga is excellent for both mind and body; it activates the parasympathet- ic nervous system — the body’s “rest & digest” [mechanism] — and the various poses encourage lymphatic drainage.”

The use of infrared heat lamps differs from typical hot yoga studios in that they warm the muscles of the body directly, not via the air in the studio as a medium. As Musavvir shares, what makes FAR infrared heat such a powerful detoxifier is the way it essentially opens up fat cells. Since toxins are stored in our fat cells, they are released from our cells and can be flushed from the system.

Practicing yoga with infrared heat therefore provides an ultra-efficient release of toxins which are disposed of thanks to yogic postures that promote lymphatic drainage.

“Theoretically, the combination of yoga and infrared light work together for enhanced results (i.e. detoxification),” she begins. “Coupled with poses that encourage lymphatic drainage, [the practice helps to] bring waste out of [blood] circulation.”

Duration + Frequency

While most infrared sauna sessions last for 40-minutes, yoga classes are typically longer —ranging from 60 to 90 minutes apiece. According to our expert, the ideal is to aim for 60-minute sessions, twice per month.

“However,” she adds, “[For] addressing specific concerns, you may need to tailor your sessions to suit your specific needs.” This might mean more frequent sessions per week for shorter amounts of time.

While numerous studies explore the health benefits of applying infrared light therapeutically — including on the skin’s microbiome — Musavvir names hypertension and chronic pain as two primary conditions from which you can expect relief.

Of course, she also mentions detoxification.
There is one caveat, however. Musavvir notes that for certain individuals — including those with a higher sensitivity to chemicals (such as from mold toxicity or Lyme disease) — the intense flushing of toxins from the system can leave the extra-sensitive feel unwell. So as amazing as infrared yoga sounds, never forget to consult with your doctor before starting.

 

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