Should Parents Sweat Over Their Kids Doing Hot Yoga?
Hot yoga, anyone?
While kids still aren't flocking in droves to classes held in triple digit temperatures, yoga instructors say they have seen an uptick in the number of youngsters attending heated yoga sessions, particularly among tweens.
Taylor Wells, co-owner of Prana Power Yoga, which has studios in the Boston area and in New York, says she's noticed an increase in the past year.
"I would say I'm seeing younger kids in classes all the time now, whereas, before, it would be unusual," she tells ParentDish. "Now, I see one or two a class. Before it was one or two a week."
Otto Cedeno, owner of Bikram Yoga Union Square in New York, says he sees only the occasional child -- including his now 14-year-old nephew, who started practicing when he was 4 -- although there are a couple other kids who come fairly regularly. For the most part, Cedeno says, kids come with their mothers.
Liam Harvey, 11, tells ParentDish that Bikram, a form of hot yoga in which the room is kept at a sweltering 104 degrees, helps keep him healthy and fit and that the heated workout makes him more flexible and, therefore, less injury prone.
"I like it because it's good for my body and it burns all the toxins out," Harvey says. "Kids who play sports should do it."
But could a workout that can make even adults swoon from overheating be safe for kids? Perhaps surprisingly, some doctors say "Yes."
"We've always been taught that children don't handle heat as well as adults," Dr. Chris Koutures, a pediatrician and sports medicine doctor who sits on the executive committee of the American Academy of Pediatrics Council for Sports Medicine and Fitness, tells ParentDish. "To be honest, there's new data that says, across the board, kids may handle heat, as well.
"As long as you've got somebody who watches their technique and the child is having fun, I think it's fine," he adds. "I think yoga is wonderful. I think it teaches balance, I think it teaches body control. I think it's a wonderful thing for young people."
Before trying a heated class, however, Koutures recommends kids try a few regular yoga classes to familiarize themselves with the poses, and he stresses that it should be the child generating the interest, not the parent.
Realistically, though, it probably won't be until children have reached late elementary school that they will be able decide for themselves to take a hot yoga class and have the focus to make it through, yoga teachers say.
These rules apply to kids who are otherwise healthy. Those who are taking medication or who have medical conditions, such as a heart condition or a reduced ability to sweat, should consult with their physicians first, Koutures tells ParentDish.
Still, not all doctors agree that the heated practice is safe for kids.
"I am not an advocate for hot yoga for kids ... Children do not respond to temperature changes in the same way that adults do," New York-based pediatrician Alanna Levine tells ParentDish in an e-mail. "I think yoga is a great way for children to relax and be in touch with their bodies. But save the hot yoga classes for the adults."
Some yoga teachers also question whether kids get the same benefits from hot yoga as adults. The higher temperatures are intended to help adults be more flexible, but most kids don't suffer from tightness.
"Bikram yoga is not a yoga designed for children," Cedeno says.
While Koutures thinks hot yoga is OK for kids, he cautions that parents need to keep a caerful eye on their children. For starters, kids should be allowed to take their time getting used to the sizzling conditions, and to take a break whenever needed. Koutures says he is not against allowing children as young as 4 to try the classes, as long as they start slowly -- no more than half an hour per session, he says.
Kids taking hot yoga will need plenty of water -- which means going into class already well-hydrated and taking lots of water breaks. To determine if your child is getting enough water, weigh him or her before and after class, Koutures recommends.
"Most kids shouldn't lose more than a pound or two," he says.
Kids who sweat a lot or who are what Koutures calls "salty sweaters" -- their sweat will taste like salt -- may need to eat something with salt or sugar after a workout of more than an hour, of any kind. A hydrated child will have clear urine, he says.
Yoga studios also tend to err on the side of caution.
Cedeno's nephew started accompanying him to class when the boy was 4, but Cedeno says he only allowed him to stay in for less than half an hour in the beginning and made sure he drank plenty of water and would lie down whenever he felt fatigued or uncomfortable.
By 5, the boy started doing more of the class, and by 8 he could do the whole 90 minutes. Most of the kids he sees in his studio are in their tween years before they can last a whole class, Cedeno says.
Similarly, Wells says that while both her 6-year-old son and 13-year-old daughter take her heated yoga classes -- held in a humid room warmed to 97 or 99 degrees -- she probably wouldn't let someone else's 6-year-old in.
Wells says her daughter's friends sometimes come with her, and will modify poses when they need to and take breaks from time to time, even sometimes leaving the classroom. But Wells suspects the departures are as much about texting as they are about relaxation.
"I don't care," Wells tells ParentDish. "We're really into accessible yoga."
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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.