Infrared yoga is said to have many benefits, such as improving sleep, aches and complexion.
I don’t believe in quick fixes. But when something promises to better my complexion almost immediately – be it lightening my dark spots, brightening my dull skin or getting rid of my occasional pimples – I’m willing to give it a shot.
I’m talking about infrared yoga – that is, doing yoga in a heated room, with infrared rays emitted from panels above. Those rays, which are invisible to the human eye, are supposed to confer health benefits, including better heart health, reduced cancer risk, faster recovery from injuries, as well as improved circulation, sleep and complexion. Sounds like a load of bold promises, right?
I thought so too, at first. But a quick Google search made me realise how prevalent (and possibly legit) infrared heat technology is. It’s used in sauna baths, heated garments and heat therapy lamps, to name a few. And I recently found out that the hot blanket and tummy wrap – which I’ve been using for years at my neighbourhood spa – give off infrared rays too.
Numerous studies have been done to test the efficacy of infrared radiation. So far, the proven benefits include improved endurance, quicker post-workout recovery, reduced joint pain and muscle aches, as well as improved complexion. Not surprisingly, most of these effects are attributed to the increased circulation.
When I found out that Jal Yoga did infrared yoga, the yogi in me couldn’t wait to try it. I’ve always enjoyed hot yoga because the heat makes my mind and muscles come alive. After director Jasmine Loh shared that one instructor, who spends three to four hours daily in the infrared studio, had noticeably fairer and clearer skin after one month, I knew had to try it to see if it could help put an end to the on-off breakouts on my forehead.
But first, note that infrared yoga and hot yoga are not the same.
The difference between infrared yoga and hot yoga
Though both types of yoga are done in heated rooms, infrared yoga contains infrared radiation, as the name suggests, while hot yoga doesn’t. Infrared yoga is also not as hot. The infrared heat hovers between 35 and 36 deg C, while hot yoga is 37 and 39 deg C.
Another big difference: Infrared heats objects directly, and without warming up the surrounding air. That means you’d feel less stuffy in an infrared yoga room.
As Jasmine of Jal Yoga, puts it: “The infrared heat is so comfortable, you’ll feel as though you’re sunbathing on the beach – without the UV rays.”
Infrared yoga – the experience
I expected more frills, but other than the 28 infrared panels that radiated heat from the ceiling, the infrared yoga room was pretty ordinary. Each panel is meant to be directly above a yoga mat. However, the mats were arranged more densely when we were there, and we were told that this wouldn’t affect the overall experience.
Instructor Perlen started the hatha yoga class with a series of breathing exercises. With zen music playing in the background, I closed my eyes and imagined myself sitting on the beach, soaking in the goodness of the sun.
Similar to hot yoga, the infrared heat had a therapeutic effect. My usually cold hands and feet warmed up quickly, along with the rest of my body. And I could get into deep stretching poses, like standing forward bend, easily. I felt ready to do more.
Perlen incorporated a number of stretching postures that targeted the back, shoulders, hips and hamstrings. Good for stiff office workers like us, I thought.
Though the poses were gentle, I broke into a sweat within 15 minutes. This was a sure sign that my body was working hard to detox itself.
I peeked at my neighbours – editor Zarelda and intern Claudia – and saw that they were also perspiring. By the time we got to the wheel pose, I was dripping so much sweat (yay!) that I had to line my mat with a towel to avoid slipping.
The ambience was so soothing that Zarelda and Claudia both fell asleep during the final savasana (corpse pose) – something Zarelda, a regular yoga practitioner, says “doesn’t usually happen”.
So, does infrared yoga live up to its promises? Anecdotally, it checks a few boxes.
Zarelda reported deeper sleep that night, according to her fitness tracker. Claudia, who attended yoga for the first time that day, and whose muscles were tight and achy from running, said she felt much more relaxed and flexible afterwards.
As for myself, I was delighted to see that my forehead zits had subsided. It was as if they were never there. Before the infrared yoga session, they had been rather persistent and resistant to tea tree oil. My next step will be to see if regular infrared yoga would lighten my pigmentation and give me that glow Jasmine talked about.
Jal Yoga is located at 991 Alexandra Road, #01-03A (6251-0710). Other forms of yoga, such as vinyasa and kinetic, are also available for the infrared class. Visit www.jalyoga.com.sg for more info.