Dear Greatist: Hot Yoga and Date-Night Meals

You wanted to know if hot yoga's safe, and which date-night meals are cheap to prepare. Greatist found the answers!

Things are getting steamy in this week’s edition of Dear Greatist. Readers want to know: Is hot yoga actually good for you? Which date-night meals can be prepped on the cheap?

I've always wanted to try [hot yoga] but I keep hearing horror stories about it from my friends. One said it made them want to cry because it just sucked so much. Then I heard you lose several pounds in one session...which seems extremely unhealthy! Is hot yoga actually good for you? –Danielle K. via email

I’ve been wondering about this one myself, so I did a bit of digging. First off, Bikram, also known as hot yoga, is not recommended for pregnant women or kids— it sounded a little suspicious to me, too, but roller coasters have the same rule and they’re not so bad, right?

Bikram yoga’s founder, Bikram Choudhury, told 60 Minutes the key to his “torture chamber” (his words, not mine!) method is suffering. Without suffering, the body doesn’t work hard enough and people don’t reach the perfect mind-body balance, the master yogi says. Explains your friend’s cry session, right? In fact, there’s even a report of a psychotic episode associated with Bikram yoga Psychotic episode associated with Bikram yoga. Lu, J.S., Pierre, J.M. The American Journal of Psychiatry, 2007 Nov;164(11):1761.. Despite the many claims about Bikram’s benefits— like flushing toxins from the body and improving flexibility— there are some serious concerns. Chief among them, heat stroke. Heat stroke can occur at a heat index far lower than the one in 105-degree Bikram yoga studios. One of the early symptoms of oncoming heat stroke is muscle cramps. Nausea, vomiting, and fainting can follow— relaxing, right? The jury of experts is still out, though some believe the environment in a Bikram class can also encourage students to push themselves too far, leading to potential injury.

But Bikram might not be all bad. Despite my personal distaste (loathing, perhaps abhorrence?) for sweating, hot yoga does have a few proven benefits. For example, it burns more calories than, say, your average Hatha class (though not as many as Vinyasa). As for losing a few pounds, though, that’s probably all water, which you’ll need to replenish after class anyway. In one study, Bikram yoga also improved balance and stability among young adults (though Bikram participants were compared to those who did no yoga at all, so there’s no telling how other types of yoga may stack up) Yoga as steadiness training: effects on motor variability in young adults. Hart, C.E., Tracy, B.L. Department of Health and Exercise Science, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 2008 Sep;22(5):1659-69.. Those with the worst balance to start with also showed the greatest improvement. (Hmm, maybe this could help me actually stay upright on the train…) Yogis of the female persuasion may also have higher bone mineral density than their peers after three years of regular Bikram classes.

All things considered, I wouldn’t say Bikram is always unsafe. Assuming you’re in good health and not pregnant, you may be able to give it a shot. During your first few classes, experts recommend taking a break frequently to acclimate to the temperature. Drink a lot of water before, during, and after the practice, and respect your body’s signals. If a posture hurts, modify it, and if you start to feel any symptoms of heat stroke, head to the nearest cool area and lay down ASAP. Warm yoga (in 80 to 90-degree rooms) is also growing in popularity and may be a way to work up to Bikram.

What’s a good date-worthy meal I can cook for under $10? –Kelsi H. (@kdhartl) via Twitter

This is a question I can totally relate to. I love entertaining, but cooking an impressive meal can easily get pricey. I like the challenge of keeping the meal under $10 for the two of you— in other words, pretty much the most I’d spend on a bottle of wine. (Classy, no?)  I think the key is not getting caught up in the whole protein-plus-veggie-plus-starch equation, because that means three separate recipes and probably way too many ingredients and wasted leftovers. Incorporate all those elements into one recipe, though, and you’ll cut out a ton of hassle.

My favorite way to keep a meal cheap-ish is to start with a salad, soup, or pasta base. Salads and soups don’t exactly scream date night to me, though, so let’s think pasta— Lady and the Tramp moment, anyone? A sophisticated protein (like shrimp or scallops— skip the oysters, your date will totally see through your attempt at seduction) fancy-fies a plain old bowl of starch, and if you buy frozen seafood, you can usually save a few bucks. To double those savings, use half the protein and double the veggies the recipe suggests. (And opt for whole wheat pasta, which actually adds back some of that missing protein.) Eggplant and zucchini are great for beefing up sauce and upping the nutrition factor with fiber and vitamin C. Finally, make your own sauce with some grown-up flavor (think spices— they’re cheap and can transform a meal) and it’ll look like you slaved over it— but really, homemade sauce often cooks up in the same amount of time it takes to boil dry pasta.

A few of my favorite recipes:
Shrimp Fra Diavolo — I halve the quantity of shrimp and skip the saffron threads.
Pasta with Roasted Cauliflower and Bacon — It’s amazingly simple and your whole house will smell like bacon— romantic, huh?
Butternut Squash with Tortellini and Mushrooms — Try this recipe if your date’s a vegetarian.
Linguine with Scallops, Brown Butter, and Peas — Choose bay scallops instead of sea scallops— they’re less expensive.
Lemony Shrimp Scampi — You’ll both have garlic breath, but it’ll be totally worth it.

We love answering the questions we get from our readers via Twitter, Facebook, email, or carrier pigeon. Send us your questions anytime, about anything related to fitness, health, or happiness. We’ll answer two each week!

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