As one who practices hot yoga on a regular basis, I am familiar with the concept that exercising in a heated room is supposed to help with stretching and preventing muscle injury. Stretching is beneficial for the entire body, and one would think that the combination of heat and stretching would pretty much alleviate any chances of muscle cramps occurring.
But every once in a while, my concentration in class is disturbed by an outburst or a gasp as someone falls out of a posture clutching a body part and groaning, or jumping up to ‘walk out’ a charley horse. Muscle cramps can be sudden and painful and some people seem to have more of a tendency to fall prey to this malady than others.
Personally, I have never had a problem with muscle cramps and simply chalked it up to chance. However, a recent conversation with my instructor shed a little light on the problem I see happening all too frequently, and now it is starting to make more sense.
Although an exact cause as to why muscle cramps develop can be difficult to determine, there are a few things that are commonly found in people who experience them. For example, not stretching enough before exercise or overworking already fatigued muscles can play a part.
However, the two main culprits seem to be dehydration and electrolyte imbalances. Students of hot yoga are always drilled on drinking enough water to replace what is lost in sweat. “Eat salt and drink water” seems to be the order of the day.
Some minerals and electrolytes such as magnesium, potassium, calcium, sodium, iron and zinc are used extensively by the muscles. When electrolytes are balanced, they actually help speed up our body’s ability to absorb the water that we do ingest. Electrolytes are necessary for balancing the body’s fluids.
Some people turn to supplements of calcium, magnesium or something similar, not realizing that minerals must be in the proper ratio in order to do any good in the body. Supplementing may actually throw the imbalance off even more, trading one imbalanced vitamin or mineral for another.
A diet heavy in cooked food can be a leading factor in dehydration due to the acidifying nature of the diet, which upsets electrolytes as well, and because the water is removed from the food in the cooking process. So one must attempt to drink copious amounts of water to make up for what is missing in the diet to begin with.
Now I think I understand why I have never experienced muscle cramps during my hot yoga workouts. It’s because of the high amount of raw foods that I eat. First of all, raw foods are very hydrating since they have not had the water cooked out of them. Second, they retain all of their nutrients and already have the perfect balance of electrolytes along with everything else they were originally intended to have.
They are also in a form that is recognizable by the body and superior to anything you will find on the market that was concocted in a laboratory. Coconut water from young Thai coconuts is especially helpful, as it has a natural balance of all the essential electrolytes.
So, in essence, the problems that are inherent in consuming cooked foods simply don’t apply to me. Raw foods provide me with balanced nutrition and adequate hydration. Not only are my health and appearance benefited, but my hot yoga workout thanks me too.
I am not 100% raw, but I try to incorporate a large amount of raw foods into my diet. Luckily, these days there are many online sources which are helpful in learning more about the raw foods diet and the concomitant health benefits. These are the three that I would recommend: http://rawfoodists.blogspot.com/, http://www.kaboodle.com/rawfood, and http://rawfoodme.wordpress.com/.