Are the Benefits of Hot Yoga Really Worth the Sweat?

Workouts

Imagine a nice, calming yoga class to kick off your day. Now, imagine that yoga class in 100 plus degrees. When you’re doing hot yoga, you’ll have sweat dripping from places you didn’t even know you could sweat from! It’s not for everyone, but this workout is definitely a trend that has some noteworthy benefits to consider.

If you’re thinking about trying hot yoga for the first time, or want to know if it’s really worth it, we’ll get into the facts to help you decide if it’s right for you. Plus, you’ll learn how to get started safely if you decide to step onto the mat for a steamy, hot workout.

What is Hot Yoga?

Group of women doing a hot yoga class in a studio
“Hot yoga” is a broad term for any type of yoga done in heated conditions up to around 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

So, what is hot yoga exactly? Well, it’s a broad term for any type of yoga done in toasty conditions. How toasty you ask? Usually, the studio room heats up to around 100 degrees Fahrenheit. This amps up the difficulty level and makes this type of yoga unique to the rest. The intense heat and humidity actually enables your muscles to stretch out more, which is one of the perks of this kind of workout class.[1]

Depending on the studio and class you attend, you could have any variation of yoga movement. For example, you might get a vinyasa style hot yoga or a Pilates-fusion hot yoga. So, there’s really something for everyone to try with the various styles. However, it’s important to note that hot yoga isn’t for everyone. Because of the high heat, you may feel dizzy or nauseous.[2] The American Journal of Medicine also reported that it’s possible to get heat exhaustion, and possibly a stroke, from pushing too hard in a class.[3] As with any sport or workout class, be aware of your body and know your limits.

Remember: If you begin having impaired vision during a session, or your breathing is very tough to control, stop immediately and take a break outside. It’s better to be safe than sorry when it comes to what your body can handle.

How is it Different From Bikram Hot Yoga?

A group of women holding an advanced hot yoga pose in class
One study that compared hot yoga with regular yoga showed that those who participated in hot yoga reported better moods after the session.

Bikram hot yoga is a little more specific than just open-ended hot yoga. You see, Bikram hot yoga is a set sequence of 26 postures, always done in the same order. Additionally, the room temperature must be over 100 degrees with a humidity level of 40 degrees.[4] This form of yoga is relatively new, founded by Bikram Choudhury in the ’70s.[5]

Unlike Bikram hot yoga, standard hot yoga gives more freedom to the instructors and participants. It all depends on what type of class you’re interested in. With Bikram hot yoga, you’ll definitely know what you’re walking into each and every time. For some, consistency is key. For others, mixing it up is important to maintain interest in the workout.

4 Benefits of Hot Yoga That Make it Worth the Sweat

Aside from being a challenging and fun workout, hot yoga has some great health benefits as well. Knowing that you’re doing good for your body and mind will help you power through the class when you feel like you’re ready to collapse into Shavasana pose (aka sleeping pose). Let’s see what hot yoga really helps with.

1. More flexibility

Flexible woman practicing hot yoga

If you’ve ever thrown out your back, you know that we could all do with a little more flexibility. When your body is cold, your muscles are tighter and more constricted. This makes them more prone to injury.[6] Conversely, when your muscles are warm, they are more relaxed and easier to stretch, which makes them less prone to injury.[7]

That’s why one of the main benefits of hot yoga is that it warms up your muscles and helps them stretch further than normal. Doing this regularly helps build up your flexibility bit by bit and lower your risk of injuries.

Remember: While pushing yourself is part of working out, it’s important not to over-stretch yourself in class. You’ll feel like you can go deeper into your poses than usual, but staying in a safe zone is still important to prevent injury or strain later on.

2. Improved stamina

Close up of a woman's hands during a hot yoga class

A great benefit of hot yoga is improved stamina. In a class, the heat and exercise combination really gives your heart a cardio pump. This is basically like a workout for your heart, ensuring it stays strong and healthy.

During the session, your heart rate will increase more than it might in a normal yoga class.[8] Working your heart out has amazing cardiovascular benefits in the long run and definitely helps build stamina.

3. Better moods

Hot yoga students doing child's pose on yoga mats

It should come as no surprise that a benefit of doing any form of yoga (including hot yoga) is better moods. One study that compared hot yoga with regular yoga showed that those who participated in hot yoga reported better moods after the session.[9]

The mindfulness, breathing, and movements of yoga increase your brain’s GABA levels, aka the “calming” neurotransmitter.[10] Plus, there’s just something about seeing the sweat roll down your arms that can really create a positive impact on your mind.

4. Skin detox

Woman holding warrior pose during hot yoga

There’s no way you can get through a hot yoga class without sufficiently soaking your tank top.

Sweating is a good way to clear out your pores and rid your skin of toxins that might have latched on throughout the day.[11] Hot yoga can help clear out your pores and give your body a detox by sweating out those toxins. Tell that to the naysayers who think there are no benefits of hot yoga!

How Many Calories Are Burned in Hot Yoga & Is it Good For Weight Loss?

Students performing advanced hot yoga in a hot yoga class
One study showed that yoga is linked to better self-image in women.

Because hot yoga is a broad term and can be comprised of many different yoga styles, calories burned during a session can vary greatly. Let’s take Bikram yoga, the standard 26-pose hot yoga session, into account. One online calorie counter showed that a 90-minute Bikram yoga session can burn 716 calories in a person weighing 150 pounds.[12] In comparison, one hour on the elliptical burns just around 365 calories.[13] So yes, yoga is definitely a great addition to your weight loss routine.

Still, hot yoga isn’t something with enough scientific backing to actually be recommended for weight loss alone. Keeping a balance of a healthy diet and exercise is really the most sure-fire way to lose weight and keep it off.

Fun Fact: One study showed that yoga is linked to better self-image in women.[14] Consider trying yoga to support a better relationship between you and your body.

How Can I Get Started?

You already finished the first step! You just learned a bit about hot yoga and the benefits it can have on your life. The next part is just as easy. We’ll go over how to get started with hot yoga in a few simple steps.

1. Pick a style of yoga

Group of women smiling during a hot yoga class

There’s no need to be too picky here. There are sure to be a few options near you, so why not explore them all to see which is the best one for you?

In this testing phase, you can call a number of different studios and ask what a standard class looks like. Is it heavy in pilates? Or does it move more slowly with consideration for form and breath work? It is important to get an idea of the type of class you want beforehand, so you don’t end up in a hot and sweaty version of your worst nightmare.

2. Get your gear

Woman holding a yoga mat with sun shining behind her

Just as in regular yoga, you want to show up to class with a yoga mat and some stretchy workout clothes. Some studios have mats already, but for hot yoga (as it gets super sweaty!) you might want to bring your own for hygiene reasons.

Additionally, you should also bring two mid-sized towels to the class as well. One you’ll use to place under you during the practice, so your mat doesn’t get slippery from sweat. The other, you’ll use to periodically clean your face, your arms, and just about everywhere else. The last thing you want is to have to wipe your face with your shirt which is already drenched itself.

Tip: If you don’t have a yoga mat already, you’ll want to invest in one that is sticky and not overly stretchy. This will help when you drip sweat on the mat and still need to hold your balance in a pose.

3. Pay attention to your body

Women stretching before a hot yoga class

This is one of the most important steps in a hot yoga class. When you first begin your hot yoga journey, you’ll be excited and eager to impress. Yet keep in mind your body’s boundaries. Listen to your breathing, and take note of your heart rate.

If you feel like it’s so hot you have no idea how anyone else is alive, then you’re probably right and your body is overheating. There is no shame in taking a break and sitting on the mat, or grabbing some water for a breather. Talk to a doctor first if you have any previous heart problems too.

Hot Yoga: Is it Really Worth the Sweat?

Conclusion

Hot yoga is more than just a trendy fad workout. It’s a great way to release tension in your muscles and feel great for the rest of your day. So grab your mat, your towel (or five), and begin!

4 Benefits of Hot Yoga That Make it Worth the Sweat

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References

  • [1] https://iaytjournals.org/doi/abs/10.17761/1531-2054-26.1.49
  • [2] https://iaytjournals.org/doi/abs/10.17761/1531-2054-26.1.49
  • [3] https://www.amjmed.com/article/S0002-9343(16)30358-8/abstract
  • [4] https://heinonline.org/HOL/LandingPage?handle=hein.journals/cardplp5&div=32&id=&page=
  • [5] https://heinonline.org/HOL/LandingPage?handle=hein.journals/cardplp5&div=32&id=&page=
  • [6] https://link.springer.com/article/10.2165/00007256-199724020-00005
  • [7] https://physioworks.com.au/FAQRetrieve.aspx?ID=30990
  • [8] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30698456
  • [9] https://iaytjournals.org/doi/abs/10.17761/1531-2054-26.1.49
  • [10] https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Avinash_Desousa/publication/269409361_Yoga_in_the_management_of_anxiety_disorders/links/548b22500cf2d1800d7db29c.pdf
  • [11] http://www.greenhealingnow.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/Principles-of-Detoxification.pdf
  • [12] https://livehealthy.chron.com/calorie-calculator-bikram-yoga-5276.html
  • [13] https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/weight-loss/in-depth/exercise/art-20050999
  • [14] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1740144515301236

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