Hot yoga refers to any kind of yoga that takes place in a hot room, usually 80-105⁰F. Since its rise to popularity in the 1970s when Bikram Choudhury created Bikram yoga, hot yoga has become a favorite of many celebrities and has come to represent a way for yogis to take their practice to the next level.
In this article we explore 10 benefits of hot yoga.
1. Strengthens the Body
Supporting your own body weight is an effective, low-impact way to strengthen your muscles. Many varieties of hot yoga such as Bikram, vinyasa-style and power yoga involve holding yoga poses for longer periods of time, which can help tone muscle and improve your range of motion.
2. Improves Flexibility
Exercising with warm, moist air against your skin can improve muscle flexibility, and over time, exercise improves long-term flexibility. Hot yoga provides an environment for sinking deeper into your poses. A 2013 study showed that participants’ flexibility improved significantly after 8 weeks of Bikram yoga.
3. Burns Calories
In the past, athletes have claimed they could burn up to a thousand calories during a 90-minute session of Bikram yoga; however, a 2014 study by Colorado State University challenged claims such as these. In a study of 19 yoga students, researchers found men burned about 460 calories, and women burned about 330 calories during Bikram yoga. They determined that the disparity was due to differences in body size.
Studies have shown that heart rate doesn't increase much in hot yoga compared to regular yoga, but hot yoga feels more intense, giving a sense of accomplishment once it's over.
4. Improves Breath Control
In Bikram yoga, you begin with Pranayama breathing, which encourages mindfulness surrounding your breath. In power yoga and vinyasa-style hot yoga, you use the Ujjayi breath, or “oceanic breath.” This kind of breathing typically is performed in a one-breath/one-movement style, creating a moving meditation that improves mindfulness.
5. Reduces Stress
A 2017 study showed that Bikram hot yoga reduced perceived stress in 29 adults after 16 weeks. The endorphins the body releases during a hot yoga session, as well as many other kinds of exercise, are significant stress relievers.
Some hot yoga students also say that the intense environment simply makes it difficult to think about external stressors while in a hot yoga class.
6. Improves Concentration and Endurance
People following a hot yoga practice have commented that the high heat of hot yoga improves concentration.
Holding an asana for an extended period in a room that ranges from 80 to 105 degrees can teach you to tune out your body’s discomfort and focus on your breath, strengthening your willpower and ability to power through difficulty.
7. Improves Mood
A 2016 study showed that hot yoga significantly improved participants’ mood and helped them feel more in control of their life situations through self efficacy.
This follows past scientific research that suggests that yoga can be a useful treatment for symptoms of depression.
8. Aids in Weight Loss
A hot yoga session burns more calories than a neutral-temperature yoga session. When practiced regularly, hot yoga can help you achieve weight loss goals. Yoga students report that the rush of endorphins and the sense of accomplishment brings them back for the next class.
9. Enhances Your Skin
A warm environment is thought to bring blood to the surface of the skin, which may help to renew dead skin cells. The humid environment of a hot yoga studio, similar to that of a sauna, can provide moisture to your skin too through hydration. Just make sure to lock in that hydration with a skin moisturizer after class, or you risk making your skin drier.
10. Builds Bone Density
Exercise, in general, can help build bone density, but a 2014 study showed that Bikram yoga, in particular, improved the bone density of premenopausal women over the course of five years. Minimized bone density occurs naturally in women as they age, and this can place them at higher risk for osteoporosis and bone fracture. The gentle weight-bearing exercises of hot yoga are excellent for building bone mass without placing too much stress on the body.
Risks of Hot Yoga
Although these benefits sound appealing, a few risks are associated with hot yoga. Because you'll be exercising in a humid, heated room, people who are pregnant or have pre-existing health conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, or cardiovascular issues should avoid hot yoga.
Even if you don't have any of these issues, it's common to lose a lot of fluid and electrolytes through sweat during a session. This increases your risk of heatstroke. Hydration is important during a hot yoga practice, so be sure to always keep a bottle of water close to your yoga mat.
Final Word on the Benefits of Hot Yoga
Compared to regular yoga, hot yoga can help you burn calories, nourish your skin and provide you with an amazing feeling of accomplishment. It’s definitely worth a try!