By now, you’ve probably heard about hot yoga. If you’re curious what it’s all about but aren’t sure you’re quite ready to take a class, read on to learn what it is and the potential benefits.
There are a few varieties of hot yoga, but perhaps the most commonly known is Bikram Yoga, developed by Bikram Choudhury. The now-70-year-old practitioner began studying at the Ghosh College of Yoga and Physical Culture in Kolkata (then Calcutta), India at the age of five, and eventually developed his own approach: the Bikram Yoga system.
Studies suggest that Bikram Yoga may help strengthen the body and calm the mind. It is comprised of 26 postures and two breathing exercises that are practiced in each 90-minute class. They must be performed in a room that is 105° F with 40% humidity, no talking is allowed by the participants, the instructors cannot adjust the students, and the floors are carpeted with mirrors.
On the other hand, hot yoga is less regimented. It is practiced in a heated room that ranges from 80 to 110° F, doesn’t necessarily consist of only the 26 Bikram poses. Classes are 60 to 90 minutes in length, studios are designed like traditional yoga studios (with wood — not carpeted — floors), conversation between students and the instructor is permitted, and instructors can adjust the participants.
4 Benefits of Hot Yoga
1. Hot Yoga Makes You Sweat
Sweating may be gross, but it can be good for you. Your body produces sweat to cool you down when your body temperature gets too hot. You may also shed toxins (such as phthalates) when you sweat.
Just don’t be fooled by the scale. Most of the weight you lose is water weight, so be sure to fill up on water after class to avoid dehydration. One study showed that participants who took a one-hour hot yoga class lost one percent of their body mass through sweat!
2. Hot Yoga Burns Calories
Although hot yoga may not burn more calories than regular yoga (sorry, devotees!), according to a study conducted by Brian L. Tracy, an associate professor in Colorado State University’s Department of Health and Exercise Science, it is still exercise. Tracy found that hot yoga burns about the same amount of calories as brisk walking.
3. Hot Yoga May Boost Your Mood
Exercise, stretching and deep breathing may help to improve your mood, both in the short-term and over time. Any form of yoga, as long as it’s a consistent practice, may be able to decrease the production of the stress hormone cortisol and increase a sense of well-being.
4. Hot Yoga May Increase Your Flexibility
Ever sit in a sauna and notice how much easier it is to reach for your toes? When your muscles are warm, they tend to be more relaxed. Studies have found participants who took hot yoga classes had increased flexibility in their hamstrings, lower back and shoulders. However, when your muscles are very warm you may experience a false sense of flexibility, move further into a pose than what you’re ready for, and pull a muscle. So be mindful not to overstretch.
Hot Yoga is Not For Everyone
When practicing in rooms that can reach a blazing 110 degrees, there is an increased risk of heat exhaustion, heat stroke, and dehydration. If you suffer from high blood pressure, tend to get nauseous when it’s hot, have heart issues, or overheat easily, stick to non-heated yoga. When in doubt, check with your doctor before starting embarking on a new hot yoga practice.