The benefits of yoga for the mind and body are undeniable, but does the temperature of the room really make a difference? Hot yoga has been around for a while now, and has become increasingly popular in the last few years, with more and more people ditching their traditional yoga class in favor of turning up the heat.
Here we take a closer look at the benefits of hot yoga, along with its potential risks, to determine whether it’s a credible yoga practice or just another fad.
What is Hot Yoga?
Hot yoga can refer to any type of yoga that is performed in a heated room. One of the most popular types is called Bikram yoga. Studios are usually heated up to 95 – 100 degrees Fahrenheit (hence the ‘hot’ part) with classes typically following a Vinyasa flow, which involves linking a series of poses to breathing.
As you can imagine, performing yoga in such a hot and humid environment means things can get pretty sweaty and intense. The good news is it’s supposed to promote a number of everyday and long term health benefits.
1. Improves flexibility
Improved flexibility is one of the long term benefits of hot yoga. Heat is said to make muscles more pliable, so with hot yoga studios reaching up to 100 degrees Fahrenheit, it’s the perfect temperature for stretching that little bit more. The deeper you stretch with each pose, the more flexible you will become in the long run.
2. Gets the heart pumping
Thought yoga was all about relaxing the body? Think again! One of the benefits of hot yoga is that it will make your heart pump faster and work harder, as it pushes your blood towards the skin’s surface to help cool you down. It’s a great way to get your heart pumping blood around the body and a much better cardio workout than if you were performing yoga in a cooler setting.
3. Great for stress relief
As well as improving flexibility and offering an effective cardio workout, one of the everyday benefits of hot yoga is stress relief. Working out in a hotter climate will make you focus on your breathing more. The need to take deeper breaths will promote greater feelings of relaxation, which will in turn help to relieve stress.
Yoga has been proven to reduce the stress hormone cortisol in the body and is often recommended as part of a treatment plan for anxiety and depression. Adding heat to your yoga workout may help to release tension in the body, caused by stress and offer a greater sense of relief overall.
4. Increases lung capacity
You may think that doing yoga in a hot room would make it pretty hard to breathe, so you’ll be surprised to hear it can actually have the opposite effect. Working out in a heated room can help you to train your lungs to breathe more efficiently, as you’ll learn to take deeper breaths. One of the benefits of hot yoga is that it will force your lungs to expand and retain more air than usual. In turn, this will allow more oxygen to enter your bloodstream and flow to your organs.
5. Encourages weight loss
There is a lot of talk as to whether there are any hot yoga benefits for weight loss. Even though you won’t be running, cycling or jumping around during a hot yoga class, the fact you are performing poses in a hot room should increase your heart rate and thus help burn more calories.
It’s important to be realistic about how many calories you will burn during a hot yoga session though. Don’t be fooled by claims that you will burn thousands of calories. Researchers at Colorado State University found that a hot yoga session would burn around 460 calories for men and 330 for women, which seems far more realistic.
Hot yoga classes that follow a Vinyasa flow will be favorable for those wanting to lose weight, as they tend to be a bit faster pace and involve increasing body heat, sweating a lot and building muscle strength.
Benefits of hot yoga for skin
When researching hot yoga, you’ll find a lot of conflicting information as to whether it’s beneficial for the skin. Some people believe that sweating during a hot yoga session can help to get rid of nasty toxins in the body and unclog your pores. Others argue that intense heat can actually be detrimental to the skin, particularly if you suffer from conditions like acne or eczema.
As we’re not dermatology experts, we aren’t qualified to clear this up for you. What we can say is that whilst sweating alone during yoga may not detoxify your skin, it will encourage you to drink more fluids, which will naturally flush out toxins and waste from the body.
To ensure you only see the benefits of hot yoga and don’t run into any skin care problems, we’d suggest going to your class makeup-free. Makeup can clog up your pores and mixed with sweat, may result in a build-up of bacteria. No one cares what you look like at a hot yoga class. Let’s face it – you’re all going to look pretty sweaty, so do yourself a favor and leave your makeup at home!
We’d also suggest cleansing and gently exfoliating your skin after your class to wash away any bacteria you’ve sweated out and get rid of the salty residue left on your skin. Moisturizing your skin after your class will also help to prevent it looking and feeling dehydrated after spending 90-or-so minutes in intense heat.
Is hot yoga dangerous?
Although we’re big fans of yoga and believe in all of its wonderful benefits, we think it’s important to remain honest and balanced when it comes to sharing some of the downsides too. Hot yoga, in particular, can be risky to some people (even The American Council of Exercise has raised concerns about it), so it’s important to take the necessary precautions before going to a class.
Heat exhaustion – If your body isn’t great at coping in hot temperatures, then this probably isn’t the class for you. Heat exhaustion is a real condition and not in the slightest bit pleasant. It basically causes your blood pressure to drop and can leave you feeling dizzy and nauseous. Always be mindful of how you are feeling throughout a hot yoga class – particularly if you’re new to it. If you feel at all light-headed or something doesn’t feel quite right, stop what you’re doing, take some deep breaths and sip water.
Overdoing it – We mentioned earlier that one of the benefits of hot yoga is that it can help you to improve your flexibility. Of course, it’s important to remain aware of how your body is feeling and how much it can take. It’s much easier to overdo it hot yoga, so be kind to your body to avoid painful injuries.
Dehydration – There’s no doubt about the fact you’ll be sweating a lot, so it’s important to drink plenty of water before and during your hot yoga class. This will compensate for what your body is losing and help to keep you hydrated. Dehydration can make you feel faint and sick. It can also cause your muscles to cramp up. Do the right thing and keep the water flowing!
It is recommended that people with heart-related illnesses, intolerance to heat or in any stage of pregnancy avoid practicing hot yoga. If you have any health concerns, it’s always best to check with your doctor that it is safe to do hot yoga before signing up for your first class.
Preparing for a hot yoga class
Heading to a hot yoga class? Make sure you’re prepared. Drink plenty of fluids in the lead up to your session, including ones containing electrolytes. If you need to eat before your hot yoga class, make sure it’s at least two hours before to ensure your food is properly digested. No one wants to perform hot yoga on a full stomach!
Clothing-wise, we’d suggest choosing a breathable fabric because you’re going to be sweating a lot. A lot of yoga gear has sweat-wicking properties, which is ideal, as it’ll help to keep you feeling cool, even in super hot studio temperatures.
Our final tip to make sure you feel the benefits of hot yoga is to know your limit. Listen to your body and be prepared to end your class early if you literally can’t take the heat.
Hot yoga is beneficial but not for everyone
Whilst there are definitely some benefits of hot yoga, we believe it’s either something you’ll love or hate.
There’s no harm giving it a go and make your own mind up. If it’s for you, then great, if not, stick to your traditional yoga class. It’s all about what works for you!
Have you tried hot yoga?
Did you feel it benefited you more than a traditional yoga class? Share your experience in the comments below.