For its abundance of health benefits, hot yoga continues to be a staple in fitness and training regimens around the world. While the practice of hot yoga cannot be traced back and attributed specifically to an individual or group, the use of heat can be attributed to many cultures and spiritual classes for centuries as a form of healing and cleansing. Think Finnish sauna culture, bathing in natural hot spring baths on volcanic islands such as the Azores or hot stones Ayurvedic treatments in India. There are also many different styles of hot yoga with their own unique characteristics and methods which tend to vary by studio. One factor remains the same, however, poses are performed in a space heated above normal room temperature typically between 80 and 100 degrees. The most notable and idyllic style of hot yoga takes on the name of its founder and yogi, Bikram Choudhury. Popularized in the 1970s on the west coast, was originally developed to recreate the sweltering climate of India for students attending his classes in Japan. This version takes you through 24 poses and 2 breathing exercises in a room set to 105 degrees at 40% humidity. A rather subdued Yin approach from Tribalance Hot Yoga on the other hand does not use a fixed set or poses but keeps the temperature at the same level as Bikram. Other techniques like Baptiste Power Hot Yoga lower the heat and movements keep a focus on the gaze while performing a Vinyasa flow. With so many options available, it may be a more matter of personal preference and availability than anything. Start by exploring local studios and to learn what options are available then ask instructors what to expect from their classes.
In a heated environment, your body does not need to work as hard to build up your internal temperature. Therefore, your muscles become much looser in a shorter amount of time, allowing for deeper stretches.
Burns more calories
Any activity performed within higher temperatures forces the body to burn more calories than traditional yoga. Studies show that the increase can be as much as 150% for men and 80% for women.
Increases bone density
In 2014, a study found that women who practiced Bikram yoga regularly saw an increase in bone density in their neck, hips and lower back. Researchers found that this type of exercise could be a viable method for reducing the risk of osteoporosis in women.
Reduces stress and eases depression
The calm, relaxing and restorative qualities of yoga have always heralded the practice as an effective stress reliever. In a 2018 study, researchers found that a hot yoga program lasting a period of 16 weeks significantly reduced stress levels for a group of tense, physically inactive individuals. Additionally, 23 different studies have found that yoga can be used as a form of therapy helping to ease and reduce symptoms of depression.
Boosts cardiovascular health
The intensity of hot yoga naturally escalates respiration and metabolism. Movements performed in higher temperatures challenges not only your muscles but ensures that internal organs like your heart and lungs are conditioned as well.
One of the main goals in hot yoga is to sweat. Perspiration can bring oxygen and nutrient rich blood to skin cells, improving circulation resulting in nourishment from the inside.
Proceed with Caution
Hot yoga is generally safe for those in good health. However, you should always consult with your physician before starting any new fitness routine.
It may not be suitable for pregnant women or anyone with preexisting health conditions prone to fainting, heat intolerance and dehydration: diabetes, heart disease, arterial abnormalities, low or high blood sugar etc.
How do I start?
If you haven’t done any yoga in the past, try a class first and assess your level of comfortability with the movements and how they affect your body. Ask studio staff if there are any hot yoga classes offered or if they know of any in the area. When you’re ready to join a class, be sure to throw on breathable, lightweight clothing. Things may become slippery so bring a towel to place over your mat, and maybe even extras for your face and hands. Special socks and gloves with grip are also an option. Last but not least, don’t forget your water bottle!
If you are a hot yoga practitioner, instructor or beyond we’re interested in hearing your thoughts as well as any tips or recommendations. Let us know in the comment section below!