Hot yoga is really heating up these days—and we don’t just mean temperature-wise. This form of yoga—intentionally performed in a very warm and humid studio—continues to be a hugely popular trend. Participants say that the heat, and the warming of their muscles, allows them to go deeper into postures and have better results. The heat also intensifies the workout by elevating the heart rate and making the body work harder. For these reasons, and more, many are considering hot yoga to improve their overall health.
Check out all the reasons why hot yoga is a must-try workout to get your sweat on:
Studying Hot Yoga
With so much interest in hot yoga, some research has been performed to study its benefits—and in many ways the jury is still out on just how beneficial the heat is to the overall results. For the most part, the studies have been short or limited, but there have certainly been some important findings to date.
While the sizzling temperature (usually 105 degrees) is at the core of hot yoga’s purpose, a 2018 study published in Experimental Physiology found that—at least in terms of the exercise’s heart benefits—the temperature doesn’t matter. It’s the physical exercises performed (regardless of heat) that help benefit the heart. The researchers found that heart health, as measured by blood vessel function, improved significantly in both yoga groups (those participating in hot yoga and those participating in regular yoga) which may suggest that it’s the yoga itself and not the heat that has an effect.
However, when it came to fat-burning abilities, there was a difference—and it was significant. Those participating in hot yoga had more reduction in body fat percentage than those in the room temperature group. This suggests that the heat may do something to boost metabolism.
There’s no question that hot yoga can be a great calorie burner. One study from the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise found that women burned an average of 333 calories during 90-minute slow-moving, heated yoga.
In a 2016 study published in the International Journey of Yoga Therapy, additional benefits were found including greater flexibility and improvements in mood, fitness and stamina—these were self-reported. Some participants also reported dizziness, lightheadedness, nausea or dehydration, expressing the importance of remaining properly hydrated during a hot yoga session.
A Difference You Can Feel
While there may not be a tremendous number of studies backing up the health benefits of hot yoga, the anecdotal evidence appears to make up for this. In various reports and articles, hot yoga participants have expressed that it has made them more flexible, less stressed and simply feeling better, overall.
When it comes to your own workout, hot yoga might be something to try. Look for a yoga center that offers Bikram yoga, sometimes referred to as the “original hot yoga style.” It is a version of Hatha, a traditional branch of yoga that combines breathing and postures. Every class of Bikram yoga takes place in a 105-degree room and features the same 26 set poses. It should be taught by a Bikram-certified instructor.
Bikram yoga begins with a standing position and pranayama breathing. A deep inhale and exhale will help provide the body with more oxygen, increase circulation, and heighten focus as class begins. The next pose is Half Moon Pose, which is often referred to as “Standing Side Stretch” in other yoga classes.
From there, poses will become increasingly more complex—and you’ll likely feel yourself heating up (quite literally given the temperature). Just be sure to remain adequately hydrated and take a break if you need to. Doctors advise that being lightheaded or experiencing a headache is not a normal side effect of hot yoga—rather, it’s a sign that you’re dehydrated. Of course, you should always talk to your personal doctor before beginning any new workout routine.
As you incorporate hot yoga into your workout, you’ll likely find yourself experiencing many of the benefits—and burning off those unwanted calories. This will help get you on track to the healthy weight that you’re working so hard for.