Hot yoga has become increasingly popular over the last few years. Every yoga studio now seems to offer a chance to sweat in the heat. Skeptical about this fitness trend? Why not let us give you an overview. With hot yoga, you can reap all the usual benefits of yoga with the added bonuses that come from practicing in high temperatures, such as increased flexibility and sometimes weight loss. If you are looking for a challenging workout that will make you sweat buckets while giving you a deep stretch, try out hot yoga!
New to yoga? Here's how to start yoga.
What is hot yoga?
Hot yoga is essentially a form of yoga practiced in a warm and humid studio. Yoga itself is a range of mental, spiritual, and physical techniques that originated in India three thousand years ago. The activity is said to bring tranquility and harmony to the mind and body through a series of strengthening and stretching poses.
After this form of exercise made its way to the West during the last century, a whole range of different modern spin-offs was created, one of the most recent ones being hot yoga. The practice of yoga in a studio under high temperatures might sound a bit strange if you’ve never tried it before—but once you know that this idea came from the desire to replicate Indian weather conditions, it starts to make more sense.
Now for the practical aspects: hot yoga takes place in a heated room with the temperature usually between 80°F (28°C) and 105°F (41°C). The humidity in the studio is also set to an elevated humidity level (usually around 40%). These conditions obviously encourage sweating, which practitioners believe aids in the elimination of toxins and an enhanced immune system.
The many benefits of hot yoga
There’s a reason why hot yoga is so popular these days. In fact, there are a few more than one. Hot yoga links the effects of regular yoga with the extra benefits of practicing in a heated room.
Hot yoga can help with:
Hot yoga is a great way to get a deep muscle stretch and improve overall flexibility. The body moves much better when it’s warm. With the heat in the room, the muscles will tend to soften and bend much deeper. This also means that you could potentially injure yourself more easily by overstretching, so don’t forget to always pay attention to your body and its movements.
Yoga is a fantastic workout that will help you develop muscle and improve your metabolism. If you’re looking to burn fat while toning your muscles, hot yoga might just be the way to go. The heat makes movements and postures that much more challenging, helping you burn extra calories. Research backs it up too, showing that a 90-minute hot yoga session can burn through 330 calories on average for women. Not bad, right?
Hot yoga naturally raises your heart rate. The heat forces the heart to beat faster, which provides a better cardiovascular workout and burns more calories. Some research has shown that a session of yoga can get the heart pumping as much as a brisk walk. Next time you need to add a little more cardio in your life, think about trying out that hot yoga class.
While people often practice yoga for its physical benefits, it also has an impact on mental health. Due to its focus on relaxation, breathwork, and self-awareness, yoga, in general, is a way to release tension and decrease anxiety. New studies now show that hot yoga has a calming influence on the mind too and can do wonders to relieve stress and reduce depressive symptoms.
The room temperature makes your skin pores open up. Through sweat, the skin then gets rid of some of its toxins and cleanses itself. Sweating in higher temperatures also promotes better blood circulation, ultimately bringing more blood (and thus oxygen) to skin cells. This helps nourish the skin and gives it that special glow.
Hot yoga safety rules
Hot yoga isn’t for everyone. The workout itself can be quite intense. Pair that with high temperatures and you’ll quickly understand why hot yoga can be especially challenging for some. While it is relatively safe, the practice of hot yoga can still cause heat-related side effects.
Here are some tips for practicing hot yoga safely and reaping its benefits without putting yourself in danger:
Like with any other sport, it’s best to err on the side of caution and check with a doctor before adding hot yoga to your routine. This is especially true if you have preexisting health conditions or are pregnant.
If you feel dizzy, lightheaded or sick during your class, stop immediately and leave the room. Get some rest in a cooler environment.
As a general rule, it’s probably best to stay away from hot yoga if you have health concerns such as heat intolerance, heart disease or are prone to dehydration.
Speaking of dehydration, the best way to avoid that is to make sure you drink plenty of water before, during, and after the class.
How to prepare yourself for hot yoga
If you’re about to take your first hot yoga class, there are things to be mindful of to make sure the experience is comfortable for you. Make the most out of your next hot yoga session by coming well prepared:
Wear appropriate clothes: Did we mention that you’re going to sweat? Don’t layer up in heavy workout gear if you are going to try hot yoga. Instead, wear comfortable, breathable, and light clothing that will allow you to move freely and make the heat more bearable.
Drink plenty: Hot yoga makes you lose a lot of water. That’s why it’s important to always keep a bottle of water within reach. Make sure to use it throughout the class to avoid dehydration or heat exhaustion.
Bring a towel: The humidity levels in the room plus the excess sweat induced by hot yoga will make your mat more slippery than usual. By placing a towel over the mat, you’ll have more grip and be able to hold poses better and longer. You could also think about bringing another towel to wipe the sweat off your hands and face during class.
A variety of hot yoga styles available
Hot yoga is an umbrella term used to describe any type of yoga that you practice in a heated room. As such, hot yoga has many faces and comes in all sorts of styles. Surely you will find one variation that’s perfect for you. While any form of yoga can become hot yoga when performed in a hot environment, below are the main three.
Bikram hot yoga
This is the mother of hot yoga, the original form if you will. Named after its controversial founder, Bikram yoga classes follow a set sequence of 26 postures and two breathing exercises practiced in 90 minutes in a room heated to 105°F with 40% humidity. This traditional style of scripted hot yoga focuses on endurance with each posture deeply engaging all major muscle groups.
Hot yin yoga
With less rigidity and much like Hatha yoga, this practice is slow-paced and includes fewer postures held for longer (usually three to five minutes). This type of postural yoga won’t make you sweat as much but will allow you to work on deeper muscle tissue. Great if you want a more gentle practice.
Hot power yoga
Hot power yoga blends a variety of different styles of yoga. The poses, temperature, and duration of classes all depend on the studio, but the style tends to always be quite athletic, much like Vinyasa yoga. Because music is usually played during these classes, pick this style if you are after a more energetic environment.
The final word
All in all, hot yoga has its adepts and also fierce critics. Given its many benefits, it’s well worth a try. And if hot yoga isn’t for you, don’t sweat (pun intended). You could stick to traditional yoga instead or one of the many other forms of yoga. On that note, check out some of the different types of yoga that are out there.