Are you ready to get sweaty? The top 5 benefits of hot yoga and the controversial history of this sweat-inducing practice.

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Gemma Clarke

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benefits of hot yoga

Hot yoga has been around for a while, but if you are still tossing up whether or not to attend a class, then this article is for you! Here, we will outline the controversial history, the benefits of hot yoga, and who should and shouldn’t give it a go.

If you are curious about going to a hot studio and mingling with many other sweaty bodies, then you may very well find the answers to your questions in this article.

Although hot yoga was introduced to the Western world by a controversial man named Bikram, the practice has changed and adapted over the years to provide many options for all kinds of yogis! Are you ready to get sweaty? Let’s dive in.

What is hot yoga?

Hot yoga is a style of yoga that is done in a heated environment. A heated room could be anywhere from 30 to 40 degrees Celsius (that’s 86 to 104 degrees Fahrenheit), depending on the specific yoga teacher or studio that you go to.

Ideally, the yoga room is heated above room temperature to provide a more intense workout, to encourage you to sweat, and to walk out with your post-yoga glow.

Traditionally, hot yoga was called Bikram yoga, but after much controversy, the name Bikram has been taken away and many studios simply call themselves “hot yoga” studios. Depending on the yoga teacher leading the class, some may choose to follow the traditional Bikram yoga sequence of 26 yoga poses, or others may choose to get creative and teach their own sequences.

Whichever kind of hot yoga class you attend, you can guarantee it will get sweaty and hot and challenge you more than a regular class would!

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The controversial history behind Bikram yoga

Bikram Choudhury is the founder of a well-known style of hot yoga called “Bikram yoga”. Coming from India, he moved to America in 1971 and started to spread his yoga style around California.

Bikram yoga involves doing a set sequence of 26 poses and two breathing exercises in a hot room at 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit). This temperature was thought to replicate the intense heat that yogis in India are faced with and to help the body to induce a sweat that intensifies the yoga practice and feels like a full body workout.

Picking up a bunch of followers, Bikram Yoga spread rapidly across America and the Western world, reaching a peak of some 1,650 studios in at least 40 countries in the year 2006. But in 2016 and after many years of teaching, assault allegations were made against Bikram.

With a number of young students speaking out about inappropriate behavior, Choudhury fled back to India, and Bikram yoga teachers no longer wanted to be associated with the name “Bikram yoga”.

Although the name Bikram yoga is not commonly used anymore, the benefits of hot yoga still rang true to the teachers that had been teaching for a long time. This led many to leave the teachings of their so-called ‘guru’ and forge ahead with their own hot yoga style.

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Regardless of whether it’s called Bikram yoga or hot yoga, inducing a sweat in your yoga class is good for you, and here is why:

Top 5 Hot Yoga Benefits

The power of being in a heated environment has been well-known for a very long time. With Finnish saunas, Mayan Temezcals, Western hot tubs, and Indian fire rituals, the power of fire and heat have long been known for their powerful ways of transformation, both physically and mentally.

Here are a few of the health benefits that you can expect from practicing hot yoga:

1. Supports weight loss

One study by Colorado State University suggested that 90 minutes of hot yoga is equivalent to walking for 90 minutes at a brisk pace. This study also concluded that the energy output of a 90-minute hot yoga session averaged about 460 calories for men and 330 for women.

So if you are choosing to do yoga for weight loss, it will be better to do it in a hot room, so that you can burn more calories and lose weight faster. Combined with a healthy balance of nutritious food, other forms of movement and exercise, and a focus on sufficient hydration, hot yoga could be the supplement to your weight loss journey.

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2. Improves flexibility and makes yoga poses easier

The heated classes help to warm your body up faster than non-heated classes, therefore allowing you to practice yoga with warm muscles and increased flexibility.

With extra mobility and warm fascial tissue in the body, the amount of extra stretch you can get during hot yoga makes it easier to perform some of the more difficult poses. It also reduced the likelihood of injury, because your muscles are warmer and more supple than usual. But, it is still important to know your yoga limits and body boundaries so that you don’t cause any injuries.

Compared to a regular yoga class, hot yoga offers students the chance to enjoy deep stretching and a challenging workout that can keep them on track for improvement in flexibility.

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3. Improves physical fitness and helps lower blood pressure

With increased heat and the heart rate pumping at the equivalent of a cardio workout, a hot yoga session can improve cardiovascular health, increase lung capacity, and lead to increased bone density.

The bone density is increased by the resistance style strength training exercises that hot yoga incorporates into its intense workout. This style of yoga offers improved strength, balance, and increased muscle mass, three factors that contribute to a healthy physical body.

The deep breathing techniques that are performed also help to circulate more oxygen around the body. Deep breathing trains the body to have increased lung capacity and keeps the lungs healthy and strong.

Essentially, yoga practiced regularly can reduce one’s chance of cardiovascular disease and increase physical fitness and health.

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4. Supports healthy blood circulation and detoxification

When the core body temperature is warm, it supports healthy circulation of blood flow around the body. With a raised core temperature, the blood vessels dilate and create more space for blood circulation to move quickly.

This increased circulation and heat in the body is what leads to sweating, a form of detoxification through the skin cells of the body. Sweating has been shown to remove toxins such as arsenic, lead, and mercury, and clear out the body of other unwanted chemicals. Sweating supports the detoxification pathways of the body, lightening the load on the liver and kidneys.

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5. Reduces stress and acts as a mood booster

One study from 2016, suggested that a 16-week hot yoga program significantly reduced stress levels compared to the control group. This shows that hot yoga can produce both physical and mental health benefits such as reduced stress as well as physical fitness.

Often classes of ‘stress yoga’ are thought to be slow and calming, but there is something to be said about practicing yoga with the intention of working up a sweat! A boost of endorphins and other happy brain chemicals are released in challenging workouts, allowing you to walk off the yoga mat feeling joyful.

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Fitness asian female group doing namaste yoga pose in row at the yoga class. selective focus

Who should try hot yoga classes?

If you like a hot and sweaty workout, then hot yoga sessions are for you! A hot yoga workout is like traditional yoga but with the challenge of added heat. It is a great idea to try hot classes if you want to lose weight, increase your blood flow, detox your body, reduce stress, burn more calories and improve your health-related quality of life.

This being said, you should be fit and healthy, and preferably have tried a few traditional yoga sessions in a non-heated yoga studio first. This will make it easier to keep up with the class and to understand the yoga poses!

If you are unsure whether or not to try a hot yoga class, you can always drop by your local hot yoga studio, or give them a call and talk to one of their certified yoga instructors to discuss what is involved in a hot yoga session. This will help you decide if the benefits of hot yoga are applicable to you and your yoga journey!

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What do I need to bring to hot yoga?

A hot yoga class will be sweaty, slippery, and (of course) hot! You should wear minimal clothing such as leggings, a sports bra, shorts, or breathable yoga wear that allows you to sweat with ease. You will also need to bring your own hot yoga mat, preferably a very grippy yoga mat that can withstand copious amounts of sweat. The better your mat, the easier it will be for you to hold the yoga poses without slipping off!

Bringing a water bottle is also highly suggested! A hot yoga studio room is heated to 40 degrees celsius, that’s 104 degrees Fahrenheit, making it feel like a hot summer’s day. You should drink small amounts of water before, during, and after the class, as well as some other hydrating fluids for the rest of your day, following your big sweaty workout.

Who should avoid hot yoga?

There are a few people who should avoid hot yoga, or at least consult a doctor before starting a class. These are:

  • People with low blood pressure (as hot yoga can lower your blood pressure even more).
  • Pregnant women.
  • Those who have a heat intolerance or are prone to heat exhaustion.
  • Anyone with bone health issues (such as osteoporosis) should get their condition cleared by the doctor first.
  • Children that are young and older adults over the age of 70 should consult a doctor first.
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Frequently Asked Questions:

What will hot yoga do to my body?

Hot yoga performed in a heated room will warm up your body, increase flexibility in your muscles and fascial tissue, help with your circulation, assist sweating and detoxification pathways in the body, increase bone density over time and support your body to look and feel good! You’ll be sure to have a sweaty post-yoga glow when you walk out of the studio.

Does hot yoga help with weight loss?

One of the benefits of hot yoga is weight loss as it helps to burn more calories than more traditional yoga styles. One study by the Coloroado State University suggested that 90 minutes of hot yoga is equivalent to walking 90 minutes at a brisk pace. The average energy output for a 90-minute session is about 460 calories for men and 330 for women, suggesting that it would be a good exercise to help with weight loss, alongside healthy eating and sufficient hydration.

Is Bikram yoga the same as hot yoga?

No, Bikram yoga is just one style of hot yoga. Originally, most hot yoga was based on the teachings of Bikram Choudhury, but this has changed in the last two decades as more studios and teachers have experimented with teaching different styles of yoga in heated rooms. Now, hot yoga can be any style of yoga class that is taught in a heated room, usually between 30 and 40 degrees (86 to 104 degrees Fahrenheit).

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About Gemma Clarke

Gemma Clarke is a certified and experienced yoga & meditation instructor. She has been practicing meditation since 2014 and teaching since 2018. Gemma specializes in yoga and mindfulness for emotional wellbeing, and she has taught in Thailand, Cambodia, and the UK. Gemma is passionate about sharing her expertise and experience with meditation to inspire others to live more mindfully, becoming happier, healthier, and calmer. Follow me: Instagram | LinkedIn

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