What Is Hot Yoga: Pump Up the Temp—And the Benefits!




What is Hot Yoga?

Hot yoga is a style of yoga that is practiced using a series of yoga postures in a heated room. The first form of hot yoga was Bikram Yoga, founded by Bikram Choudhury in the 1970s. Bikram Yoga is traditionally practiced in a room heated to 105 degrees Fahrenheit with a humidity level of 40%. Every Bikram Yoga class uses the same series of poses.

Over time, and due to a desire to distance hot yoga from the controversy surrounding Choudhury, hot yoga came to refer to any yoga practiced in a heated room (80–100 degrees Fahrenheit).

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Yoga originated thousands of years ago as a way to connect the mind and body. In the Western world, we tend to focus on yoga in terms of asanas, or movements, rather than the meditative and spiritual aspects of the practice.

There are several different styles of yoga. One of the more popular styles focused on fitness is hot yoga. There are three main types of hot yoga, all of which have several benefits that we'll talk about later.

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Types of Hot Yoga

Before we get into the benefits of hot yoga, let's explore the three types of hot yoga you might run into in a yoga studio.

Bikram Yoga

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Bikram Yoga was created by Bikram Choudhury in the 1970s and follows a 26-pose sequence consisting of one pranayama, one shatkarma (a purification to prepare for the session), and 24 asanas (postures or movements). Bikram Yoga classes generally last around 90 minutes and the room is heated to at least 105 degrees Fahrenheit with 40% humidity.

Hot Power Yoga

Hot power yoga is an intense blend of Bikram and Ashtanga Yoga. The room is heated to between 80–100 degrees Fahrenheit. Since Ashtanga is quite vigorous and the heat adds an additional challenge, this type of hot yoga can be especially challenging for beginners.

Heated Vinyasa Yoga

Heated Vinyasa Yoga is a flowing series of asanas practiced in a room heated 75–95 degrees Fahrenheit.

Benefits of Hot Yoga

While hot yoga tends to be pretty intense and challenging, many come to hot yoga because it's also fairly relaxing. You work up a nice sweat and the heat makes your muscles more pliable and flexible. Let's look at a few of the benefits of hot yoga, according to research.

Improves Flexibility

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According to a 2013 study, young adults who completed 24 90-minute Bikram sessions over the course of eight weeks showed increased flexibility in their shoulders, hamstrings, and lower back compared to the control group that didn't practice yoga.

Increases Bone Density

Bone density is something we often overlook when we think about health and the benefits of working out or practicing yoga. Since bone density declines with age, it's never too early to start taking steps to improve it. Premenopausal women and older adults are most at risk. In a 2014 study, premenopausal women were able to increase bone density in their necks, hips, and lower back by practicing Bikram Yoga over a five-year timeframe.

Increases Cardiovascular Endurance

With the added heat and humidity in a hot yoga class, it's a lot more taxing on your cardiovascular system. One study in 2014 found that a hot yoga class is similar to a brisk walk (3.5mph) in terms of heart rate.

Reduces Stress and Eases Depression

Yoga is wonderful for reducing both stress and depression, but hot yoga is a particularly great release. And science backs it up. A 2016 study of people who regularly practiced Bikram Yoga experience significant improvements to their mood and stress levels after a 90-minute practice.

What to Expect From a Hot Yoga Session

As you can probably imagine, hot yoga is, well, hot. The room will be anywhere from 75–108 degrees Fahrenheit and might have humidity up to 40%. This means that you should expect to sweat as your internal body temperature rises.

Hot yoga typically has shorter warmups than other yoga classes. Since the room is already warm, it takes less time to get your body ready and warmed up. After the quick warmup, you'll be taken through a series of postures. While Bikram has a specific set of moves, other types of hot yoga will vary. The class will likely last 60–90 minutes.

Practice Hot Yoga Safely

There are some potential safety issues involved with the practice of hot yoga. Here are three ways you can stay safe during your practice to avoid overstretching your muscles, dehydration, or heat exhaustion.

Check In With Your Body

Everybody's body has a different response to heat and movement. Be sure to check in with your body throughout your hot yoga practice. If you're tired, take a break. If you're thirsty, take a drink. If you experience signs of heat exhaustion (dizziness, nausea, confusion, weakness, or a prolonged elevated heart rate), excuse yourself from the room and take a seat somewhere you can cool down and hydrate.

Don't Overstretch

Heat does amazing things for your flexibility. That means it's important to ease into stretches during a hot yoga session. Overstretching can lead to ligament tears, so take it easy and pay attention to your body. If you find yourself wanting to go deeper in your stretches than you normally do in a regular yoga class, ease back a bit.

Stay Hydrated

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You will sweat during hot yoga. The heat combined with sweating can easily lead to dehydration. Be sure to drink water with electrolytes and take breaks as you need to.

Hot Yoga Contraindications

Hot yoga is not recommended for everyone. Here are some of the contraindications associated with the practice. If you have any of these conditions, be sure to check with your doctor before practicing hot yoga.

  • Elderly
  • Heart conditions like hypertension, hypotension, congestive heart failure, impaired coronary circulation, etc.
  • Pregnancy
  • Chronic diseases or conditions like Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson's, diabetes with neuropathy, central nervous system tumors, and any conditions associated with impaired ability to sweat
  • Acute joint injury within 48 hours or until the swelling goes down (whichever is longer)
  • Chronic joint diseases
  • Enclosed infections
  • Hemophilia
  • Fever
  • Insensitivity to heat
  • Alcohol addiction that's not in remission
  • Drunkenness
  • Medications like beta-blockers, barbiturates, diuretics, and antihistamines
  • Surgical implants or silicone

Learn More About Yoga With myYogaTeacher

Hot yoga is an enjoyable practice that you can practice in a studio, your own home (try it out in your bathroom after a steamy shower!), or even outdoors on a hot day (wear sunscreen). It offers all the benefits you get from other styles of yoga but with the added bonus of tons of sweating. Be sure to stay hydrated and wear moisture-wicking clothes.

Ready to learn more about yoga? Grab your mat and sign up for a free two-week trial of myYogaTeacher where you'll get access to more than 35 live, online yoga classes every single day!

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