Hot yoga is one type of yoga that evolved from traditional yoga. It's performed in heated rooms where the temperature is usually between 85 and 105 degrees Fahrenheit.
This type of yoga was first popularized in the 1970s by Bikram Choudhury, the founder of Bikram yoga (or hot yoga), but it has since expanded to include a variety of different hot yoga styles. Aside from loosening your muscles, research indicates that hot yoga can reduce stress, decrease lower back pain, and even help relieve depression.
However, despite its many benefits, hot yoga is not right for everyone. Pregnant people and those with certain medical conditions should not participate in hot yoga.
Keep reading to learn more about the types of hot yoga, its benefits, and how to get started.
Types of Hot Yoga
While any type of yoga can be done in a heated room, there are certain types that are more likely to be considered hot yoga. Here are a few of the more popular types of hot yoga you might find in your community.
- Bikram: Developed by Bikram Choudhury in the 1970s, this hot yoga practice involves a 26-pose sequence that takes place in a room that is 105 degrees Fahrenheit. The goal of this yoga session is to use the high temperature to induce profuse sweating and loosen your muscles.
- Hot Power Yoga: This type of yoga combines two popular forms of yoga into one: hot yoga and power yoga. Practiced in a room that is usually between 85 and 100 degrees Fahrenheit, this type of yoga is fitness-focused and can be challenging for beginners.
- Moksha (or Moda) Yoga: Created in 2004 by two Canadian yoga instructors, Ted Grand and Jessica Robertson, this type of hot yoga includes 40 different poses based on traditional yoga. While this form of yoga is fitness-focused, it also incorporates stress reduction.
- TriBalance Hot Yoga: With this type of yoga, the temperature tends to be higher than a Bikram class, and tops out at 110 degrees Fahrenheit, but also has lower humidity. TriBalance does not have a set series of poses and uses dim lighting to encourage more of an inward focus.
- Hot Yin Yoga: Held in a room that is 95 degrees Fahrenheit, this type of hot yoga is a bit cooler than most Hot yoga classes. It also combines the more meditative approach of Yin yoga with hot yoga and includes fewer postures held for three to five minutes to help release deep tissues, fascia, ligaments, joints, and bone.
There also are many locally-owned and independent yoga studios that offer their own style of hot yoga. It is always best to check out the studio beforehand and talk to the instructor to find out what types of moves are used as well as the temperature of the room.
Benefits of Hot Yoga
The benefits of hot yoga are very similar to the benefits of traditional yoga. In fact, all forms of yoga can reduce stress, decrease lower back pain, help relieve depression as well as lower your risk of cardiovascular disease and metabolic syndrome. Here are some of the potential benefits of hot yoga.
- May help build strength and bone density: Research on Bikram yoga shows that this type of yoga can improve your lower body strength, your range of motion, and your balance. Meanwhile, another study found that Bikram yoga may preserve—and even increase—bone mineral density in premenopausal people.
- May improve mental health: One study found that Bikram yoga improved mental health and overall quality of life in people with trauma from persistent pain. The study participants also showed improvements in physical functioning and heart rate variability. Plus, the retention rate for Bikram yoga was 94% compared to 75% for HIIT.
- May enhance skin texture: Research shows that completing a hot yoga program increases moisture content in your skin, as well as improves elasticity and skin texture. These results suggest that hot yoga may slow down premature aging.
- May improve flexibility: A pilot study showed that yoga in a sauna at 122 degrees Fahrenheit led to significant improvements in healthy older adults’ flexibility. The study participants also showed mild improvements in their strength and balance.
- May encourage fat loss: One study found that hot yoga may encourage greater fat metabolism when compared to traditional yoga. However, the researchers note that hot yoga did not significantly increase the aerobic requirements or energy cost when compared to traditional yoga.
- May reduce stress: A small study demonstrated that Bikram yoga can reduce stress—particularly in those who experience significant stress in their everyday life. Meanwhile, another study showed that Bikram yoga can reduce perceived stress and improve quality of life.
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Who Can Do Hot Yoga?
Although hot yoga offers a number of potential health benefits for the average exerciser, it also is not without risks—particularly for pregnant people and those with certain health conditions. For instance, if you have high blood pressure, asthma, cardiovascular disease, or heat intolerance, you should talk to a healthcare provider about whether or not hot yoga is safe for you.
Keep in mind that hot yoga often takes place in extremely high temperatures, which can put you at risk for dehydration and heat illnesses. What’s more, a study on Bikram yoga by the American Council on Exercise found that hot yoga participants experienced both an elevated heart rate and an elevated core body temperature.
These increases were particularly concerning for researchers given that the postures performed in a Bikram class focus on balance and strength rather than cardiovascular training—so it was the extreme heat that was causing these increases. They also discovered that the sweating people experienced was not sufficient enough to cool down their bodies. This can be dangerous for people with certain health conditions.
These fluctuations also make hot yoga particularly unsafe for pregnant people who are typically advised not to participate in a hot yoga class. In fact, evidence suggests that there is an increased risk of neural tube defects and other malformations in babies exposed to excessive heat; and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends against participating in hot yoga (or hot pilates) due to the risk of overheating.
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How to Start Hot Yoga
If you are interested in participating in a hot yoga class, most experts recommend that you try more traditional yoga classes first. Subjecting your body to a new form of exercise at an extreme heat, could make you more prone to injury or other complications.
Also, keep in mind that if you are not used to high temperatures, it will take some time for your body to adjust. Choose a studio that allows you to go at your own pace and stop when you need to. You may even want to attend a few classes without actually participating—simply to allow your body to acclimate to the heat. Here are some additional things to consider as you start hot yoga.
- Hydrate your body with at least 16 ounces of water or other fluids (without caffeine) two hours before class.
- Weigh yourself before class so that you can determine how much water you need to replace.
- Choose clothing that will keep you cool and will not become slippery.
- Bring a towel, a large water bottle, and a mat that will prevent slipping.
- Go at your own pace and listen to your body, stopping if you need to.
- Hydrate your body throughout class by drinking before you become thirsty.
- Know the signs of heat exhaustion and heat stroke and get help if needed.
- Consume enough fluids after exercise to return to your original body weight.
- Bring some clothes to bundle up in because you may feel extremely chilly after leaving class.
- Remember that the heat makes your muscles loose and flexible, so you should be careful not to injure yourself after class.
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A Quick Review
Hot yoga is a type of yoga that is done in a room heated to 85 to 105 degrees Fahrenheit. This type of yoga is designed to encourage excessive sweating and loosen your muscles; and can benefit you in a number of ways. For instance, hot yoga can reduce stress, improve mental health, and build strength. But, it is not right for everyone. People who are pregnant or who have certain medical conditions should not participate in hot yoga. If you are considering hot yoga, you should talk to a healthcare provider to make sure it is right for you.