Does the thought of drowning in a puddle of your own sweat while twisting yourself into the shape of a pretzel feel a bit daunting? This is what goes through many people’s minds when they think of hot yoga.
The truth is that hot yoga has many benefits that make it worth giving it a try, regardless of the “dripping moisture from every part of your body” reality of taking a class.
You’ll soon learn that the heat is the best part about it.
Some people find hot yoga incredibly relaxing, while others find it to be not unlike Dante’s description of the inferno. Everyone agrees though, that your body will love how it feels after the class is over.
There are loads of health benefits, and also a few things you should know before deciding to delve into the world of hot yoga.
Not All Hot Yoga Is Bikram Yoga
Yoga originated in India, and apparently, it gets pretty hot there! Bikram yoga is considered the original “hot yoga,” and was created to mimic the temperature and climate of India.
Bikram yoga follows a strict set of protocol, with the temperature of the room at around 105 degrees, and the humidity at 40%. There are 26 postures that are done in a specific sequence, in the same way, every single time.
If change is not your friend, Bikram is the perfect hot yoga style for you.
Don’t worry, though. There are plenty of other styles that are less regimented and will give you a variety of poses, if the thought of doing the same thing every time makes you roll your eyes and feel bored even considering it.
Moksha Yoga is another form of hot yoga that keeps the room temperature at 105, but they tend to vary the poses, and they are heavy on the “green” and socially responsible aspect of yoga.
Hot power flow is also similar as far as the heat goes, but it’s Vinyasa flow-based yoga.
If you’re interested in a heated yoga class, but 105 makes you feel like a melted puddle of a human, try power yoga. The room will be less heated and have a lower humidity level.
Hot Yoga Will Make Your Body More Powerful, Flexible, And Balanced
Yoga poses are always going to give you a svelte, yet powerful body, but the added heat puts hot yoga in a whole different category.
The heat loosens up your muscles, ligaments, and tendons, which is great for flexibility. The bendier you are, the deeper you can sink into a stretch.
Everyone knows that you need to stretch after a workout because it increases blood flow and circulation to your muscles. If you’re a stiff individual, hot yoga will have you touching your toes in no time.
A study measured strength and balance in young adults who did a Bikram class three times a week for eight weeks. Everyone showed an improvement, especially with balance. Strength increased an average of 14%, but the time they could stand perfectly balanced on one leg increased by 228%! (1)
The heat really helps with endurance. If you can hold plank pose for a good length of time during a hot yoga class, imagine how long you’ll be able to hold it when you’re not in sweltering conditions?
It Makes Your Mind As Strong As It Makes Your Body
One of the reasons that hot yoga can be so addictive is that it takes some serious tenacity and mental focus to hold a pose without falling while you’re sweating buckets. The sense of accomplishment you feel when you finally stand firmly in a balance pose is almost palpable.
Let’s face it; being in a hot and humid room exerting yourself with exercise that takes concentration is actually pretty uncomfortable. The reason that it’s so effective is that you’re tricking your body into thinking that it’s going to die. (2)
The first time you do a hot yoga class, your body assumes it’s going to die of dehydration if the puddles soaked into your yoga mat and towel are any indication.
You’ll start chugging water and want to cut out of class early. You feel like it’s absolutely certain you’re not getting out of there alive.
If you stick with it, you’ll learn how to overcome that feeling, I promise. It ook me about 3 classes to actually fall in love with the incredible feeling both during and after class.
In the meantime, just work on your coping skills that are useful for managing the stress of being in there, like breathing more fully, and calming the mind.
Psychologists call this stress inoculation training, and it can be a great tool for PTSD and sports training. It can also help you stay on track with your weight loss program because if you can do a hot yoga class, you can do anything.
You’ll Melt Body Fat
Yoga is not known as a fat-blasting exercise that burns tons of calories, but add some heat to it, and you will lose more body fat than a regular yoga class.
A study published in the science journal Experimental Physiology studied healthy, but “lazy” adults aged 40 to 60. A third took regular yoga classes, a third did hot yoga three times a week for 12 weeks, and a third simply went on with their lives and made no changes.
They found that while heart health improved significantly in both yoga groups, the participants who did hot yoga lost the most body fat. (3) Researchers believe that the heat has an effect on your metabolism.
Hot Yoga Is Good For Your Heart
Normally, yoga doesn’t make your heart race, but when you’re doing it in the heat, your heart works a little harder to keep you in a pose.
Hot yoga gives you limber limbs, but it also gives your arteries a nice stretch. A study found that young, relatively healthy adults who did Bikram yoga three times a week, had a decrease in arterial stiffness, which means that their arteries had an easier time allowing blood to flow. (4)
They also noticed that it lowers blood pressure and cholesterol, which is a bonus to heart health. Your breath is a big part of weight loss, and better you breathe, the easier it is for your heart to circulate blood.
It Makes Your Skin Look Amazing
Hot yoga classes usually have added humidity, sometimes up to 40%, so you’re basically working out in a steamy, subtropical environment. You could do yoga outdoors in the Bayou or Florida in the summertime and get the same results.
You’ll also probably get a sunburn, multiple mosquito bites, and see a few alligators. I suggest keeping your hot yoga indoors., but to each his own.
Sweating does a bunch of really wonderful things for your skin. It detoxifies it, keeps it hydrated, and stimulates circulation, which feeds it with the nutrients it needs to stay firm, young, and supple.
If you’re not careful, though, all that heat can actually give you some skin problems, like breakouts and dryness.
The rule of thumb is to not go to class with Kardashian-style makeup on your face. Makes sure your skin is freshly washed before class and make sure to wash and moisturize immediately after to lock all that hydration in.
Ready To Try A Hot Yoga Class? Here Are Some Things You Should Know
Just like with all exercise, it’s good to know what you’re getting into before you start. Hot yoga isn’t for everyone.
If you have a condition like thyroid disease or diabetes that makes it hard for your body to regulate temperature, it’s best to either sit this one out or go to a hot yoga studio that uses lower temperatures and humidity.
If you’ve got high blood pressure, heart issues, or any other health problems, you should absolutely check with your doctor first before you start.
If your doctor gives you the all-clear, here are a few tips to stay safe and have a good workout:
- Many yoga instructors prefer to not have you breaking your concentration with water breaks, but hot yoga is different. You need to stay hydrated, so pick a class where the teacher gives you reminders.
- All that sweating is going to deplete nutrients like potassium, sodium, and electrolytes, so have some coconut water and a banana immediately after class.
- When you first start a hot yoga program, don’t take a class that’s over 60 minutes.
- If you start to get dizzy, lightheaded or don’t feel well in general during the class, take a break and head outside. While it’s okay for your body to be a little uncomfortable, you don’t want to put yourself in danger by getting heat stroke.