What is Hot Yoga and its Benefits

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You are on a quest for better health and fitness, improving your self-care routine and increasing your flexibility. You are considering a yoga class, but feel a little overwhelmed looking at all the different types of classes. 

Hot yoga is a popular form of yoga that is featured on most studio and gym schedules. But, what is hot yoga?

The name isn’t keeping any secrets. Hot yoga is a yoga class that is done in a heated room. The exact temperature depends on the whims of the instructor, but expect to work out in an environment between 80 and 100 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Beyond the temperature, a hot yoga class is much like a general yoga session and you will spend the time moving into and holding a series of poses.

According to YogaPedia, the idea behind hot yoga is to increase sweating. While yoga is usually a gentle form of physical activity, hot yoga is more intense. 

Sweating during a yoga class can encourage the body to release toxins, increase circulation, and burn calories.

Styles of Hot Yoga

Hot yoga is a catch-all term that encompasses several specific types of hot yoga classes.

 Hot yoga – Many studios and gyms offer general hot yoga classes. These classes are held in a heated room but can take any format or length. Usually, the poses will be the same as those in other yoga classes.

Though the temperature may be a major difference, a hot yoga class is considerably more difficult than many other forms of yoga.

Bikram yoga – The terms “hot yoga” and “Bikram” are sometimes used interchangeably. In reality, Bikram yoga classes follow a very specific format, so your experience will be largely the same no matter the studio or instructor. During Bikram classes, the room is heated to 105 degrees and 40-percent humidity. 

Classes last 90 minutes and, according to YogaPedia, progresses through the same set of 26 poses. Among the poses are some that you will find in many other yoga classes, including triangle pose, corpse pose, and tree pose. In addition to the 26 poses, Bikram yoga classes feature two breathing exercises.

Moksha or Moda yoga – A newcomer to the scene, Moksha yoga started in 2004 in Canada before coming to the US under the name Moda yoga. According to Very Well Fit, Moda yoga is only offered at a handful of licensed studios.

During classes, the room is heated to 103 degrees. There are 45 poses available to instructors, but the sequence is not scripted. This means the class will be more free-flowing than a Bikram class. Full classes last 90 minutes, but shorter 60 and 75-minute classes are also available. 

Moda yoga studios are committed to community support and green living. With this mission in mind, Moda studios frequently offer reduced-priced classes and follow “green” standards.

Benefits of Hot Yoga

No matter if you choose a generalized hot yoga class or a specific format, hot yoga has many benefits for both the body and mind.

Burn more calories – Yoga is usually a gentle form of exercise that doesn’t burn many calories. But, according to Colorado State University, you can turn up the calorie burn during a hot yoga class. 

During a Bikram yoga class, the heat-induced elevated heart rate can lead to an average of 330 calories burned for women. During the same class, men may burn around 460 calories.

Increased flexibility – Improved flexibility is a major focus of all yoga classes, but the results are even better with hot yoga. As the heat warms the muscles, it becomes easier to move into poses.

During hot yoga classes, you will likely be able to go more deeply into poses and see an increased range of motion.

Decreased depression and stress – Beyond the physical benefits, hot yoga can boost mental health. Yoga, in all forms, can play a role in self-care and relaxation. Hot yoga, which helps to remove toxins from the body, may have an even greater impact.

According to the American Psychological Association, Bikram yoga may help reduce the symptoms of depression. This impact is amplified when combined with therapy. However, don’t expect long-lasting results from a single class. 

One hot yoga session can give you an instant boost, which is fueled by endorphins. But, long-term improvement to mental health requires a commitment to regular hot yoga classes.

Getting Started with Hot Yoga

The impressive benefits of hot yoga likely have you itching to sign up for a class. Once you have found and signed up for a local class, you will need a few pieces of gear.

  • Appropriate clothing – Dress to sweat. For your hot yoga class, wear lightweight, breathable fabrics that will help wick sweat away from your skin. You should also bring along an extra layer to toss on top after class since the temperature difference between the heated studio and the real world will feel extreme.
  • Bring a towel and socks – During a hot yoga class, your mat will get slippery, thanks to dripping sweat. Bring a towel to cover your yoga mat, or skip the mat and use a yoga towel. Yoga socks, with rubber grips on the bottom, can also prevent you from slipping while holding poses.
  • Fill up your water bottle – A large, insulated bottle of cold water is a must during a hot yoga session. If your bottle is prone to condensation, wrap it in a small towel to prevent extra moisture from making things slippery.

A Few Words of Caution about Hot Yoga

Hot yoga does offer many benefits and can be part of a healthy lifestyle and fitness routine. However, there are also a few downsides that you should be aware of before signing up for a class.

 Stay hydrated – Since the idea behind hot yoga is to do physical activity in a heated environment, expect to sweat profusely. To avoid dangerous dehydration, up to your water intake before, during, and after class. You will also need to sip a sports drink to replace electrolytes lost while sweating.

Consider pre-existing conditions – According to the Mayo Clinic, hot yoga is not appropriate for people that experience some health conditions. In particular, if you have any of the following conditions, avoid hot yoga classes.

  • Heart conditions
  • Asthma
  • Heat intolerance or a history of heatstroke

Pregnant women should also skip hot yoga and focus on prenatal yoga instead.

Ease into hot yoga – If you are new to yoga, a hot yoga class isn’t the best way to jump in. The Cleveland Clinic suggests that everyone should take a general yoga class prior to signing up for a hot yoga session. 

A beginner-level yoga class is a good way to understand your flexibility limits, learn the poses, and increase your confidence. Once you have the basics down and feel comfortable in a regular yoga class, try hot yoga as a more advanced step.

Isabel is an avid yoga practitioner, who loves travelling, living life to the fullest, and cats. She loves living healthy and inspiring others to be the best they can be. When she's not performing her asanas or writing, you can find her at exquisite wine tastings around the world.
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