Hot yoga has become an extremely popular form of exercise in recent years. When it comes to improving your health and fitness levels, hot yoga does offer a range of benefits that hot yoga and Bikram enthusiasts swear by.
As a low impact exercise, what health and wellness perks does hot yoga have to offer? And are the benefits worth it? If done correctly, hot yoga does have some health benefits to offer.
Some of the key benefits of hot yoga include improved flexibility and joint range of motion, improved circulation, improved respiratory function, improved mental clarity and increased muscle tone and strength. With a range of yoga styles practised, hot yoga can be a workout for all ages and abilities.
If you enjoy yoga, hot yoga may be a good addition to your workout routine. Bikram or hot yoga is known to be effective, challenging, and stimulating – but it’s not necessarily the most comfortable, and it can be unsafe for some medical conditions.
Expert opinions also differ on whether hot yoga is better for your body than regular yoga. Like all forms of yoga, it also doesn’t have the intensity of circuit training or HIIT, so doesn’t provide a full-strength or cardio workout alone. It’s always best to do your research before deciding what kind of fitness class is right for you.
With the many health benefits that it provides, however, hot yoga is here to stay. If you’re looking for a way to mix up your fitness routine, hot yoga can be worth trying!
To discover all the benefits you can enjoy from hot yoga, and some of the risks to keep in mind, continue reading.
What is Hot Yoga?
Hot yoga is a form of yoga practised in a heated room. The room is typically heated to around 40 degrees Celsius and kept at high humidity, which allows for a more intense and challenging workout. You don’t need any extra equipment for hot yoga, just your yoga mat and yoga towel.
Hot yoga has been around for many years, but it has become increasingly popular in recent years as people have realised the many benefits it provides. Hot yoga practitioners say the heated room allows you to stretch further and deeper, improving your flexibility and joint range of motion. It can also help to increase your circulation and respiratory function, and the range of styles mean it can suit all ages and abilities.
This type of yoga is popular among athletes and beginners alike because it is low impact but still provides a full-body workout. However, the intensity of the workout will depend on the style of yoga flow, so be sure to choose the right yoga style for you.
Hot yoga or Bikram yoga is not for everyone. The heat and humidity create the potential for heat-related illness as a result of this workout. The intensity of hot yoga sees many people find it unenjoyable, and there is a risk of getting dehydrated or overtaxing your body.
10 Benefits of Hot Yoga
There are many benefits to practising hot yoga, which is why it has become such a popular workout.
Hot yoga shares many of the perks of regular yoga, with a few extra advantages – studies on hot yoga show that both healthy participants and those with chronic conditions like diabetes can possibly benefit from regular Bikram or hot yoga.
When done safely and correctly, hot yoga can provide the following benefits:
1. Improved Flexibility and Joint Range of Motion
Hot yoga is a great way to improve your flexibility and joint range of motion. The heat and humidity in the room create a greater range of motion, which can help to improve your flexibility. You’ll find poses easier than normal to execute because the high temperature reduces stiffening.
Increased flexibility and range of motion can also help prevent injuries in the future. This is a great benefit for gymnasts, athletes and those with an active lifestyle, as well as those who are less active and want to improve their body’s range.
2. Improved Circulation
When practising hot yoga, the heated room and high humidity can help increase your circulation. This is beneficial as it helps to improve the flow of blood and oxygen around your body. When your body has better circulation, it can remove toxins and wastes more effectively, which is known to improve your skin complexion and reduce the risk of developing diseases.
Improved circulation can lead to better overall health and wellbeing. This is why people of all ages can enjoy hot yoga, including elderly participants.
3. Improved Respiratory Function
The heat and humidity in a hot yoga class can also help to improve your respiratory function. The increased moisture in the air helps to loosen mucus and phlegm, making it easier to expel. This is great for those who suffer from respiratory problems such as asthma.
Better respiratory function means that you’re likely to feel more energised after each session, so you will have higher energy levels for the rest of the day. When your respiratory system functions optimally, you’re less likely to suffer from colds and other respiratory infections. Which, again, is a great overall benefit to your health and wellbeing.
Boosting your respiratory function can even help with weight loss, helping you achieve your fitness goals.
4. Improved Mental Clarity
In addition to the many physical benefits that hot yoga provides, practising in a heated room can also lead to improved mental clarity. This is because heat encourages the flow of blood and oxygen to your brain, which helps to improve cognitive function. When your body is warm and comfortable, you’ll be able to focus better and be more productive.
When you’re able to focus better, you’ll be less likely to suffer from stress and anxiety. The improved mental clarity that hot yoga provides can also help to improve your sleep quality. Many people enjoy participating in hot yoga because of the mental benefits.
5. Increased Muscle Tone and Strength
Hot yoga is a great way to increase your muscle tone and strength. The room’s heat and humidity help stretch your muscles, and the challenging poses will help tone and strengthen them. When you have stronger muscles, you’re less likely to experience injuries.
Many people find that their muscle tone and strength improve significantly after a few months of regular hot yoga practice. The poses practised in hot yoga are designed to target specific muscle groups, so you’ll see results quickly. Your muscles tone and strength will continue to improve the more you practise.
6. Increased Bone Density
Hot yoga is known for its many physical benefits, but it’s also been shown to impact bone health. The heat and humidity in the room help increase bone density, which can help to prevent osteoporosis in later life.
As we get older, it’s important to take steps to protect our bone health, and hot yoga is an excellent option for doing so. The poses practised in hot yoga also help stretch and strengthen the bones, which can help improve overall bone health. If you suffer from conditions such as arthritis, practising hot yoga can help relieve some of the pain too.
7. Improved Sleep Quality
Improved sleep quality often happens at least two or three days following an intense training routine (if not even longer). When you practice hot yoga, your body will be warm and tired after the class. This combination is a recipe for a good night’s sleep.
Your heart rate drops during the session, helping to ensure your body has a chance to calm down once you’re done. And the increased blood flow to your brain enables you to fall asleep quickly and stay asleep. Those who practise hot yoga often report sleeping through the night with little to no disruption.
8. Stress Relief
Practising hot yoga can help to relieve stress. The poses are designed to stretch and massage your muscles, which helps to reduce tension. The combination of heat, physical activity and relaxation at the end of class, is a perfect recipe for stress relief.
The relaxation at the end of class is also very calming, and it’s a great way to quiet your mind after a long day. When you practise hot yoga regularly, you’ll start to notice that your stress levels decrease and your anxiety levels go down. Hot yoga can even help with depression!
The mental clarity and increased strength that hot yoga provides are great reasons to consider hot yoga, and if the sweltering temperatures aren’t your thing, other yoga styles are also known to help with stress levels.
9. Improved Digestion
Hot yoga is a great way to improve your digestion. When you’re sweating and working out, your body releases toxins. Practising hot yoga regularly helps flush these toxins out and improve your digestion. Another plus side effect — improved digestion means better bowel movements!
The poses in hot yoga are also designed to massage your internal organs, which helps to improve their function. If you have any digestive issues, hot yoga can be a great way to address them.
10. Increased Energy Levels
As with any form of exercise, you can expect to see an increase in your energy levels when you start practising hot yoga consistently. The increase in circulation that comes with practising hot yoga helps deliver more oxygen and nutrients to your cells, which results in increased energy.
The poses in hot yoga are also designed to be energising, so you’ll feel refreshed and recharged after class. If you’re feeling run down, practising hot yoga can help to give you back your energy.
What are the Risks of Hot Yoga?
Hot yoga is not for everyone, as there can be some health risks associated with its intense nature. If you’re not used to intense exercise, it’s essential to be cautious and start with less challenging poses. You should also avoid hot yoga if you’re pregnant, have high blood pressure, or have other health issues.
Before trying hot yoga, know the signs of heat stroke and heat exhaustion and what to do if you’re affected. If you’re feeling lightheaded or dizzy, it’s important to stop and take a break. If you experience any other discomfort or pain, like muscle cramping, stop and consult your doctor.
It’s also important to drink plenty of water before and after class to stay hydrated. Dizziness and fatigue can be a sign of dehydration or electrolyte imbalance, and it’s important to also keep your electrolytes in balance ahead of taking hot yoga classes.
It’s similar to working out in the middle of summer, and you’ll need to manage the risks to your body. There’s also no data for how risky hot yoga is long-term for those with heart conditions or other chronic illnesses.
Overall, if you’re healthy and take precautions, hot yoga can be a great way to improve your fitness level; however, only do what feels good physically and mentally for you! Avoid pushing your body to keep up with the rest of the class – always stop and get some fresh air if you’re feeling unwell, and seek medical treatment if needed.
If you have any chronic conditions, you should always consult your doctor before trying hot yoga, even if studies reflect that it can be helpful rather than harmful. It’s critical to take your individual circumstances into consideration, including any medications you take. Many common medications can impact your heat tolerance and lead to heat stroke or dehydration.
Hot Yoga vs Regular Yoga: Is it Better?
While hot yoga does offer some unique benefits, many of the health and wellness effects also apply to regular yoga – from decreasing stress to improving digestion and energy levels. Studies also suggest hot yoga may not burn more calories than other yoga styles.
There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, as the best type of yoga for you depends on your body and overall health and fitness goals. It’s often claimed that hot yoga burns more calories than standard yoga practice, but many studies haven’t supported this – finding that typical calorie burn was much lower than advertised.
This means hot yoga may not be better for weight loss than regular yoga, as your calorie burn and metabolic rate is the key. Studies conducted by Colorado State University show that people often lose less weight than expected doing hot yoga. Metabolic rate studies have the effects are approximately the same as walking briskly, although body temperature and heart rate did climb higher.
The increased heat and humidity in a hot yoga class can help loosen up your muscles, making the poses easier – helping those who find themselves outgrowing their current workout regime. Additionally, the increased heart rate and metabolic rate that come with practising hot yoga can help to burn more calories and improve your overall fitness level.
However, as we have mentioned, the intensive nature of hot yoga means it’s not for everyone. If you’re not used to working out intensely, start with regular yoga and work your way up to hot yoga when ready! There are still so many benefits provided by regular yoga, that many people don’t find it necessary to struggle through hot yoga instead.
You may also prefer regular yoga styles if you don’t like the feeling of being too hot or sweaty during your workout. Many people prefer to train in a cool and comfortable setting where they are able to maintain training for a longer period of time.
Many people connect sweating with weight loss, but this isn’t necessarily the case – you tend to feel like you’re working out harder in a hot yoga class, but extra sweating doesn’t mean you’re burning more calories. Other styles like Vinyasa yoga are known for their higher intensity and calorie burn, so if you enjoy these more, there’s no reason to push yourself to do hot yoga.
To maintain a workout routine you must find it enjoyable, and for many people, hot yoga is too uncomfortable and intense. In order to get maximum health benefits, it has to be something you stick to long-term – and across many studies done on hot yoga, dropout rate was high.
Ultimately, the best type of workout for you is the one that makes you feel good and challenges you in a way that you’re able to comfortably and safely do. Some people may not enjoy yoga at all, but there is a fitness class out there to suit everybody, so don’t give up trying.
Alternatives to Hot Yoga
Other popular fitness styles like reformer pilates can also provide similar benefits to hot yoga, without the temperature and humidity boost. If you’re looking to work on your strength and cardiovascular fitness in one, HIIT and circuit training workouts may tick your boxes.
If getting hot and sweaty is your thing, but you find it hard to handle the temperatures of hot yoga, you may also enjoy dance fitness classes like Konga or Zumba. These cardio-intensive and rhythmic workouts get your heart rate pumping, and may be more fun for those who struggle to stick with an exercise routine.
How Many Days a Week Should You Do Hot Yoga?
How often you should do hot yoga depends on your fitness goals and overall exercise routine. For most people, 3-4 times a week is safe. If you are going to be practising hot yoga regularly, you will need to fuel and hydrate your body adequately.
Be sure to consult with your doctor before starting any new exercise routine, like hot yoga, if you suffer from any medical conditions.
Should Pregnant Women Do Hot Yoga?
Pregnant women are generally discouraged from participating in hot yoga. Studies have not tested if hot yoga is safe during pregnancy, but heat stress can be harmful to the developing foetus. This means it’s safest to avoid hot yoga when pregnant.
Other forms of prenatal yoga can be safe during pregnancy, as well as other low impact workouts, as long as risky poses are avoided. As such, it is always best to consult with your doctor before starting any new fitness routine while pregnant.
What Should You Wear to a Hot Yoga Class?
In general, you will want to wear clothing that is comfortable and moves with you to a hot yoga class. That might mean a light tank top and leggings, or shorts and a sports bra. The most important thing is choosing attire with moisture-wicking properties, as you will be sweating a lot during your class.
As for footwear, hot yoga classes are usually performed barefoot or in socks. Also, don’t forget to bring a towel, trust us! You can use a specific yoga mat for hot yoga, or add a yoga towel.
How to Prepare Your Body for Hot Yoga
Hot yoga is an intensive exercise which means it’s important to prepare your body before you begin. This means preparing with fluids and electrolytes to ensure you’re well hydrated. If you plan to eat before yoga, give yourself at least two hours for your food to digest.
It is also extremely important to listen to your body. When you try out new forms of intense exercise, you need to understand your body’s limits. Be careful not to push your body beyond what it can tolerate, and don’t be afraid to work up to a hot yoga class by easing into other fitness styles first.
Not sure if you’re ready to try hot yoga? You may decide to build up your overall fitness levels before trying an intense hot yoga class.
If you are looking for a gym to begin your fitness journey, Pretty Brave Fitness is the number one gym in Mandurah for women’s fitness classes. Build your strength and cardiovascular fitness in a safe, supportive environment, with expert trainers to help you along the way.
Find out more about our strength, HIIT and mixed workout classes here.
This article is published for general informational purposes only. It does not constitute medical advice and does not take into consideration your individual circumstances, medical conditions or abilities. Always consult a medical professional before beginning any program of exercise. A fitness industry professional can provide personalised advice to suit your needs.
Caity Dungey founded Pretty Brave Fitness in 2017 with one simple mission: giving everyday women the chance to be fitter and stronger, ready to tackle whatever life brings. Our workouts can be adjusted to challenge the fittest of gals or to go easy on first timers. As soon as you walk in the door, you’re a valued part of our fitness fam.