The health benefits of yoga are vast, but the benefits of hot yoga are especially good for your health. In general, yoga offers a multitude of valuable health benefits, from reducing stress and relaxing the mind, to improving muscle strength and flexibility. Practised regularly, a yoga routine can make you more mindful of your body, and even help with toning your body.
Different types of yoga will offer different health benefits, but because of the many benefits of hot yoga, in particular, hot yoga is a very popular choice.
Hot yoga, often known as a type of “Bikram” yoga, involves combining yoga asanas with a high-temperature room to generate specific responses in the body. The trend has grown increasingly popular over the years, not just for the standard benefits of yoga like stress reduction, but for unique bonuses like improved heart health and an increased calorie burn.
By turning the heat up while you flow through challenging poses in your yoga sessions, you may be able to benefit from a more intensive workout, stronger lungs, a detoxifying sweat session, and more.
What Exactly is Hot Yoga?
Hot yoga is an intense version of yoga designed more for physical intensity training than meditation.
Though it’s often referred to as “Bikram yoga”, Bikram workouts involve a far more intensive set of stretches, performed in a room heated to 41 degrees Celsius, with a humidity of 40%. Bikram yoga also involves a series of 26 poses, and 2 breathing exercises done in the same order every time.
Hot yoga is a little more flexible. Hot yoga classes are usually between 27 and 38 degrees Celsius, making them a little less overwhelming. Yogis (yoga teachers) can also guide classes through a wide variety of poses in hot yoga, rather than following the Bikram standard.
When you practice hot yoga, there’s a good chance you’ll have music playing to help guide you through the poses, and plenty of support from your teacher. Remember to stay hydrated, as the extra heat can be challenging to beginners.
Sweat it Out: Health Benefits of Hot Yoga
For the most part, hot yoga has many of the same benefits of regular yoga. Although it’s a little more challenging, it can help with things like flexibility, and muscle development, like standard yoga. Once you’ve gotten used to the extra heat, you may also find hot yoga relaxing.
When done correctly, hot yoga can:
1. Improve flexibility
All physical yoga is excellent for improving flexibility, but hot yoga can be particularly effective. Warming your muscles makes it significantly easier for you to control their movement and explore new possibilities in what you can do. A hot yoga studio allows you to stretch a little further, and accomplish a wider range of motion, which can have a significant impact on your life.
According to one study into Bikram yoga, participants experienced better flexibility in their hamstrings, shoulders, and back than the control group.
2. Increase bone density
Interestingly, hot yoga could do a lot more for your body’s structure than most people realise. The effort you go through to support the weight of your body in different yoga poses can help to strengthen bones and increase their density. One study into women practising Bikram yoga over the course of five years found they had increased bone density in their lower back, hips, and neck.
If bone density issues, osteoarthritis, and similar problems are common within your family, it might be worth investing in some yoga sessions now.
3. Better heart health
Heart conditions are a major source of concern around the world. Fortunately, yoga could help you to protect your heart from common issues. Striking different poses in high heat can give your muscles, lungs, and heart a significant workout compared to simply practising yoga at room temperature.
One study from 2014 found a single session of hot yoga can increase your heart rate to the same level as taking a moderate walk. Of course, various forms of yoga have also been proven to improve heart health by improving blood flow and reducing blood pressure.
4. Reduce blood glucose
According to various studies, yoga could be a powerful tool for those at risk of conditions like diabetes. Exercising the muscles helps to increase glucose uptake in your muscular cells, reducing blood sugar levels. Yoga postures that aid relaxation and stretch the pancreas can also help to produce more insulin cells.
Hot yoga has specific benefits for people who have a high risk of type 2 diabetes. Research into people in a short-term Bikram yoga program found the exercise improved glucose tolerance in adults with obesity.
5. Reduce stress
Initially, hot yoga is likely to be a little more stressful than regular yoga, because you’re putting yourself under extra pressure. The good news? It can also eventually lead to better relaxation. A study into stressed and physically inactive adults discovered periods of hot yoga over a 16-week program reduced stress levels significantly.
The benefits of yoga on your mental health could also be significant enough to assist with issues like depression. The APA (American Psychology Association) consider yoga to be a useful therapy for reducing the symptoms of depression.
6. Lose weight
As a relatively low-intensity workout, yoga won’t burn as many calories as something like running or cycling. However, this doesn’t mean there aren’t any benefits to yoga for weight loss. According to researchers at Colorado University, you can increase your average calorie burn from 183 calories per hour to 460 for men and 330 for women in a Bikram yoga session.
As an extra bonus, improving your flexibility and endurance levels through hot yoga should mean you’re more confident trying your skills at the gym and committing to more workout routines. You may find you’re more comfortable investing time in exercise after yoga.
7. Improve your skin health
This is an often-overlooked, but still important benefit of hot yoga. When you’re spending an hour or two in a high-heat environment, struggling to pull various poses, this makes your body sweat. Sweating is a pretty significant part of hot yoga, and it helps to clean out the pores on a fully-body scale. Sweating in a warm environment also helps to improve circulation, which nourishes your skin from the inside.
While you might not feel gorgeous walking away from a sweaty yoga session, you’ll be improving your chances of getting the right nutrients to your skin cells. This could even help to reduce some of the signs of ageing.
What to Know Before Starting Hot Yoga
Hot yoga can have a lot of benefits when performed correctly, and it’s widely regarded as a safe practice for most people. However, it’s important to remember different people respond to exercise in various different ways. If you’re in good health, hot yoga will usually be safe, but you might want to speak to your doctor before jumping into anything.
It’s also worth checking your DNA report for any signs of heart conditions in your family. While yoga can help with strengthening the heart, you’re more likely to faint in a hot room if you have a history of heart abnormalities in your family.
If you have low blood pressure or low blood sugar, it’s also best to avoid hot yoga until you know you can handle a hot room for an extended period of time. Women who are pregnant are usually also advised against hot yoga, though regular yoga should be fine.
To get started with hot yoga, after you’ve checked it’s safe, seek out a local class, or consider taking classes with videos online. All you really need is some heat and your own body weight, so you don’t have to go to a studio if you’re uncomfortable. Remember to:
- Dress correctly: Light and breathable fabrics are important for hot yoga sessions. Make sure you can move around easily, and you’re not going to slip around on your floor.
- Stay hydrated: Always ensure you have plenty of water on hand before, during, and after hot yoga sessions. You’re likely to do a lot of sweating, so a low-calorie sports drink may be helpful if you need to restore electrolytes too.
- Listen to your body: If you’ve had heat intolerance problems in the past, don’t put yourself under too much pressure with high heats straight away. Stop immediately if you feel nauseous, lightheaded, or dizzy, and find a place to safely cool down.
- Bring a towel: it’s best to have a towel on your yoga mat, as it can get quite slippery when you begin to sweat. You might also want an extra towel for your hands and face.
- Take your time: Don’t push yourself to do any poses or activities you feel uncomfortable with. You might need to start slow with your yoga experience, and that’s fine.
Is Hot Yoga Right For You?
The benefits of hot yoga are impressive, but hot yoga still won’t be for everyone. If you enjoy regular yoga and you want to step up the health benefits by turning up the temperature, you might find hot yoga to be a game-changer.
If your DNA test results show you’re at higher risk of things like blood sugar issues, heart problems, and lung issues, you might also find you get a larger number of benefits from experimenting with hot yoga. Just ensure you’re comfortable and healthy enough to start doing your workouts in a hotter environment before you commit.
A CircleDNA test will provide you with a report with some insights into the optimal workouts for you, based on your DNA and your genetic strengths and weaknesses.
If you have any health conditions, including diabetes, a history of fainting, or anorexia nervosa, consult your doctor before beginning a yoga session.