Hot yoga refers to different yoga styles that take place in warm and heated studios for a more intense workout. Similar to traditional yoga, hot yoga offers a range of benefits to mental and physical health, flexibility, and overall well-being.
The original purpose of the hot temperature and humidity in hot yoga was to replicate the hot temperature in India, where traditional yoga may have originated. The yogapostures themselves may or may not be physically demanding.
This article discusses hot yoga, its benefits, risks, safety considerations, and more.
Many people use “hot” and “Bikram” interchangeably. However, while all Bikram is hot, not all hot yoga is Bikram.
Hot yoga is a more intense yoga performed in a room heated above normal room temperature. It can range in temperature between 80–100°F (26.6–37.7°C).
People practice Bikram yoga in a room at 105°F (40.5°C) with 40% humidity. It consists of 26 poses and a sequence of two breathing exercises.
However, many studios now call it a hot yoga studio and have removed the name Bikram due to the founder receiving bad press.
Hot yoga uses the concept of heat and exertion to release toxins through sweat. It is less strict with the heat and humidity. The postures — asanas — and sequence can vary from class to class, depending on the yoga instructor’s preparations.
People trained in other styles can also facilitate hot yoga. Bikram-trained teachers can only conduct Bikram yoga.
Bikram is just one of the several yoga styles using hot yoga. Other types include:
- Vinyasa yoga
- Moksha yoga or Modo yoga
- CorePower yoga
- Forrest yoga
- Hot yoga barre
- Hot Yin yoga
- Hot Power yoga
- Hot Fusion yoga
There are also variations in temperature, and some people may also prefer warm yoga, which takes place in a gently-heated room between 80–85°F (26.6.–29.4°C).
Below are several benefits of hot yoga, which are generally similar to the benefits of traditional yoga.
Heat dilates blood vessels, which improves blood flow to the muscles. The moist heat in hot yoga “warms up” and loosens the muscles, similar to how active warm-up and stretching work.
A 2019 pilot study found that sauna yoga at 122°F (50°C) caused significant improvements in healthy older adults’ flexibility and mild improvements in strength and balance.
Many of the movements found in various forms of yoga are active stretches. Active stretching increases flexibility and strengthens the muscles.
Many yoga postures are to build strength. A person can hold the pose for at least 60 seconds to get into the strength of the muscle.
Examples of yoga poses include:
- High Plank
- Side Plank
Yoga uses a person’s body weight as a form of resistance as they hold poses. Depending on the pose, hot yoga can target both upper and lower body strength.
Aside from bone strength, supporting body weight while maintaining a pose can help improve bone mineral density.
Burns more calories
The heat and the prolonged time a person holds challenging poses can help people burn more calories in hot yoga than in traditional yoga.
This research also suggested it can improve the range of motion across the four major joints: elbow, shoulder, hip, and knee.
Yoga, in general, can help reduce stress levels. A small 2016 study found that Bikram yoga reduced anxiety, and the reduction is directly related to perceived stress.
A 2018 study also found a 16-week Bikram yoga program for stressed individuals who live a sedentary lifestyle, improved their:
- perceived stress
- health-related quality of life
Supports cardiovascular health
The high temperature in hot yoga can make it more intense than a traditional yoga class. It makes the heart, muscles, and lungs work harder and boosts metabolism.
According to a 2018 study, hot yoga can be an effective heat stress technique to improve plasma volume and cardiovascular performance in elite female field hockey players. This makes hot yoga a possible performance enhancer for athletes before entering competitions.
Improves skin quality
Sweating can improve blood flow which helps deliver nutrients to the skin cells.
Improves mental health
People consider yoga an effective way to relax and improve mental health.
The American Psychological Association recognizes this type of exercise as an effective way to reduce depressive symptoms.
A 2020 review also found that yoga can be a good intervention to reduce depression and anxiety in children and adolescents.
According to a 2019 study, Bikram yoga improved physical functioning, mental health, and heart rate variability in people with trauma from persistent pain.
Hot yoga is generally safe. However, as with any exercise, there are safety considerations to consider with hot yoga.
The muscles may loosen too much, which may cause overstretching and injury, especially in the tendons and ligaments.
Hot yoga may also cause heat-related illnesses. People should check with their doctor before performing this type of yoga if they have any of the following conditions:
- cardiovascular conditions, such as heart disease and prior stroke
- heat intolerance
- history of heat stroke
Some conditions may make a person prone to fainting in a hot room and should proceed with caution when trying out hot yoga:
Pregnant people should also first talk with their health professionals before trying hot yoga.
A person who plans to try hot yoga should consider the following:
- Suitable clothing: Select lightweight, moisture-wicking fabrics over clothing made of cotton. Cotton will absorb moisture, making clothes grow heavier and harder to move.
- Other materials: Special gloves and socks can add grip while doing yoga as sweat makes things slippery. Placing a towel over a yoga mat can help absorb the excess sweat and may make the mat slippery.
- Heating type: There are different methods to heat a studio. Most modern studios employ infrared heating, which heats up people and the environment instead of the air. Others use forced-air heating or baseboards to heat the air in the studio.
- Type of class: Hot yoga classes vary in length, yoga style, and temperature with which they heat their classes. It is ideal for a beginner to try studios that offer classes at lower temperatures before trying more intensely heated types.
People who want to try yoga at home can invest in infrared home heaters or space heaters and humidifiers. It is important to choose a small room to regulate the heat better.
Individuals can also find local hot yoga classes or check online directories such as the studio directory from the Original Hot Yoga Association.
The only difference between regular and hot yoga in terms of conduct is the temperature. Traditional or regular yoga is practices at room temperature — 68–72°F (20–22.2°C) — while hot yoga is above normal room temperature.
Hot yoga can be more intense in that it can make the body work harder and carries more risk than regular yoga for people with certain medical conditions.
Heat can help people experience a deeper stretch while performing yoga poses, but there is a increased risk of injury.
Hot yoga and Pilates are low-impact workouts that use body weight as resistance. Both focus on proper breathing and form and have the same goals in mind.
However, yoga has deep spiritual roots, while Pilates is a mind-body exercise that focuses on core strength and flexibility. Moreover, pilates may use specialized equipment.
Similar to traditional yoga, Pilates is usually performed at room temperature.
Hot yoga can offer a range of health benefits and has no reported adverse outcomes when practiced long term.
While some speculate that exercising in hot environments negatively affects the kidneys, a
As with any exercise, a person beginning hot yoga should gradually ease into it. They may do this by starting once a week, finding classes with milder temperatures, shorter sessions, or with instructors who allow people to rest midway if they need to.
Hot yoga is a popular variation of traditional yoga. A person who enjoys traditional yoga can explore and add intensity to their fitness routine by trying hot yoga.
However, hot yoga is not suitable for everyone. Pregnant people and individuals with certain health conditions should consult their doctors before trying out this intense routine.