Hot yoga is one of the most unique styles of yoga due to its focus on high temperature on top of the other aspects yoga in general works with.
If you are a beginner and you are wondering why heated rooms are used for the practice and why the practice puts so much emphasis on heat, then this beginner’s guide to hot yoga is for you.
Here, we are going to have a deep look at what hot yoga really is, its history, how it works, its benefits, side effects, and risks, how to do the practice, and the frequently asked questions about it.
What is Hot Yoga
Using the simplest words possible, hot yoga is a type of yoga practiced in heated rooms.
The temperature and humidity of the rooms where the practice is held are adjusted to bring about a different experience compared to what you would get in other yoga styles done in normal rooms or studios.
The temperature of the rooms varies from one class to the other, with the range being around 80 to 105 degrees Fahrenheit (which translates to around 26.6 to 40.5 degrees Celsius).
The humidity is also adjusted to around 30% to 40%.
The reason hot yoga allows adjustments to the temperature and humidity is to allow the students to have increased heart rates and get their muscles to relax. On top of that, it helps to get rid of toxins in the body through sweat.
Hot yoga is the umbrella under which all yoga classes that are done in heated rooms fall, and there are many different types of yoga including Bikram yoga and vinyasa heated classes that employ “the heated rooms” technique.
More than just bringing the relaxing benefits we get from saunas and hot tubs, hot yoga also helps to increase muscles, reduces stress, and improves flexibility, just to name a few of the benefits.
History of Hot Yoga
The earliest trace of hot yoga is from Bikram Choudhury, who founded Bikram yoga, which is the first style of hot yoga. He started the practice in San Francisco in the early 1970s after coming from Japan where he worked with space heaters to increase the temperature of the rooms that his students practiced in.
The idea of increasing the temperature and humidity was to have the rooms resemble the high temperature in India where he used to practice yoga, which often had the benefits of relaxed muscles and increased flexibility.
After opening a few yoga studios in the United States and them doing well, he was accused of sexual harassment, defamation, and discrimination by one of his female students who was followed by more women coming out to strengthen the accusations.
The accusations led the yoga studios and centers that used the word “Bikram” to drop the name and use hot yoga instead.
How Hot Yoga Works
Generally, hot yoga classes range from 50 to 90 minutes and they begin with a brief warm-up session. Due to the heat that relaxes the muscles, the warm-up sessions tend to be shorter than your average warm-up sessions in other styles of yoga.
The poses and physical movements, the duration of the practice, and the temperature in each class will vary depending on the instructor and the type of hot yoga you are doing. The instructor will give you an overview of the class and what you are expected to do and then you will begin doing the practice.
Many heating methods are used to increase the temperature and humidity of the rooms. Some studios use forced-air heating, others use infrared heating, and others, baseboards.
Contrary to many yoga classes where the instructor does the poses and movements together with the students, most instructors of hot yoga walk around the class helping the students get into better poses and get their way around the class instead of doing the exercises with them.
The different types of hot yoga available include:
- Hot power yoga
- Hot yoga barre
- CorePower yoga
- Baptiste Power Vinyasa yoga
- Hot power yoga
- Hot yin yoga
- Forrest yoga
- Modo or Moksha yoga
After the class, many students (also called yogis or yoga practitioners) report having euphoric emotions, which explains why hot yoga has become popular.
Benefits of Hot Yoga
Practicing hot yoga improves your life in the following areas:
1. May reduce depression, anxiety, and hopelessness – A study published in the National Library of Medicine found that Bikram yoga may help to reduce depressive symptoms, hopelessness and anxiety, and lead to an overall enhancement in the quality of life of the practitioner (1).
2. Increased flexibility – Hot yoga students often improved shoulder flexibility, hamstring flexibility, and deadlift strength and also have reduced body fat (2).
3. Improves physical, mental, and emotional well-being – Studies show that Bikram yoga can increase lower body strength, and balance as well as the range of motion in the upper and lower body of the practitioner. Moreover, it can improve bone mineral density, glucose tolerance, arterial stiffness, blood lipid profile, stress, and mindfulness (3).
4. Reduces blood pressure – A study that looked into how hot yoga affects blood pressure found that after 90 days, the participants who took hot yoga classes had lower blood pressure (4).
5. May reduce fat in the body – Compared to the traditional yoga that is done in regular rooms, hot yoga has been found to increase metabolism and in turn, help reduce the amount of fat in the body (5)(6).
6. Improve skin health – Recent research has found that due to the lengthened periods in high temperatures and humidity, the practice can increase blood flow which helps with delivering nutrients to different skin cells and prevent signs of aging and enhance skin health (7).
Side Effects, Risks, And Precautions With Hot Yoga
While hot yoga has so many benefits to offer, it may not be for everyone out there. Due to its heat adjustments, people who are heat intolerant, those who have dehydration issues, breathing difficulties, heart problems, and a history of heat-based health issues like heatstrokes or heat cramps are advised to avoid doing the practice.
Anyone who wants to do hot yoga is strongly advised to visit a health care professional for a check-up and guidance on how to go about hot yoga based on their health status.
Pregnant women too should check with their doctor before beginning their practice. While some research shows that the practice may be open to pregnant women who don’t have uncomplicated pregnancies, more research has found that there is always a risk of fetus malformation and neural tube defects if pregnant women do it (8) (9).
Hot yoga practitioners are usually advised to drink plenty of water or electrolytes the day before the practice as well as during and after their classes to avoid dehydration.
In case you feel lightheaded, sick, dizzy, or encounter any health issue while doing the practice, you should stop and seek medical attention. Be careful of overstretching, due to the ease of stretching caused by the heat, which may cause injuries.
How to Practice Hot Yoga
It is a good idea to practice hot yoga as a beginner under the keen eye of a well-trained, qualified, and experienced yoga instructor who is well versed with hot yoga. You can consider signing up for hot yoga classes in the nearest yoga studio in your locality.
You can also look up the best studios for the practice online and see which one best fits you.
Some of the things you should carry in your yoga class are a bottle of cold water that is insulated to keep yourself hydrated, a yoga mat, a towel for wiping off the sweat because you will be sweating a lot, and comfortable breathable clothing you can easily stretch in.
You can also carry special grip socks and gloves to help you avoid slipping off while doing some poses because of sweat.
Avoid eating a heavy meal before the practice. A light meal is much better.
Also, take a break when you feel too overwhelmed by the practice or the heat. Always work at your own pace and listen to your body.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Hot Yoga
Question: Is hot yoga the same as pilates?
Answer: No. There are fundamental differences between yoga and pilates. First, pilates is mostly done using machines and hot yoga never uses machines. Second, pilates is usually more focused on specific muscles and muscle groups while hot yoga goes much broader in that aspect.
Question: What is the difference between hot yoga and regular yoga?
Answer: Humidity and temperature. Other than the fact that hot yoga adjusts the temperature and humidity, the rest of the aspects of both types of yoga appear to be similar.
Question: Is hot yoga for everyone?
Answer: Not really. If you have any health concerns that may put your health at risk and your doctor discourages you from the practice, then you should consider other styles of yoga. You can learn more about other yoga styles in our beginner’s guide to yoga.
Question: What exactly is the difference between Bikram yoga and hot yoga?
Answer: Bikram yoga is a specific type of hot yoga that works with a series of 26 postures, a temperature of around 105 degrees Fahrenheit (which is about 40 degrees Celsius), and a humidity of 40%.
Question: Why exactly do people love hot yoga?
Answer: Well, other than the euphoria associated with the practice, the fact that it requires little inspiration or motivation to do it, it’s meditative, and most practitioners find the heat to be addictive once they get used to it are some of the things that make it loved.