Hot yoga is practiced in a room that’s heated up to 105°F.
It’s thought that the temperature helps to warm your muscles in preparation for practice, however hot yoga has been found to have a number of other benefits too…
18 Sizzling Benefits of Hot Yoga: Turn up The Heat
1: Improves Flexibility
Yoga is great for flexibility, however yogis speak highly of how powerful hot yoga can be in particular.
By enjoying three sessions of hot yoga each week, participants in a 2013 research project found they improved their trunk flexibility.
The study focussed on arterial stiffness in young and older adults, with results most notable for the young adult group.
2: Strengthens Your Body
There are lots of yoga poses you can try to improve your strength, but why not heat things up!
A critical review of the various studies done in to Bikram yoga, conducted at Western Sydney University, showed that Bikram yoga was proven to improve your lower body strength.
The 2015 review looked at a number of pieces of research and also highlighted how good the practice was for improving your range of motion.
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3: Aids Balance
A study conducted in 2008 looked at the impact of Bikram yoga on the steadiness and balance of young adults.
Results were powerful, with certain subjects seeing a 228% increase in the length of time they could balance successfully.
It was concluded that a short term hot yoga program, in this case eight weeks, can improve your balance significantly, as well as help with leg strength and muscle control.
4: Increases Your Fitness Level
Hot yoga really is a powerful practice that can help to improve your overall general fitness.
Eight weeks of research conducted in Colorado focused on healthy adults and sought to discover whether Bikram yoga can help improve general physical fitness.
Results were astounding with participants showing improvements in their back and shoulder flexibility, as well an deadlift strength.
There was no change in maximal aerobic fitness, just in musculoskeletal fitness, but results were significant.
Bikram yoga is a form of hot yoga, but there are a number of differences:
Both are practiced at high temperatures, however Bikram yoga is made up of the same 26 poses, whereas any asana can be practiced during hot yoga.
Another key difference is that Bikram studios tend to be hotter and there is no talking allowed, whereas hot yoga tends to be a little more laid back.
5: Good for Your Bones
Researchers initially thought that studies would show that hot yoga was bad for your bones, however a 2017 study actually demonstrated the opposite.
“Our original idea was that people were going to be sweating out a lot of calcium and their bones would start to break down for the body to maintain its calcium levels…
But as it turns out, while there’s a lot of salt lost in sweat, only just a little bit of calcium is lost. So it was the opposite – hot yoga is actually really good for your bones.”
Dr Shannon Mathis who also worked on the project did however offer a warning to yogis:
“We still recommend that fluid, sodium, and calcium are replenished after hot yoga practice”.
6: Improves Your Breathing
The ability to improve your breathing through hot yoga is invaluable to serious runners looking to use yoga to their advantage.
Runner’s World magazine recommends hot yoga, particularly for those training for a marathon.
They explain how hot yoga relies on you having great control of your breathing to flow through the poses and how it trains your body to rely on your breath during endurance activities such as running a marathon.
7: Helps with Sleep
Yoga is proven to help with sleep problems, which is great news for the large number of Americans struggling to get the recommended seven hours.
A low constraint sleep monitoring study concluded that Bikram yoga sessions did help respondents improve their sleep quality.
Subjects were tested over a 14 day period, choosing the number of Bikram sessions they wanted to follow and wearing a headband at night to monitor their sleep.
Results of the study showed that participants fell asleep quicker and if they did wake, they stayed awake for shorter durations.
The uncontrolled nature of the study means the results have limitations, and it was felt that a larger scale study was needed.
8: Reduces Stress
It’s reported that Americans are among the most stressed out people in the world.
A research project conducted on a sample of 51 healthy participants looked at the effectiveness of 8 weeks of Bikram yoga on perceived stress as well as mindfulness and overall physical fitness.
The Perceived Stress Scale (PSS) was used to assess participants, and following a series of hot yoga sessions, stress levels were significantly reduced.
The small sample used in the study and the uncontrolled nature of the research meant it had major limitations however the findings were still felt to be significant.
9: Benefits for Depression
Hot yoga is also shown to be good for depression.
A study of 52 women in San Fransisco who were showing signs of depression were tested as part of a study to determine the impact that hot yoga could have on mental health.
Half of the women in the project took two classes a week for eight weeks, with the rest of the group practicing no yoga.
Results showed that the reduction in depressive symptoms, including stress and emotional eating, was almost three times higher in the group of the women who had practiced hot yoga.
10: Focuses Your Mind
Yoga encourages a mindful state, that many feel is further heightened by the heat and humidity of a hot yoga studio.
Though there is no research to prove or disprove this thinking, many hot yoga studios will promote an improved level of concentration as a hot yoga benefit.
Olga Allon, founder of Hot Bikram Yoga Studios in London, states:
“When someone is fairly new to Bikram, the focus is certainly on the physical side but after a while, there is normally a shift that allows the students to start to focus on breath. The practice can then become incredibly meditative…
Once you start to do that, I think you start to take some lessons learned in the hot room outside of class too, as you learn to stay calm and focused in any situation”.
11: Improvement in Lung Capacity
Founder of Bikram yoga, Bikram Choudhury in his book on the practice, explains that many people only use about 50% of their lung capacity.
He claims that through Bikram yoga you can increase your lung capacity:
“The more deep breathing is practiced, the more the lungs become flexible and capable of holding a lot of oxygen.
Strong, healthy lungs can efficiently help transport oxygen to the blood, purifying it and helping remove toxins from the body.
The 90 minutes of deep breathing practiced in a Bikram yoga class can increase the ability of oxygen to enter the body and cleanse its systems”.
12: Assists Healthy Weight Loss
According to the experts, hot yoga is a good healthy way to lose weight.
A qualitative study that looked at the impact of yoga on weight loss delivered positive results.
Though the study focussed on yoga in general, Bikram yoga was practiced by some participants who spoke of an “aerobic effect that burned calories”.
Overall practitioners reported the respondents having better attitudes to food and embracing more mindful eating.
13: Creates Clearer Skin
In a study of 700 people, 33% of respondents reported clearer skin following a short series of hot yoga sessions.
However there were a number of mild side effects reported including dizziness, nausea and dehydration.
14: Helps to Relieve Back Pain
The stats show that back pain is a huge health problem in this country.
Unfortunately little research has been done in to the effectiveness of hot yoga for back pain, however as the heat helps to increase flexibility in the joints many are giving it a try.
Users of the Triathlon forum report positive feedback following hot yoga sessions, particularly with their range of motion, with others suggesting caution.
15: Low Impact
One of the great benefits of hot yoga is the fact that it’s low impact, depending on the poses you practice, so it’s ideal if you struggle to take part in more aerobic forms of exercise.
However you should always consult your doctor before taking up any new form of exercise.
16: Benefits for Menopausal Women
For menopausal women suffering from hot flushes, hot yoga might sound like their own version of hell, however research has shown that it can be beneficial.
“While it may seem counterintuitive to go into a hot room when one is suffering from hot flushes, the heated room allows the sequence to work deeper and faster and in fact has the opposite effect on the flushes – reducing rather than aggravating them”.
17: Easy to Access
If you’re interested in trying hot yoga then the good thing is, you’ll find it easy to locate a class!
Hot yoga is growing in popularity so a little Google search is likely to bring a whole list of hot yoga studios near you where you can try the practice!
18: Gives You the Buzz of Cardio
If you want the cardio buzz without the cardio then hot yoga might be for you!
Yoga instructor Michelle Carlson explains how you can get that same buzz from practicing hot yoga:
“You know that awesome feeling of accomplishment you get after a great cardio workout? It feels like that, only more centered and grounded… it’s a feeling close to elation.”
5 Must-know Risks of Hot Yoga: Proceed with Caution
As well as hot yoga having many benefits, it’s no surprise that practicing yoga in room at around 105°F comes with a number of different risks:
1: Heat Exhaustion and Heat Stroke
Perhaps unsurprisingly with the studio heated to such a high temperature, one of the major risks of practicing hot yoga is heat exhaustion or heat stroke.
In research done by the American Council on Exercise, it was stated by Emily Quandt MS that:
“The dramatic increases in heart rate and core temperature are alarming when you consider that there is very little movement, and therefore little cardiovascular training, going on during class”.
She goes on to explain:
“While the excessive perspiration that participants experienced during class is often cited by those who practice this style of yoga as a benefit in terms of the release of toxins, the results of this study show that this sweating was insufficient to cool down the body”.
Arm in arm with hot temperatures and exercise, of course is the problem of dehydration.
Naturally after a Bikram yoga session you drink lots of water, however that can lead to a condition known as hyponatremia. This is caused when the sodium in your blood is too low.
Research in to the risks of hot yoga identified the case of a 34 year old woman who presented with severe hyponatremia after drinking 3.5 liters of water following a hot yoga class.
It’s advised that instructors should pay close attention to their students and be able to make sound recommendations regarding hydration.
3: Joint and Muscle Damage
Many believe that the heat of a hot yoga class helps them get deeper in to their stretch however Professor Win Change MD, clinical professor of Orthopedic Surgery at New York University’s Hospital for Joint Diseases, warns that:
“Although it may feel good, over stretching your muscles actually backfires”.
He explains that it can actually lead to joint problems, arthritis and inflammation and claimed that orthopedic surgeons are seeing more and more yoga injuries.
4: Caution for those with increased risk of Heart Disease
Men over the age of 45, who may have previously had a sedentary lifestyle, are warned to be cautious when practicing hot yoga, due to their increased risk of heart disease.
In fact it is recommended that anyone with CVD risk factors consults a doctor before practicing.
The caution was based on the case of a 53 year old man who experienced acute coronary syndrome while in a Bikram yoga class.
5: Caution for Pregnant Women
Due to the extra weight and loose muscles that are a part of pregnancy, as well as the lower blood pressure that typically accompanies the early stages, pregnant women are advised not to practice hot yoga.
It’s thought that the heat could lead to fainting, or even birth defects, therefore hot yoga should be avoided.
So hot yoga has its risks but it has a whole host of benefits too.
If you’re ready to get sweaty, why not give it a try?!
Or if you’d prefer to keep your cool then other styles of yoga have even more advantages for your health!
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