For anyone who hates the idea of excessive sweating, hot yoga sounds like a total nightmare. Yoga alone is intimidating enough, but practicing yoga with the heat cranked up to 100 degrees is just ludicrous — right?
Well, yeah, exercising in the heat is usually something even seasoned athletes avoid, but hot yoga addicts aren't just getting bendy with the heater on for shits and giggles. Hot yoga, when practiced correctly, has a long list of health and wellness benefits.
As a certified yoga instructor and self-proclaimed “hot yogi,” I can assure you that there are many benefits to practicing Bikram and hot yoga.
Bikram yoga, which is the practice of 26 postures selected and developed by Bikram Choudhury and derived from Hatha yoga, takes place in studios with temperatures set around 105 degrees F with 40 percent humidity. Hot yoga, like Bikram, is also practiced in a heated room, usually maintained at a temperature of around 95 to 100 degrees F.
Unlike Bikram, however, hot yoga isn’t based on of the same 26-posture series. Instead, it tends to be more of a flowing Vinyasa-style practice, similar to a dance, linking one pose to the next. In both Bikram and hot yoga, the heated rooms help promote sweating and warm up the body to increase flexibility with less risk for injury.
"One of the benefits to many hot yoga classes is the routine is repetitive. When you are doing the same poses repeatedly, you can begin to see where you are today in relation to yesterday," said Mandy Ingber, fitness expert and author of Yogalosophy: 28 Days to the Ultimate Mind-Body Makeover.
Practicing yoga in a heated room increases your pulse rate and metabolism, allowing your blood vessels to become more flexible and making your bod burn some major calories! This in turn makes circulation easier and increases blood flow to the limbs.
"Hot yoga is amazing for weight loss, as you sweat like a fiend. Like other yogas, it will build muscle tone [but will also] improve the lymphatic system and flush out toxins. It's amazing for developing equanimity in the face of adversity and obstacles," says Ingber.
Hot yoga goes above and beyond when it comes to relieving stress and building inner confidence. This practice is the true definition of “mind over matter.” The endorphin rush you receive after completing a 60- to 90-minute sweat session will leave you feeling like there’s nothing you can’t accomplish.
While I’m a huge fan of hot yoga, there are definitely some precautions you should take in order to stay safe. Read the tips below before turning up the heat in your practice.
Ingber recommends drinking 2 to 3 liters throughout the day. You will undoubtedly sweat more during these types of classes than in most other forms of exercise, so it’s very easy to become dehydrated. It is extremely important that you drink plenty of water before, during and after your practice.
"Everyone is encouraged to drink at least eight glasses of fluids per day in general," says yoga expert and director of SpaHalekulani, Kamala Nayeli. "When you exercise, this amount should increase by two to three cups. If you raise your core temperature or partake in a hot yoga class, I would [also] recommend including a small dose of salt prior to the class. Or have a natural 'sports drink' that will replenish the sodium you lose when sweating."
Next Up: The rules for eating before hot yoga
Originally published August 2017. Updated March 2017.
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