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Is Hot Yoga Really Better for You?

Dr. Elizabeth Yuko is the Health Editor at SheKnows. She is a bioethicist and writer specializing in sexual and reproductive health and the intersection of bioethics and popular culture. She is an adjunct professor of ethics at Fordham ...

This popular type of yoga isn't necessarily the most beneficial

When it comes to working out, most of us are under the impression that the sweatier we are, the more health benefits come with the exercise. This now extends beyond lifting weights or running to yoga. Over the past few years, you've likely heard people talking about "hot yoga," or Bikram yoga, or even tried it yourself. If not, it is exactly what it sounds like: practicing yoga in a very hot room.

Though the idea of reaping the benefits of yoga in a room heated to 105 degrees F makes sense using the sweat = health mentality, new research found that it's the physical practice of Bikram yoga rather than the sweltering heat that really does your body good.

Bikram yoga consists of 26 specific poses and breathing exercises, and the study, published in the journal Experimental Physiology, indicates that the vascular improvement in the middle-aged people involved in the study was a result of the different postures alone and were not dependent on the temperature of the room.

More: How to Navigate Yoga When You Have Your Period

Dr. Stacy Hunter, an assistant professor in the department of health and human performance at Texas State University and one of the study's authors, tells Time this doesn't mean Bikram is unhealthy. In fact, it's the opposite. The major takeaway is that the extremely hot temperatures may not come with additional health benefits, as many previously thought.

More: Yoga Class Dropout Tries Again With Hilaria Baldwin

As far as studies go, this one was relatively small, with 52 adult participants. At the end of 12 weeks, the groups that attended hot yoga and regular-temperature yoga had the same vascular improvement — potentially decreasing future risk of heart attack or stroke — while the control group that didn't do yoga at all saw no improvement.

The moral of the story is, if you're into yoga (and it's totally fine if you're not) and can't take the heat, you're not any worse off because of it.

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