Hot Yoga – What is it and what are the benefits?

Hot Yoga! A name that inspires different reactions in people. There are the experienced fans who love it and simply wouldn’t be without there regular hot yoga class. Then there are those who are terrified of yoga in general and adding the word “Hot” just intensifies the fear. So what is hot yoga and what is it all about?

Put quite simply it is a yoga class, generally based on the practice of bikram yoga which takes place in a yoga room or studio which has specialist heating installed in it to raise the overall temperature during the class.

How hot is Hot Yoga?

If you have taken a regular yoga class before you may have experienced a warm and pleasant yoga room or studio which makes the class comfortable versus say a freezing cold gym. It is quite important in terms of body temperature and the state of your muscles while engaging in the movements.

Hot yoga takes this to a completely different level. In general using the bikram yoga style the room is usually around 40 degrees centigrade or 105 degrees fahrenheit. There is also normally a high humidity level of around 40% which of course contributes to the intensity.

What does a hot yoga class involved?

You will find many people use the terms “hot yoga” and “bikram yoga” interchangeably. Generally they are similar so this may clear up some confusion if you hear a friend discussing the class they attend.

The class is usually 90 minutes in duration. As with most yoga styles it involves a series of poses or movements. Usually the poses are held for long periods of time to really stretch and loosen various muscle groups. The theory behind the heat is that is makes it easier for you to stretch and also raises your heart rate to intensify the experience.

What are the benefits?

If you are a yoga fan you are likely already aware of the benefits it brings. There really are so many benefits to such a simple practice.

Many of us spend our days slouched over a desk or standing in one place or sitting in vehicles. Regardless of your job or lifestyle it’s highly likely you put your body through its paces daily and end up with aches, pains and strains.

This leads to things like back pain, stiffness and tiredness/lack of energy. So how do we reverse this? As you may have heard in the gym, on the TV or anywhere else “Stretching”. This is a fairly loose term and most people have no idea what they are doing which means two things:

  1. You can actually injure yourself by straining your body in ways you shouldn’t and
  2. Without proper direction you won’t truly get the maximum benefit from your efforts.

This is were yoga and in this case hot yoga comes in. Having an instructor take you through a directed and planned series of movements gives you all of the benefits you miss out on simply stretching at home.

If you have never taken a yoga class you may also find it quite relaxing which may sound strange to those who dislike exercise. This is because unlike say a cardio or hiit training class yoga is slow moving and focuses on breathing and listening to your own body in terms of how hard you push yourself.

So overall it should deliver relief from muscle tension, a sense of relaxation and stress relief and on top of all of that a workout and a calorie burn just like any form of exercise.

Do you recommend it?

Cards on the table here I am a yoga fan in many forms. As someone who likes multiple training disciplines including many forms of resistance training as well as running I cannot recommend yoga highly enough.

Combining this with the fact I also love heat means that hot yoga is a great combo in my opinion. When I attend classes regularly I find I have more energy and feel more relaxed in general.

An awesome bonus for me is that my running and other exercise regimes are more enjoyable and pain free since I am paying more attention to my muscles and making myself more flexible and in my experience less open to injuries.

Do I need to be fit to do Hot Yoga?

This is one of those questions that drives me crazy as an instructor regardless of the type of exercise. I regularly hear the statement “I’m going to work my way up to going to the gym by starting to get fit at home”. This is utter nonsense.

Am I saying you cannot get a good workout at home? No! I am not. I personally exercise at home with bodyweight exercises and kettle bells being a great way to do this. What I mean is I know when I hear people say that it is an excuse. Another reason to put of starting a regular exercise plan a little longer. 99% of the time you will not “work your way up at home” you will continue to do very little or even nothing.

Of course if you have a medical condition such as blood pressure issues, a heart condition or other relevant ailment then you need to consult your doctor before undertaking any exercise program. It is also not advised during pregnancy. Outside of those situations however there are few things better than hot yoga to get you started.

It will help to start a habit of attending a class regularly, burn some calories, elevate your heart rate and leave you feeling energized and more focused. If you have any aches and pains which irritate you it should also help to start to deal with those problems. All of which can benefit you regardless of your lifestyle.

So essentially as a stand alone practice or as part of a wider exercise plan hot yoga is great. Who knows you might even find you like it and do it on a more regular basis.

Hot Yoga Myths!

Just before we conclude this discussion and run off to book into a “hot yoga near me” class, lets put some myths to rights here.

Myth one – Hot yoga will wreck your body

You will possibly have found articles warning that hot yoga will wreck your body. If you dig a little deeper you often find these are isolated incidents and are generally things that happened as a result of a pre existing issue or other condition.

Like any type of exercise it needs to be suitable for your ability level and it needs to be mind full of any limitations you may have. If you have never run a mile in your life and try to run ten then you will most likely injury yourself. Yoga works the same way. Don’t try and wrap your foot around your heat and support your bodyweight on your neck if this is all new to you.

If you take a sensible approach and only push yourself a little beyond your comfort zone each time you will make steady progress and enjoy the improvements. If you have specific concerns speak to the studio owner or class instructor in advance. Usually they won’t mind and will be more than happy to give you personalised pointers.

Want to try something a little different? Check out our review of aerial yoga hammocks here.

Myth two – Hot yoga will detox your body

This is a common misconception that heating yourself in hot yoga or otherwise allows you to remove toxins such as alcohol from your body. If anything its actually the opposite.

Your body processes toxins through your kidneys and liver. The body and these organs require water to function correctly. So sweating out a large amount of water doesn’t really help this situation and could lead to further dehydration so if you are experiencing a hang over it’s probably best to sit out your usual class.

Myth three – Hot yoga is only for women

This one always makes me laugh. I suppose with the “yoga pants” and “active wear” culture people can be forgiven for this misunderstanding. In many countries in the western world yoga has for a long time been seen as a practice for mainly women. This is a perception which is in more recent times changing which is great.

The benefits fo yoga are for everyone, every age, every sex and every fitness level. While you may still see a high percentage of females in a yoga room don’t let that put you off. Enjoy yoga for the practice of it and don’t worry about who else is in the class.

There are many other myths but those are the main ones I feel need to be touched on. As you have probably guessed I highly recommend yoga.

It has helped me a lot with my tight calves leading to fewer injuries and a better running experience. Additionally I have basically dealt with all of my back pain issues all through the simple act of sequenced stretching we call yoga. Try it, enjoy it, repeat. Have fun!