You may be wondering what the difference is between yoga and hot yoga… and the reality is that it’s exactly what it sounds like. Hot yoga is yoga, in a hot and humid room. You may hear the term “Bikram yoga” used interchangeably with “hot yoga,” but Bikram is actually a type of hot yoga, so not all hot yoga is Bikram. Hot yoga means doing any type of yoga in a heated room, usually between 80 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
Cranking up the heat in the studio will give your muscles, heart, and lungs an even better workout than they’d get at lower temperatures, and there’s something satisfying about the visual evidence (the sweat that will inevitably drench your yoga mat) of how hard you’re working.
What are the benefits of hot yoga?
Become more flexible
It’s fairly well-known that warmed-up muscles are easier to stretch, so you may find that you can pull off challenging poses a bit easier while practicing hot yoga. You will also feel yourself settling deeper into each stretch, which will boost your range of motion. A 2013 study reveals that participants who did Bikram yoga had better flexibility in their lower back, hamstrings, and shoulders after eight weeks than a control group.
A 2018 study demonstrated that adults who identified as physically inactive and prone to stress experienced a significant drop in their stress levels after participating in a 16-week hot yoga program.
You can certainly get a good workout in with regular yoga, but your body will naturally work harder than usual if it’s feeling hot. This study found that, on average, women burned 330 calories and men burned 460 calories during a 90-minute Bikram session.
Help your cardiovascular health
The heat and humidity won’t just help you burn more calories—your heart will also feel the extra challenge, making hot yoga a great way to kick your cardiovascular health up a notch.
Strengthen your bones
Attention all older adults! Maintaining a regular hot yoga practice will increase bone density in your lower back, hips, and neck, which helps to combat the natural decline of bone density that comes with age. This is particularly important for women, who are at especially high risk for osteoporosis.
Lower your blood sugar
Any type of exercise will help reduce glucose levels in your bloodstream, however, a 2013 study that focused on older adults with obesity discovered that individuals who participated in a short-term hot yoga program had especially improved glucose tolerance.
Help with relaxation and mood
The original purpose of yoga was meditative and spiritual, and even though its spreading popularity has somewhat shifted its focus (in some communities) to physical exercise, yoga is still well-known for its calming and mood-improving benefits.
A 2017 review of 23 studies also found yoga to be an effective way to minimize symptoms of depression.
Nourish your skin and immune system
Despite the initial yuck factor, the pool of sweat on your yoga mat is a positive thing. Sweating in a hot environment is known to boost circulation, which in turn supports your immune system so that it can work as effectively and efficiently as possible. Plus, that dewy glow will last for hours after your yoga session, which is fantastic for your skin.
Hot yoga has many benefits, but exercising in a heated room is also more strenuous. Be sure to check with your doctor before starting a hot yoga practice, and remember to drink more water than you would with a room temperature workout. If you feel faint, step out of the room for some cool air.