Inside: Learn the legit benefits of hot yoga, how to get started, and how to care for your yoga equipment with our complete beginner’s guide.
Hot yoga is sweeping the world, quickly gaining popularity. It’s proponents claim that hot yoga does everything from burn body fat to improve sleep.
We’re breaking down everything you need to know about hot yoga — what’s hype, what really works, and why hot yoga is one of the best workouts that anyone can do.
What is Hot Yoga?
Hot yoga is a rigorous style of yoga, practiced in a heated room. Hot yoga is the catch-all term for classes modeled after Bikram Yoga (named after its founder).
Many hot yoga classes stick to the traditional Bikram Yoga sequence and requirements:
- A never-changing sequence of 26 exercises that lasts 90 minutes
- 105° room temperature
- Room humidity of 40-50%
However, many studios offer modified hot yoga classes with slightly lower temperatures (in the 90s) or for an hour instead of 90 minutes.
These modified style classes are the perfect opportunity for novices to get started with hot yoga, or to fit classes into a busy schedule.
What Equipment is Needed for Hot Yoga?
Hot yoga equipment at the minimum consists of a yoga mat and the human body.
A yoga towel is recommended for absorbing sweat (because you will sweat a LOT) and preventing slipping. Yoga blocks and straps may also be helpful for modifying poses.
Since your hot yoga equipment will be exposed to extreme temperatures, room humidity, and sweat, it is important to care for it properly.
Yoga Mat Care:
Yoga mats can be pricey, but caring for them will help them last longer.
After each hot yoga session, use a gentle yoga mat cleaner to wipe down your mat. Allow it to air dry completely before rolling it up again.
How to Get the Sweat Smell Out of Yoga Clothes:
After an hour of exercise in 100°+ heat, everything from towels to clothing is literally soaked in sweat.
Even though we religiously wash our yoga gear after every session, after a while it starts to get a “funk” to it — it stinks!
We find it helpful to use a pre-wash treatment like FunkAway on our yoga clothes to neutralized odors, instead of just covering them up.
Related: Click here to learn how to get the smell out of workout clothes – for good!
7 Awesome Benefits of Hot Yoga
Speak to any hot yoga enthusiast and they’ll likely rave about all the amazing things hot yoga has done for their life. While the benefits of hot yoga vary from person to person, there are some that are widely recognized by the fitness community.
The following benefits of hot yoga are ones that I can vouch for because I’ve personally experienced them too!
1. Increased Flexibility
One of the benefits of hot yoga that just about everyone agrees on is that it increases flexibility — both immediately (during a workout) and in the long-term.
The heated room quickly warms up muscles, joints, and ligaments so that you’re able to stretch further, with less risk of injury.
If you practice hot yoga consistently, you should notice increased flexibility even when you’re not exercising.
Always take care not to push yourself to the point of pain. As my yoga instructor says, “suffering is always optional!”
2. Weight Loss
When you’ve finished an hour-long hot yoga workout, you’ll probably feel like you’ve melted away the pounds! Interestingly, that might actually be what’s happening!
A 2018 study conducted by researchers at Texas State University compared the effects of hot yoga to yoga done at room temperature. The participants who did hot yoga lost significantly more body fat over time than those in other groups.
Findings from multiple studies suggest that it’s the high temperatures, with a calorie-burning cardiovascular workout that is the magic combination.
How Many Calories Does Hot Yoga Burn?
The exact number of calories burned in hot yoga varies from person to person, but is comparable to many low-intensity cardio workouts, such as water aerobics or power walking.
A 2014 University of Colorado study shows the average number of calories burned in one hour of hot yoga to be about 300 for women and 460 for men.
3. Stress Relief
One of the most renowned benefits of hot yoga is stress relief.
Ways hot yoga reduces stress and tension:
- Helps release cortisol, the stress hormone, from the body
- Relaxes tight muscles and joints, where tension is often stored
- Releases endorphins (see #6)
Furthermore, breathing exercises in the hot yoga sequence improve concentration and allow practicers to achieve deeper relaxation.
4. Better Sleep
Practicing yoga, including hot yoga, on a regular basis promotes better and more restful sleep. Yoga is shown to help its practicers fall asleep faster, stay asleep longer, and return to sleep easier if awakened at night.
Hot yoga is an invigorating class, so it’s better to practice earlier in the day so your body has time to wind down before bed. Meditation or restorative yoga routines are best if you plan to practice immediately before bedtime.
5. Stronger Muscles & Bones
Hot yoga isn’t simply a stretching exercise, it is also an effective form of strength training. Instead of using weight machines or free weights, with yoga you use your body weight to build and tone muscles.
Like other strength training techniques, the weight-bearing aspect of hot yoga helps build strong bones too!
I can personally attest to the effectiveness of yoga for strength training, as it was instrumental in re-gaining my core strength after the c-section birth of our youngest daughter. I recovered much more quickly this time around than I did with our middle daughter, and the only major difference was doing hot yoga 2-3 times per week.
This is me 10 months postpartum after the birth of our youngest daughter (my second c-section):
I feel stronger than ever, thanks to hot yoga! (And my clothes smell clean…no matter how much I sweat…thanks to FunkAway!)
6. Endorphin Release
Like many forms of exercise, hot yoga releases endorphins in the brain. Nicknamed the “hot yoga high,” the after effects of a hot yoga workout can be euphoric.
To put it simply, hot yoga make you feel good!
7. Increased Confidence
If you practice hot yoga over regularly, you’ll notice yourself becoming stronger and you’ll be able to go deeper into each pose.
When you’re finally able to hit a certain pose or stretch a little further, it’s definitely a confidence booster! Not to mention the boost you’ll get when you look in the mirror or notice your clothes fitting a little looser.
Hot yoga is one of my favorite ways to instantly improve your mood, as well as feel more confident in general.
Does Hot Yoga Detox the Body?
One of the most controversial claims about hot yoga is that it causes you to sweat out toxins.
While the sweat itself doesn’t carry toxins out of the body, it does make you thirsty, so you’ll drink more water. If you think about it this way, it could be said that hot yoga offers detoxifying benefits.
Hot Yoga Safety
Hot yoga is an intense workout performed in an extreme environment. For those reasons, there are a few safety considerations to keep in mind:
- Stay hydrated — With the extreme heat and sweat produced, hot yoga can cause dehydration. Drink plenty of water before, during, and after a hot yoga session. Avoid sugary drinks or caffeine around workout, as these can amplify the effects of dehydration.
- Start slowly — If you’re new to hot yoga, ease into the routine. The beauty of yoga is that you can modify it to meet your needs. Let your instructor know that you’re a beginner
- Avoid over-stretching — Since the heat allows for increased flexibility, you may feel like you can stretch further than normally possible. If at any point a stretch causes pain or discomfort, back off immediately.
- Meet your instructor — Your yoga instructor is there to make your experience as beneficial and as safe as possible. If you’re new to hot yoga or new to a particular class, let you instructor know. That way they can keep an eye out to make sure you’re approaching exercises and postures correctly.
- Take care of injuries — If you have any pre-existing injuries or medical conditions, you’ll also want to let your instructor know about those. They can suggest alternate poses or modifications to avoid re-injury or even promote healing.
Should I Try Hot Yoga?
When practiced consistently, hot yoga offers many benefits to both the mind and body. While some claims may be more hype than health science, there’s no doubt that hot yoga can be a positive addition to a fitness regime.
Besides, if hot yoga makes you feel stronger and more confident, that’s the most important thing isn’t it?
If you’re ready to get started with yoga, but want to learn the basics before diving into a hot yoga practice, check out my favorite at-home workouts for moms here!