It seems like there are so many new yoga trends popping up lately and while some may be pretty self-explanatory – yoga with goats is, well, yoga with goats – you may still have a lot of questions about hot yoga.
So let’s unpack this practice and find out why this style is becoming so popular.
What Is Hot Yoga?
Hot yoga refers to any style of yoga performed in an intentionally heated room.
Many common yoga styles can be performed in a heated room and be presented as hot yoga, but Bikram yoga is the only style that requires heat. The most popular style of yoga performed as hot yoga is vinyasa.
What’s the Difference Between Bikram and Vinyasa?
Bikram yoga is a set system of yoga with Hatha yoga influences. It follows a series of 26 asanas or poses including 2 pranayama or breathing exercises that are consistent in each class.
A Bikram class is heated to a minimum 105ºF (40°C ) with about 40% humidity. Each class follows the same sequence of poses so this heated practice is great for people who like structure and routine.
Vinyasa yoga is a style that links a sequence of varied yoga poses that seem to “flow” together in connection with the breath. Consistent sequences in the class will be sun salutations or Surya Namaskara.
The transition between Adho Mukha Svanasana or Downward Facing Dog in these sequences may also be referred to as a vinyasa. The other poses performed vary each class depending on the teacher’s style, the class’s focus, or requests from students to focus on specific areas of the body.
Hot vinyasa classes are typically heated between 80-108ºF (27-42°C) as determined by the style and studio. The humidity also varies. People who enjoy variety tend to enjoy hot vinyasa classes.
As Bikram Yoga is a specific style of yoga, typically if a hot yoga class follows the Bikram sequence it will be included in the name either by calling it Bikram, if taught by a certified teacher or mentioning 26 in the class name, referring to the 26 poses.
Bikram is a form of hot yoga but not all hot yoga is Bikram.
How Many Calories Does an Hour of Hot Yoga Burn?
Hot yoga can burn from 400 to 600 calories per hour. From the temperature to the postures there are many differences between hot yoga styles so the benefits and caloric burn also varies.
An hour-long Bikram yoga class will burn on average 475 calories while a hot vinyasa class will average 600 calories burned. There is more variability in hot yoga classes that aren’t Bikram as these are dependent on what poses are completed and the pace of the class.
Can You Lose Weight from Hot Yoga?
While any yoga practice is great for maintaining physical health, the intensity of hot yoga makes it particularly effective in aiding weight loss. Regular practice of hot yoga will help you drop pounds, build muscle, and gain flexibility.
As mentioned previously, you can 400 to 600 calories per hour during hot yoga sessions. If practicing for weight loss, weigh yourself after a week of consistent practice rather than immediately after the class.
After class, you may weigh less but this will likely be due to loss of water rather than fat. A key factor in weight loss is diet, so also take care to eat nutritious foods that provide the caloric intake needed to fuel your body.
What Should You Eat Before Hot Yoga?
As hot yoga is an intensive form of physical activity it is important to provide your body with the right fuel. It is best to avoid eating within an hour of class beginning and to avoid eating anything heavy, that requires time to digest within 2 hours of class.
Focus on eating foods that provide complex carbohydrates for energy. Perhaps more important than what you eat though is what you drink. Be sure to stay hydrated before class.
Taking small and regular sips of water throughout the day will help ensure you are hydrated and don’t arrive to class with a belly full of water. Being too full can make performing certain poses, such as twists, very uncomfortable.
What Should You Eat After Hot Yoga?
Before you plan your post-yoga meal, drink plenty of water ideally with electrolytes. Traditionally water should not be consumed during practice but listen to your body and adjust accordingly.
All of that sweat (aren’t you glad you remembered to bring your non-slip yoga mat and towel) held water and electrolytes your body needs.
Replenish and refuel your body by slowly drinking a glass of room temperature water after class then reach for some complex carbs to refuel. Some healthy post-yoga snack ideas are homemade sweet potato fries with hummus for added protein or fruit and nut butter.
Smoothies are also great options but be mindful of the ingredients. Adding extra sugar and dairy can turn your once healthy smoothie into a not so healthy milkshake.
Wait 30 minutes to an hour after yoga to eat a larger meal. Load your plate with fresh vegetables prepared to your liking and a few ounces of lean protein.
Can You Drink Coffee Before Hot Yoga?
Hot yoga zaps you of a lot of fluid so it’s best not to have any coffee or other dehydrating drinks at least 3 hours before. If you’re still in need of an energy boost try these instead:
- Green tea
- Bellows breath (Bhastrika Pranayama)
- Go for a brisk walk or short jog to increase blood flow
What Should I Expect in My First Hot Yoga Class?
The heat and pace of a hot yoga class can make it more challenging than a non-heated flow. You may find yourself sweating more, holding poses for shorter periods, and reaching for your water bottle more frequently.
The heat of the room expedites your warm-up.
If you are familiar with other yoga practices you may notice that your body feels more flexible and that you are able to get deeper into poses with less warm-up time.
Beginner tip: Go early to your first hot yoga class, as in go to the first class of the day and at least 15 minutes before it starts.
Going to the first class of the day means that the class likely won’t begin as hot so you can adjust to the heat of the room as it is heating up.
Being in the first class also means that any props provided in class are fresh when you arrive. Arriving early also gives you time to settle in and select a spot where you will feel comfortable.
Talk to your instructor before class to let them know about any previous injuries or other concerns you feel are relevant. They will be able to offer your alternative poses based on your needs.
Is Hot Yoga Safe?
When practiced properly, hot yoga is a safe activity. If safety is a concern, verify that the instructor for your class is certified and be sure to inform them of any of your injuries or health conditions prior to class.
While hot yoga is generally safe it is possible to strain or pull a muscle overstretching. This is why it is very important to listen to your body during class.
Do not push yourself past a point where you feel comfortable and safe, even if you think you can go deeper.
Working out in extreme heat can also have an impact on your body’s internal temperature. In extreme cases, this can lead to dehydration or even heat stroke so be mindful of your hydration and any drastic changes in how you feel during class.
Is Hot Yoga Good for Detoxing?
While detox is a term often used in discussions of hot yoga, this rhetoric typically presents incorrect information on how our body detoxes.
Our primary means of detoxification is internally through our kidneys and liver. Our sweat primarily secretes water and electrolytes, so the additional sweat you release in a heated room is not necessarily purging you of toxins.
Indirectly, the practice of hot yoga typically encourages individuals to drink more water. The increased fluid may prompt you to urinate more, eliminating toxins faster than if you had not been drinking water.
What Should I Wear to Hot Yoga?
You will be moving and sweating a lot so two things to consider in your attire are comfort and material. Tops should be fitted and made from a breathable, stretchy material.
A sports bra is strongly recommended and in some studios, shirts are not required if the proper undergarments are worn.
Clothing that is too tight is difficult to move in, clothing that is too loose may get in the way. An easy way to test your outfit before class is to touch your toes.
If your shirt feels tight around your core, it may be too tight. If it falls over your head it may be too loose, making movement in poses like Adho Mukha Svanasana more challenging.
Pants or shorts should also not restrict your movement. You look great in those jeans, but best to save them for after class. Yoga pants or shorts made from a breathable and lightweight material are recommended. Read this article to find the best yoga pants for hot weather or hot yoga.
Shoes are prohibited in the main space of most studios. There will typically be cubbies or lockers available to store them and other belongings. While the rules on socks aren’t as strict, with all of the movement and sweating you don’t want to wear something that may add to the slipping.
It’s recommended not to wear socks so you can connect completely with your mat. If your feet get cold easily or you really want to wear socks for a different reason, consider toeless socks. Bonus points for those with a grip on the bottom.
What Should I Bring?
The only prop you truly need for hot yoga is a mat, but bringing a few additional items may provide a more enjoyable experience. When selecting your mat for hot yoga look for one that has a good grip or is advertised as non-slip. From the humidity to the sweat, the extra grip will be especially important in a hot yoga class.
As you sweat it will also be helpful to have a towel available. Many hot yogis like to have a smaller towel available to wipe sweat from their face and lay a larger towel directly on their mat.
Though it may not be advised to drink water during a yoga class, you may need to so you stay hydrated. It is helpful to keep a water bottle handy.
Opt for a reusable, insulated bottle to keep your water at your ideal temperature. Not everyone cares for hot water after hot yoga.
Standard yoga props such as a strap or block can also be used in a heated class. These props aid in supporting or moving deeper into poses. If your instructor provides modifications these will be helpful to have on hand.
Bring to Class:
- Yoga mat with good grip
- Water bottle
- Comfortable, breathable athletic wear
- Yoga strap (if desired)
- Yoga blocks (if desired)
Some classes provide all of the necessary props, others may charge for yoga mats, and others may not even have mats available. If you don’t own your own equipment check with your studio before you arrive to know what they loan and the prices.
What Is a Yoga Towel and Do I Need One?
While your standard bath towel will do just fine in a hot yoga class, if you choose to commit to a consistent hot yoga class, it is worthwhile to invest in a yoga towel.
As yoga’s influence grows in the west, so does the availability of yoga products and props. While there are many different types of yoga towels, the main qualities to look for in your towel are grip and moisture wicking.
Where your bath towel is great for drying you off during class, a yoga towel is typically two sides. The front, towel side is soft and fast drying so you can soak up any sweat that drips during your practice.
The back of the yoga towel should have a sticky backing. This helps it stay in place on your mat so you and the towel don’t slip around.
What Are the Benefits of Hot Yoga?
A physical yoga practice can have many benefits. When practiced consistently, yoga is a great full body workout. It tones your muscles, builds strength, and stimulates organs for improved system functioning.
Hot yoga, in particular, encourages increased sweating. This leads to the consumption of more fluids and the result is indirect detoxification. The additional water also aids the cardiovascular and urinary systems.
Hot yoga is also a great tool for burning calories. The sequences of rapid movement also increase your heart rate. With consistent practice, you may also notice increased flexibility and improved posture. Many people find hot yoga to be mentally and physically cleansing, particularly aiding in stress relief.
How Will I Feel Afterwards?
From all of the energy expended and sweat lost, it is not uncommon to feel different after a hot yoga session. Following class, some people may feel energized by the increased heart rate and blood flow moving through poses.
Others too may feel tired as though they ran a long distance. In general, if you listened to your body and did not push yourself past your capabilities you will feel relaxed and more limber.
Is Hot Yoga Better Than Other Yoga?
Everyone has different style preferences so there isn’t truly a “best” style of yoga. The main difference between hot yoga and other similar styles is the heated room.
Many studios also play into the intensity of the routine by playing upbeat dance music and employing high energy instructors. If you like high energy, cardio exercises set to upbeat music you’ll likely enjoy hot yoga.
Both styles of yoga provide ample benefits, especially with consistent practice. The main draw of hot yoga is the increased mobility that may come from moving in the heat.
How Many Times a Week Should I Practice Hot Yoga?
Hot yoga can be a wonderful addition to an existing workout regime or as its own practice. The frequency of practice depends on your goals and current level of physical fitness.
If you desire to see immediate physical changes it is recommended to practice regularly three times a week or more. To further deepen your practice seek to practice daily. It is often hard to begin practicing again once you’ve stopped so consistency is key.
Is Hot Yoga for Me?
If you have attended other yoga classes, especially vinyasa flow, you may be interested in giving hot yoga a try. If you are new to yoga you may want to try a few unheated classes before trying a class at this intensity.
In either case, it is best to consult your doctor or other medical professionals before partaking in a new fitness program. This is a challenging and rewarding practice that is readily increasing in popularity. Find a studio near you and start sweating!