The initial thought of sweating it out in a room set to steamy temperatures upwards of 90°F—not to mention with a humidity of 40 percent—probably has you running for the hills. Or maybe you’ve already found your chi with regular yoga and are wondering just how different hot yoga could really be. But rest assured, hot yoga is its own unique fitness experience that offers countless benefits both physically and mentally. That’s right—those sweaty yoga addicts keep coming back class after class for some good reasons.
What is hot yoga?
Hot yoga is essentially regular yoga that’s practiced in a heated room. If you’ve ever heard the term “Bikram yoga,” you may have assumed that it’s the same thing, but, in fact, it’s a whole separate workout. Bikram consists of 26 patented poses and two breathing exercises that are performed in that same order every class for a period of 90 minutes. Hot yoga, on the other hand, is typically a 60-minute class that consists of far more poses that vary by class and studio, much like regular yoga. It consists of a much more flowing vinyasa-style practice that gracefully links one pose to the next in an interchangeable fashion.
For whom does hot yoga work?
Anyone is welcome to get hot and sweaty with a crowd full of passionate yogis. People of all experience levels can tackle the poses with a little bit of help from the instructor. Have bad knees? A bad back? Hot yoga is great for you! The heated room can help relax your muscles and even circulate blood to the areas causing you pain. However, pregnant women should speak to their doctor after their first trimester of pregnancy.
The physical benefits of hot yoga
Like any form of yoga, you can expect to experience at least minimal stretching from one pose to the next, but, rest assured, you won’t have to contort your body into foreign and hard-to-reach positions. The heated room will help loosen your muscles and allow you to safely reach new levels of flexibility.
Yoga is one of those workouts that allows you to determine your level of impact. If you’re not feeling well and only want to put half the effort in, you’re completely free to do so. And if you’re really digging that downward dog, go ahead and try for the one-legged version. As you continue to master moves, you’ll realize how much more strength and resilience you have to stay in the position for longer periods of time.
One of the key elements to any yoga practice is stillness of posture while maintaining an evenness of breath. The addition of the heated room only makes this focus on breathing more challenging. After several classes, you’ll start noticing an ability to hold your breath more steadily and for longer periods.
Feel like you’re coming down with a cold or battling bouts of a chronic condition? Hot yoga is a friend to those suffering in any capacity, and has been known to reduce symptoms of a variety of illnesses including asthma, diabetes, high blood pressure, depression, arthritis and more. This is because the hot air helps detox your body of harmful substances.
When your heart rate increases, it means your body is working harder and burning more fat. In addition, the heat increases your body’s metabolism levels and speeds up the breakdown of fat, helping you tone and potentially even lose weight.
The mental benefits of hot yoga
Increases body awareness
In hot yoga, you’re introduced to a whole new world of sensations, the first being the heated temperatures while sitting on a mat in a large room filled with people. Every muscle, every movement is heightened due to the slow nature of the workout. Yoga instructors give very detailed instructions for how to get into—and stay in—each pose, so you can spend more energy focusing on nailing the position and getting the most out of it.
Whether it’s early in the morning before you head to work or after a long day at the office, finding your chi in a quiet, relaxing environment where you can stretch out tense muscles is the closest thing to a full-body massage you’ll get outside of a spa. In other words, you’ll leave feeling like a million bucks.
Sharpens attention and concentration
Like anything in life, yoga has its distractions—that guy stationed behind you in class with the sniffing sinus infection or the cars beeping outside during rush hour. But one thing hot yoga teaches is how to block these distractions from your daily life so you can focus on your Ujjayi, or “ocean breath,” meaning your inhale and exhale.
If reading this article alone has you feeling a bit more relaxed and well-centered, it’s time to give hot yoga a try. Whether you’re a seasoned yogi looking to broaden your horizons or a newbie hoping to find your workout of choice, hot yoga can be beneficial to both your fitness and health goals and your stress level and sense of self. (Hey, you can try five classes for only $19 for one month when you join ClassPass!)