Hot yoga is simply yoga which is performed in an artificially heated room – usually to around 40 degrees Celsius. This promotes heavy sweating during yoga practice and is thought to increase blood flow, help ‘flush’ out toxins and burn more calories than a normal, unheated yoga session.
People often use the term ‘hot yoga’ interchangeably with Bikram yoga – which is partially correct.
Bikram yoga is a type of hot yoga developed by Bikram Choudhury in the 1970’s. The yoga system which bears his name involves a heated room and 26 different yoga poses done in a specific order during a 90 minute session. Bikram yoga poses are supplemented by deep breathing exercises know as Pranayama. 1
Some teachers run hot yoga classes which are considerably shorter in duration, and don’t follow the specific order of 26 poses as set out by Bikram yoga. So, although the rooms are hot, the classes don’t bear other markers of Bikram yoga.
Therefore, all Bikram yoga is hot yoga – but not all hot yoga is Bikram yoga.
Hot yoga poses
The 26 poses of Bikram yoga are performed in order, beginning and ending with deep breathing. 2
- Deep Pranayama breathing
- Half moon pose
- Awkward pose
- Eagle pose
- Standing head to knee
- Standing bow pulling pose
- Balancing stick pose
- Standing separate leg stretching pose
- Triangle pose
- Standing separate leg head to knee pose
- Tree pose
- Toe stand
- Corpse pose
- Wind removing pose
- Sit up
- Cobra pose
- Locust pose
- Full locust pose
- Bow pose
- Fixed firm pose
- Half tortoise pose
- Camel pose
- Rabbit pose
- Head to knee with stretching pose
- Spine twisting pose
- Breath of fire
Is hot yoga good for you?
Hot yoga benefits include:
- Support blood flow– during a hot yoga session, heart rates become elevated, averaging about 160 beats per minute among healthy people. 3 Your heart works harder during hot yoga, delivering blood to the muscles and with it, nutrients and oxygen.
- Good for skin – most people finish a hot yoga session with a temporary rosy glow, thanks to the increased circulation to the capillaries in the skin. Fresh sweat also has an antimicrobial action and can help keep harmful germs at bay. 4 Wash your face as soon as you can after a session, though, as leaving fresh sweat for too long breeds bacteria and irritates skin.
- Reduced stress – many people who practice hot yoga find it grounds them more than unheated yoga, leaving their mind calmer. This might be because their body is working harder, the heart is pounding and they must focus more on the poses, all while keeping the breath slow and measured.
- Increased flexibility – you might get a deeper stretch in a hot yoga session thanks to the room’s temperature loosening your muscles. 5
Does hot yoga burn calories more than an unheated yoga practice?
This is hotly debated among hot yoga fans. It can certainly feel as though calories are leaving your body along with those buckets of sweat.
The truth is hot yoga doesn’t actually burn any more calories than a normal unheated session. 6
Bikram yoga is a challenging and strenuous class lasting 90 minutes, which accounts for the increased calorie burn.
Can you lose weight by doing hot yoga?
Yoga students burn calories during each session, whether the room is heated or not. As part of a healthy lifestyle, yoga can help overweight people lose fat and help maintain at a healthy weight.
What to wear hot yoga
There’s no two ways about it – in a hot yoga class – you’re going to sweat profusely.
Wear lightweight clothes made from sweat-wicking materials such as lycra, nylon or polyester. Be aware that natural fabrics like cotton aren’t ideal for hot yoga as they absorb sweat and become heavier.
A headband is also a good idea, to stop sweat rolling into your eyes.
Bring a towel to hot yoga to dab at any areas which may sweat excessively, such as the forehead or upper lip. Always take a change of clothes for after the class, and if there are shower facilities available, use them.
Finally, don’t forget your water bottle to re-hydrate frequently throughout class.
|Unheated yoga||Hot yoga||Bikram yoga|
|Room temperature||Normal room temperature from 20C- 22C||Anywhere from 35C – 40C||40C|
|Class length||Anywhere from 20 – 90 minutes||Anywhere from 20 – 90 minutes||90 minutes|
|Calories burned (based on 160lb person)||183kcal per 60 minute Hatha session (Ashtanga and Vinyasa are more athletic and will burn more)||306kcal per 60 minute session||Up to 460kcal per 90 minute session 7|
|Heart rate||100 – 130 beats per minute||160 beats per minute (for fit adults) 8||160 beats per minute (for fit adults) 9|
|Sweat||Low – some mild perspiration||Medium (classes tend to be shorter than Bikram)||High – a 90-minute class paired with a hot, humid room maximise sweat potential|
|Lunch break feasibility||A quick wipe and deodorant re-application and you’re good to go.||You’ll need a shower afterwards.||You’ll need a shower afterwards.|
Last Updated: 26th November 2020
Author: Bhupesh Panchal, Regulatory Affairs
Bhupesh started his career as a clinical toxicologist for Public Health England, advising healthcare professionals all around the country on how to manage clinical cases of adverse exposure to supplements, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, industrial chemicals and agricultural products. After 7 years in this role and a further year working as a drug safety officer in the pharmaceutical industry, Bhupesh joined Holland & Barrett as a Senior Regulatory Affairs Associate in 2019.
In his spare time, Bhupesh likes to cycle and has been learning to speak Korean for several years.