Taking place in a heated room, hot yoga will certainly get you working up a sweat. And in recent years the number of people practicing hot yoga and Bikram has sky-rocketed. So why is hot yoga so popular, and what can it do for your physical and mental health?
Before we jump into the reasons why practicing in a hot room is so good for the body and mind, it's worth noting that although Bikram and hot yoga share certain similarities, there are some subtle differences between these two practices.
Hot Yoga vs Bikram.
One of the biggest differences between hot yoga and Bikram, is hot yoga classes tend to incorporate different styles of yoga, meaning classes will often vary in pace and intensity.
Bikram on the other hand, consists of 26 postures and two breathing exercises, always completed in the same order and lasting around 90 minutes.
In traditional Bikram practices, the room is always heated to 105°F (41°C) with 40 percent humidity to replicate the climate of India, whereas the temperature in hot yoga classes varies depending on the studio. And whilst hot yoga classes tend to offer more interaction, typical Bikram classes are usually quieter and more focused.
But whether you're taking part in hot yoga or a traditional Bikram, practicing in a heated room offers huge health benefits for the mind and body. And to get you inspired, we've listed a few below.
1. Increased flexibility
It's a known fact that yoga is good for improving your flexibility, but hot yoga is particularly effective. Practicing in a heated room allows your muscle to expand and contract further, allowing your body to stretch deeper into poses without risking injury. That being said, yoga is about being kind to your body and forcing yourself into postures or over-stretching will not do you any favours, even in hot yoga.
2. Removes toxins from the body
Although not all hot yoga classes offer quite the same heat and humidity levels as traditional Bikram classes, practicing in a warm room over 30 degrees will soon get the sweat pouring. And whilst it may feel sticky and uncomfortable to begin with, sweating is a great way to free your body from toxins, leaving you feeling cleansed and refreshed.
3. Burn more calories
If one of your goals is weight loss, hot yoga is a great way to burn extra calories. Classes that follow the traditional 26-posture Bikram sequence are often pretty intense and combined with the hot humid conditions, your heart rate is increased as your body is working harder to cool itself down. A recent study by Colorado State University revealed the average man will burn approximately 460 calories during a 90-minute Bikram yoga session, whilst women burn an average of 330.
4. Cleanses the skin
Sweating helps improve your circulation, which in turn carries oxygen and blood to your skin cells, helping to generate a healthy and radiant glow. Sweat also contains antimicrobial properties that act as a natural antibiotic, protecting against infections and harmful bacteria. So rather than sweat being responsible for spots like we're led to believe, it actually helps prevent a breakout.
5. Builds bone density
Maintaining bone density is important, especially for older adults and premenopausal women. And weight-bearing exercises such as poses practiced in Bikram yoga are a great way to build bone density, regardless of your age and stage in life. In 2010, a scientific study examined the bone mineral density for a group of 14 pre-menopausal women, all of whom had participated in Bikram Yoga classes at least 3 times a week for the past 3 years or more years. The results found bone mineral density was above average for normal, healthy, women of similar age.
6. Boosts your mood
Pretty much all forms of exercise will help improve your mood, and hot yoga is no different.
When you sweat, your brain releases endorphins which help to create that positive " I'm ready to take on the world " feeling. And due to the heavy sweating and intensity of hot yoga, it's one of the most effective ways to achieve that endorphin rush.
7. Improves your lung capacity
Increasing your lung capacity helps transport oxygen around the blood more efficiently, and the breathing exercises in traditional Bikram yoga aim to do exactly this. By practicing deep breathing, the lungs become flexible and capable of holding more oxygen.
What You Need
You're going to sweat, a LOT. To avoid over-heating, make sure you wear light-weight, breathable clothing that wicks sweat away fast. Staying hydrated is crucial, so make sure you drink plenty of water before-hand and bring a bottle with you. Don't forget to drink plenty after class too.
You'll also need a good non-slip yoga mat. Cork yoga mats offer the best surface, as their grip increases the more you sweat. They're also more hygienic, thanks to cork's antibacterial properties. And unlike plastic mats, cork yoga mats are made using a sustainable production process, making them the best environmental choice too.
Whilst hot yoga is perfectly safe for the majority of individuals, there are a few safety precautions worth noting.
Dehydration - Dehydration is easily avoidable provided you drink plenty of water before, during, and after your class. Sports drinks are also a good way to replace electrolytes.
Pre-existing health conditions - Conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, arterial abnormalities, low blood pressure, and anorexia nervosa can put you at an increased risk of fainting during hot yoga.
Low blood pressure or low blood sugar - If you have low blood pressure or blood sugar, you're more likely to experience dizziness or lightheadedness during hot yoga.
Pregnant women - If you're pregnant and want to practice hot yoga, you should consult your doctor first.
The Golden Rule
Yoga is about listening to your body, and in hot yoga, this is particularly important. So, if you start feeling nauseous, dizzy, or light-head, take yourself outside to cool down and drink plenty of water.