4 Scientifically Proven Benefits of Hot Yoga
Some people swear by it, but Hot Yoga, and it’s most popular form Bikram, has become controversial. Many claim that you can sweat out toxins while burning up to 1000 calories in 90 minutes. (1) But the safety and efficacy of Hot Yoga has been questioned by several sources.
There are few studies published on Hot Yoga and the groups that benefit the most from this intense exercise.
Read on to find out how you can benefit from Hot Yoga and how to stay safe.
What is Hot Yoga?
Hot Yoga, in North America, is most often Hatha Yoga performed in a warm humid room.
Hatha Yoga varies from one instructor to another as it is a combination of other Yoga forms. (2)
To know which type of Yoga is good for you it is important to talk to the instructor before hand to gain an idea of the class intensity level.
Bikram Yoga is the most popular form of hot Hatha Yoga. (3)
It includes 26 poses over 90 minutes in a 104 F (40 C) room with 40% humidity.
There are other types of Hot Yoga, such as Moksha Yoga which is designed to focus the mind on inner peace and social responsibility and is achieved through 40 poses.
4 Proven Benefits of Yoga
1. Increase your Physical Fitness and Range of Motion
The most widely reported benefits of Yoga are physical. Muscle strength, endurance and flexibility are gained through Yoga training. (5)
An increase in visual and auditory reaction time shows that physical improvements are also linked to brain function and reflex speed. (6)
Flexibility is significantly improved, especially spinal flexibility which has application in pain management. (7)
2. Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Function improvements
Pulse rate and Blood Pressure are improved through practicing Yoga, decreasing your risk of heart disease. (8) Glucose Tolerance and Insulin Sensitivity is improved by yoga making weight loss easier. (9)
Yoga has been shown to improve the way you react to other exercises such as running or stair stepping. So adding Yoga to your exercise routine can actually make your body believe these exercises are easier! (10)
Many studies show that Yoga improves lung function in people who have pulmonary diseases, but it’s also been shown that Yogic breathing improves functioning in young healthy individuals as well. (11)
3. Boost Bone Density and avoid Osteoporosis
Weight bearing exercises such as Yoga improve bone growth as well as decreasing bone loss. (12), (13) This is especially important for women but it is also important for active men. Posture and bone improvements are important factors for heavier male frames.
4. Enhance your Sleep and Lift your sense of Wellbeing
Yoga has been shown to improve sleep disturbance in even the toughest situations. Women with osteoarthritis, menopausal transition, and breast cancer survivors have all reported improved sleep and feelings of personal wellbeing while on a yoga program. (14), (15), (16), (17)
Toxins and your health
The world is full of chemicals, natural and man-made, that affect your body in a number of negative ways.
Toxins found in the human body are called Xenobiotics and there are several tools your body uses to detoxify (18):
- Digestive system
Exercise, a balanced diet and saunas have been shown to improve the way these organs detoxify and cleanse your body. (19)
Yoga combines these tools to efficiently jump start your body’s natural cleansing processes.
Scientific Research has proven that many Xenobiotics are linked to obesity and these toxins are now called Obesogens. (20)
Since Obesogens are often lipid soluble compounds and stored in fat, exercise is an important factor in detoxifying.
The liver not only filters toxins from our body it also breaks these chemicals down into a form that can be removed through urine, sweat and breath.
Therefore, hydration and replacing electrolytes is an important aspect of detoxification.
So why Hot Yoga?
At this point, you’re probably thinking, “It sounds like Yoga in general has all of these beneficial claims, why make it Hot?”
There are no proven conclusions in the Hot Yoga vs. Yoga debate.
But boy are there A LOT of personal testaments to the value of Hot Yoga (and any form of Yoga, really).
It comes down to personal preference, and that’s ok!
Hot Yoga fans claim to feel revitalized and refreshed in ways that other types of Yoga have not made them feel. That’s a motivating statement.
Like many forms of exercise the real benefit comes from how often you do it. If it is a lifestyle and not just an activity that you force yourself to do, then you are more likely to do it often.
Enjoying the activities that you do is the path to wellbeing.
Most studios have drop-in opportunities for those who are interested in trying Hot Yoga. You are not going to know if you will love it until you try it.
Is Hot Yoga Safe?
Rumors about the safety of Hot Yoga are circling, many stories are unfounded and others are entirely preventable.
It has been shown that injuries are often sustained while performing “extreme poses”, lacking in proper supervision, already having medical preconditions and/or improperly practicing forceful breathing. (21)
The conclusion from this would seem to be that a healthy individual being lead by a skilled instructor should have little to worry about.
Even healthy individuals or those who have gained approval from their doctors can take precaution:
Start with Yoga at room temperature, with an instructor that does Hot Yoga as well as other forms of Yoga. (24)
Once you have gained trust, knowledge and physical fitness foundation, try intermediate yoga classes and/or Hot Yoga with your preferred instructor.
Hydrate before, during and after each session. And for that matter, keep hydrated even when you are not exercising!
Listen to your inner voice. If you need a break, take it!