Even if you are new to yoga, you’ve likely heard of hot yoga, either from a friend or two raving about the workout or just by passing by a hot yoga studio in your local area.
Although hot yoga is certainly in its very nascent stages compared to the discipline of yoga as a whole, its popularity is undeniable.
Fans of hot yoga flock to heated yoga studios to sweat it out, relishing the many physical, mental, and spiritual benefits of hot yoga.
But besides causing you to sweat a lot, what are the benefits of hot yoga?
In this article, we will discuss the various benefits of doing hot yoga, including ways in which hot yoga can improve your physical health, mental well-being, and spiritual connections.
We’re going to cover:
- What Are the Physical Health Benefits of Hot Yoga?
- What Are the Spiritual and Mental Health Benefits of Hot Yoga?
Let’s get started!
8 Physical Health Benefits of Hot Yoga?
There are quite a few benefits of hot yoga, some of which are common to other styles of yoga, and some of which are unique to Bikram yoga as a product of the high temperatures themselves.
#1: Hot Yoga Can Reduce the Risk of Injuries
By definition, hot yoga is practiced in a room or environment that is very warm. This elevates the core temperature of the body, warming your muscles and connective tissues.
As your body heats up, circulation increases, so the blood flow to your tissues increases.
This, in turn, makes your muscles and tendons more pliable, reducing stiffness.Therefore, if you move into a pose that requires a good range of motion, your body should be prepared to yield into the correct posture more easily.
This reduces the risk of pulling a muscle or straining a tendon for sudden movements or deeper stretches.
#2: Hot Yoga Increases Range of Motion
As just briefly touched upon, hot yoga increases the flexibility of your muscles and can improve your range of motion.
One of the first things people notice when they start practicing hot yoga is that they are able to stretch deeper into poses than during other styles of yoga performed in a cooler environment.
Over time, as you are able to repeatedly stretch your muscles further during your Bikram yoga workouts, your tissues will become used to moving through a greater range of motion.
This can help you feel more spry and less stiff during your daily life, for example when you first get up in the morning or when you stand up after a long meeting.
#3: Hot Yoga May Remove Toxins from the Body
You sweat a lot during hot yoga, and sweat can be an effective means of removing certain toxins for the body.
For example, there is evidence to suggest that BPA can be removed from the body by sweating.
BPA (Bisphenol A), is a potentially harmful industrial chemical used to manufacture certain types of plastic and epoxy resin.
It is often found in food containers, bottled water, baby bottles, canned foods, and hygiene products, yet according to the Mayo Clinic, BPA exposure can potentially cause adverse health conditions such as hypertension, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, brain defects in fetuses, and behavioral problems.
Studies also show that PCBs can be removed from the body through sweat.
PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls, are manufactured organic chemicals used in coolants and insulators in transformers, capacitors, and motors, as well as plasticizers in paints and coatings of electrical wires and other electronic parts.
They can accumulate in fat cells and disrupt the endocrine system.
Sweating may also help release phthalates, which are man-made compounds used in malleable plastic products, and have been linked to infertility, obesity, allergies, asthma, and birth defects.
#4: Hot Yoga Can Improve Lung Capacity
Hot yoga includes breathwork exercises (pranayamas), which can improve your breathing mechanics and your lung capacity.
These improvements can be transferred to other aspects of your fitness, helping you have a smoother and more even breathing pattern during vigorous exercise such as running.
#5: Hot Yoga Improves Circulation
One of the top health benefits of hot yoga is that it increases circulation.
The more blood flow that your tissues and organs receive, the better oxygenated and nourished they will be because blood carries vital oxygen and nutrients.
People with certain medical conditions, such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, or Raynaud‘s disease, often have particularly poor circulation.
Exercise is one of the best ways to increase circulation because it elevates your heart rate and dilates your blood vessels, both of which result in greater blood flow throughout the body.
However, unfortunately, for many people with chronic medical conditions, vigorous exercise can be extremely uncomfortable, if not impossible or ill-advised.
One thing that’s great about hot yoga is that it’s a low-intensity and low-impact exercise compared to something like running, yet it can still elicit comparable increases in blood flow due to the body’s natural response to the high temperatures.
Therefore, hot yoga can potentially be a good type of exercise for people who cannot tolerate high-impact, high-intensity workouts.
With that said, Bikram yoga may not be safe for individuals with certain medical conditions due to the physical stress imposed on the body from exercising in the heat.
It’s important to check with your doctor before beginning hot yoga if you have any acute or chronic medical conditions.
#6: Hot Yoga Can Strengthen Your Immune System and Reduce Inflammation
Exercise, including yoga, is a great way to strengthen your immune system and decrease inflammation.
One of the ways in which hot yoga improves your immune function is by stimulating the lymphatic system.
The lymphatic system plays a key role in keeping you healthy and fending off illnesses because it circulates immune cells throughout the body.
However, the lymphatic vessels are primarily passive, so you have to move your body and contract your muscles in order to effectively circulate lymph.
Holding yoga poses causes your muscles to squeeze the lymphatic vessels, propelling the circulation of lymph.
Furthermore, in much the same way that blood circulation increases as your body temperature rises, so too does lymphatic circulation.
Thus, hot yoga is an extremely effective way to stimulate your lymphatic system, circulate white blood cells around your body, and reduce inflammation.
#7: Hot Yoga Can Increase Bone Density
Although we are usually told that the best type of exercise to increase bone density is high-impact activities such as running or jumping, there is evidence to suggest that hot yoga can also help improve bone density.
For example, a 2014 study found that premenopausal women who participated in Bikram yoga over a 5-year period demonstrated increased bone density in the femoral neck, hips, and lumbar spine.
This is great news for anyone at risk of osteoporosis or who currently has low bone density because low-impact hot yoga can be a safer way to improve bone health without increasing the risk of fracture through high impact.
#8: Hot Yoga Can Help You Lose Weight
Any type of exercise can potentially help you lose weight because physical activity burns calories.
However, in general, yoga isn’t the most effective form of exercise for burning calories because it’s not particularly intense.
It is important to note that you may lose weight in a single hot yoga workout but that weight loss is solely attributable to water loss through sweating.
It’s very important to rehydrate fully and as soon as possible after your workouts.
True weight loss, or fat loss, occurs by generating a caloric deficit (burning more calories per day than you consume).
4 Spiritual and Mental Health Benefits of Hot Yoga
#1: Hot Yoga Can Reduce Stress
The stress-relieving benefits of yoga are well established, and studies show they extend to hot yoga as well.
For example, one study found that a 16-week hot yoga workout routine significantly reduced stress, increased self-efficacy, and bolstered health-related quality of life, in sedentary, stressed adults.
#2: Hot Yoga Can Connect You to Your Breath
Both the actual breathwork exercises themselves as well as the physical and mental challenge of performing yoga poses in such a stifling environment during hot yoga can help you become more mindful of your breath.
Pranayama directly connects you to your breath. During a tough pose, using your breath as an anchor to settle your body and mind into the present moment can be a powerful tool.
This skill can be called upon off the yoga mat in other areas of your life.
For example, if you’re frustrated at work, stressed about a project, dealing with pain, or stuck in maddening traffic, you can tap into your breath and ease your body and mind through the stress.
Through your breath, you can find a release of tension and a wash of composure.
#3: Hot Yoga Can Alleviate Depression
As per the American Psychology Association, yoga can be an effective means of reducing the symptoms of depression, and research supports this recommendation.
A large review found that yoga can indeed be beneficial for elevating mood and reducing the symptoms of depression.
#4: Hot Yoga Is Challenging But Feels So Good
By raising the temperature in which you exercise, hot yoga challenges your body, mind, and spirit, causing you to sweat, requiring you to focus, and challenging your ability to endure and find stillness more than many other styles of yoga.
You’ll leave a hot yoga class feeling proud, energized, formidable, and healthy.