10 Reasons to Try Hot Yoga

Hot yoga has been booming for years in the West, and the trend is not simply hype. Sweating is good for us, and yoga is good for us. So, naturally, putting the two together can be even more effective. For some, the idea of going into a 100-degree room with a bunch of other sweaty yogis sounds a little intimidating, but practicing hot yoga regularly offers a myriad of health benefits. The studies below refer to a specific style of hot yoga—Bikram—but hot yoga comes in various styles, including vinyasa, so find the hot yoga practice that works for you. Whichever style you choose, here are 10 great reasons to try hot yoga.

  1. It relieves stress. A study tracking the effects of an eight-week hot yoga program showed that regular practice lowered perceived stress levels and enhanced mindfulness.
  2. It’s good for your heart. In the same study, researchers suggested that practitioners’ elevated heart rate, likely a result of both the heated room and the yoga postures, could lead to the cardiovascular benefits commonly associated with aerobic exercise.
  3. It’s detoxifying. The body rids itself of toxins—such as arsenic, cadmium, lead, mercury, and other chemicals—via sweat, so sweating more helps improve our elimination process through the skin and lightens our toxic load.
  4. It will improve your deadlift. Hot yoga has been shown to increase shoulder flexibility (see number 6), which means fewer injuries when you pick up and put down heavy things.
  5. It supports healthy cholesterol levels. In an eight-week hot yoga intervention, HDL (“good” cholesterol) and total cholesterol were shown to decrease in a young adult population; older adults showed a decrease in total cholesterol levels.
  6. It increases flexibility. Heat increases metabolic rate; [by warming you up, it allows you to stretch more.  One study found that applying heat for 20 minutes or more increased the flexibility of the knee and decreased the amount of force needed from the muscles to flex the knee, by a whopping 25 percent. That means that, in a hot yoga class, you can do more with less and have the added benefit of being more flexible, decreasing your risk for injury.
  7. It enhances thyroid function. People who suffer from hypothyroidism have a harder time breaking a sweat when exercising in a temperate room. Hot yoga can help them induce a sweat, freeing up the thyroid receptors for the utilization of iodine, helping the thyroid to better function.
  8. It's good for your blood sugar levels. Research done in 2013 showed that hot yoga practice improved glucose tolerance (how quickly the body clears glucose from the blood) in a group of adults who were at risk for metabolic health issues such as diabetes.
  9. It helps you sleep better. In a study of 13 healthy male and female practitioners who participated in hot yoga twice weekly, researchers found that, on practice days, the subjects had an easier time falling back asleep after nocturnal awakenings than on the days they did not practice.
  10. It increases your ability to acclimate to hot temperatures. Hyperthermic conditioning—acclimating yourself to a hot environment by being exposed to heat stress incrementally—increases blood plasma volume and blood flow to your heart and other body parts. It also motivates the body to start sweating more quickly in aerobic activities, since the body is expecting an increase in temperature. Thus, hot yoga can improve our performance in other activities in which the body temperature naturally elevates, such as running, hiking, biking, or dancing.

Ready to give it a try? A few suggestions for hot-yoga newbies: Choose a class that is an hour long maximum, make sure you don’t eat for at least two hours before you practice, drink lots of water before and after class, and never push it—if you start to feel dizzy or unwell, immediately sit down and leave the room as soon as you feel stable. And, of course, make sure you don’t overdress!

© Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health. All rights reserved. To request permission to reprint, please e-mail editor@kripalu.org.

Sarajean Rudman, E-RYT 500, is a clinical nutritionist, Kripalu Yoga teacher, Ayurvedic practitioner, life coach, fitness instructor, and outdoor adventure guide.

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