Hot yoga is an intensive workout practiced by millions of people worldwide. This form of yoga became popular in the early 1970s a few years after Bikram Choudhury, the creator of hot yoga, moved to the United States from Japan. Bikram is originally from Kolkata, India. He taught yoga primarily in India, Japan, and the United States.
What is Hot Yoga?
Hot yoga, or also popularly known as Bikram yoga, is practiced in hot and humid conditions. The temperature of the yoga studio is raised at about 40 °C (104 °F), and practitioners are not allowed to rest in between sets or postures.
Hot yoga originated in India, which, as you would know, has a warm and humid climate all year round. Bikram wanted to emulate the same condition in his yoga studios.
So what is hot yoga, and how is it done?
- Hot yoga is a fixed exercise routine with a total of 26 postures or asanas and two breathing exercises.
- Each class is 90-minutes long and is quite fatiguing.
- Most beginner hot yoga practitioners report the sessions to be tough on their bodies and mind.
- Needless to say, they get to enjoy the benefits as they get more comfortable with the heat.
What’s the Difference Between Hot Yoga and Bikram Yoga?
Hot yoga is derived from Bikram yoga. It is the newer, milder, and more advanced form of the original Bikram yoga. Most people do not consider both to be the same, and technically they aren’t. But it would be naive to dismiss the fact that yoga studios were invented with an intent to commercialize it.
Bikram yoga is very strenuous and not meant for everyone. Most people quit or suffer from dehydration–during or after the sessions. To cater to a broader audience, yoga studios (in the 80s and 90s) came up with a milder form of Bikram yoga. Flexible sequences, relatively colder temperatures, music, clapping, a lighter, more happy atmosphere, and attractive lights were quite appealing to the westerners.
Is Hot Yoga Good for You?
Due to the difficulty and arduousness of its sessions, most people wonder if it is worth investing their time and energy into hot yoga. Whether hot yoga is good or bad, entirely depends on your current physical condition.
Mentally, you could cope with the longer sessions. However, if you have any injuries or physical disabilities, then it would be better not to indulge in hot yoga or Bikram yoga.
Yin yoga is more suitable for those with injuries or someone wanting a more relaxed way to lose weight and improve their overall health.
Yin yoga is a slow-paced version of traditional yoga that involves easy-to-perform and low-injury-risk postures. Plus, you don’t have to sweat it out at 40 °C (104 °F) temperature.
So, is hot yoga good for you? Generally speaking, it is only useful if your body is in a relatively good state.
The Overall Benefits of Hot Yoga
1) More Flexibility
Unlike in regular yoga classes, hot yoga is performed in a hot and humid environment. The heat helps your muscles relax and get loose. Your body becomes more flexible. You don’t have to spend 15-20 minutes warming up.
The 24 postures are designed in a way to guide you from an easy to more challenging position gradually. Being more flexible is always better than having a rigid body. You are also less likely to get injured.
2) You Get a Great Cardio Workout
For cardio, most people perform unnatural exercises like running on a treadmill, spinning, and walking on elliptical machines. These machines can be useful for some people, but for most, they are the primary cause of injuries.
Your legs cannot sustain the pressure exerted by treadmills and elliptical machines– you are supposed to walk on a natural surface. The best thing about hot yoga is you don’t have to leave the mat at all. There is minimal risk of injury.
3) Better Blood Circulation Throughout the Body
Hot yoga forces your body to get into positions it is not accustomed to. If you are like most people, you must be spending most of your day sitting in an office chair in front of a computer.
While this is quite better and comfortable than being out in the sun, specific muscles in your body remain unused — and they atrophy with time. In hot yoga, the artificial heat present in the room promotes the flow of blood even in the unused parts of your body.
4) Gets Rid of Toxins
The heated room helps you sweat far more than you usually would. Instead of going for a long run and risking knee and ankle injuries, you can get the same detoxifying benefits with hot yoga. There is no risk of injury.
Plus, the postures stimulate the body’s vital organs like heart, kidneys, and liver. This is why most people feel good as new after 2-3 weeks of practicing this exercise form.
The benefits mentioned above are scientifically proven and are also experienced by most practitioners. A study by Henan Polytechnic University, China, concluded that hot yoga when practiced for about a year, could promote sleep, make you eat healthily, make you emotionally resilient, and improve your relationships with others.
This study was primarily done on female participants, but the same results have been observed with men too. However, it is crucial to continue the practice for a more extended period. A couple of weeks of hot yoga practice won’t yield you the results mentioned above.