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What is Hot Yoga? Definition, Benefits & What to Expect

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You may have heard of hot yoga, but what is it? Where does it come from and what benefits does it provide? This article will run through the ins and outs of hot yoga and what to expect from your first class. 

Contents

Before we start, if you want to turn your passion for yoga into a career you can get qualified with one of OriGym’s yoga courses. Once you’re qualified with your Level 3 yoga diploma, you can specialise in Hot yoga with our Level 4 yoga teacher training!

Alternatively, you can browse our downloadable course prospectus for more information on all the qualifications we offer.

What is Hot Yoga?

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Hot yoga is an intense form of yoga that is to be practised in hot studios (usually around 35-40°C / 95-104°F) with a humidity of around 40%.

Hot yoga classes can range from following a set sequence of poses, to more fluid Vinyasa classes. This varies depending on the type of hot yoga class that you do. 

There are 4 main hot yoga types: 

#1 - Bikram Yoga is a 90-minute class that involves performing a sequence of 26 hot yoga poses in a 40°C/105°F studio. 

The heat is thought to heal the mind and body as well as promote greater flexibility in muscles compared with traditional yoga styles. 

 

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#2 - Baptiste Power Vinyasa Yoga is a blend of different yoga styles including Bikram, Iyengar, and Ashtanga. The ratio of each will likely depend on the instructor's personal preference. 

The studio in this type of hot yoga will be around 32°C/90°F

#3 - Moksha Yoga is 90-minutes long and begins with relaxing hot yoga poses before following the same 26 pose sequence as Bikram yoga. 

During a Moksha hot yoga class, temperatures are slightly cooler than Bikram, on average, at 35°C/95°F.

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#4 - Hot Power Yoga is a fitness focused class that combines vinyasa poses and breathing techniques from the more traditional Ashtanga yoga style. 

Studios can vary anywhere between 29°C/85°F - 37°C/100°F. 

So, if you started reading this article wondering “what is hot yoga called?”, you now know that there are 4 different types each with its own name and characteristics. 

While there are other variations of hot yoga, the ones we’ve mentioned here are the most popular and the ones you’re most likely to see on your class timetable. 

Now that you know a bit about the types of hot yoga, what is its history? Let’s discuss the origins of hot yoga!

The Origin and History of Hot Yoga

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Hot yoga is thought to have derived from Bikram Choudhury, an Indian-born American yoga guru born in the mid-1940s. 

Choudhury claims to have devised the style from traditional hatha yoga techniques while travelling in Japan in the 70s. 

During his stay, he increased the temperature of the yoga studio he practised to represent the heat of India. 

To his surprise, many other practitioners enjoyed the positive effects this had on their minds and bodies and so started to recreate these conditions more frequently. 

Shortly after this, Choudhury moved to the United States where he started to conduct yoga sessions in high temperatures which is where Bikram yoga took off. 

Bikram yoga, therefore, is the original hot yoga type that consists of 26 asanas and 2 breathing exercises in a heated room at 40°C/105°F studio and 40% humidity.



What to Expect from a Hot Yoga Session

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Have you booked on to your first hot yoga class? What to expect and what to take to hot yoga are both questions you’ll need answering! 

Firstly, you should expect to sweat - a lot!

To best prepare yourself, consider doing the following:

  • Drink plenty of water before, during, and after the session - we’d recommend taking a thermal flask to keep your beverages cool

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  • Don’t eat too much before class but don’t go on an empty stomach either. Eat something light like a banana or small smoothie around 30-minutes before class
  • Take a yoga towel to pat yourself every once in a while
  • Wear thin, loose-fitted clothes. The last thing you’re going to want to wear is thick jogging bottoms or a jumper. Opt for lightweight yoga tops and shorts. 
  • If there are changing room and shower facilities, perhaps take a spare set of clothes for after class. 

There may be other equipment used such as yoga straps and yoga blocks, but these will usually be provided by the studio.

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Moreover, unless a class is advertised as a particular type of hot yoga, you should expect your yoga instructor to take influences from various types as per their preference. 

Finally, the duration of a class can be challenging for some so it’s better if you’re already familiar with yoga classes or you’ve been to a gentler yoga class before!

Make sure to take breaks whenever you need them and don’t take on too much. 

So, now that you know what to expect and what yoga equipment to bring to hot yoga, let’s now run through some of the health benefits of the practice. 



Health Benefits of Hot Yoga

#1 - Hot Yoga Sessions Improve Flexibility 

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You probably already know that stretching after you warm up is better for your body than stretching cold muscles. 

Hot yoga studios, therefore, are the ideal environment for stretching your muscles.

The heat will allow you to stretch a little further while also helping you to achieve a greater range of motion, both of which can help you to hold and transition into different poses more easily. 

 

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With this in mind, a 2013 study compared the flexibility of yogis who engaged in hot yoga against those that did yoga at room temperature. 

The results found that after 8 weeks, hot yoga participants had greater flexibility in their lower backs, hamstrings, and shoulders. 

So, while engaging in yoga at room temperature can improve your flexibility, hot yoga can enhance these effects and promote a fuller range of motion more quickly.



#2 Performing Hot Yoga Poses Burns More Calories 

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Another one of the great benefits of doing yoga in hot conditions is that it burns more calories compared with traditional yoga.

The average 160-pound person can burn around 183 calories per hour with regular yoga. 

However, according to researchers at Colorado State University, the calorie burn during a Bikram yoga class can be as high as:

  • 460 calories for men
  • 330 per hour for women

Therefore, if you’re wondering “is hot yoga good for weight loss?”, it’s most certainly a viable way to shed a few pounds and maintain weight loss

#3- Holding Hot Yoga Poses Can Build Bone Density 

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Holding a hot yoga pose for prolonged periods can also improve your bone density.

Yoga is a weight-bearing form of exercise which means you hold the weight of your body up against gravity. 

Resisting gravity in this way puts stress on the bones which stimulates the growth of new bone tissue. 

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Improving bone density is especially important for older adults and premenopausal women, whose bone density can decline with age and increase chances of conditions like osteoporosis.

It can be used as a preventative measure for everybody though, to promote bone strength as a whole!



#4 - Doing Hot Yoga Provides a Cardiovascular Boost 

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Holding and moving into various hot yoga poses will give the following even more of a challenging workout than at room temperature:

  • Heart
  • Muscles
  • Lungs

In fact, a 2014 study found that just 1 hot yoga class shares some of the benefits of walking at a brisk pace (3.5mph) by getting your heart pumping at a similar rate.

With that, hot yoga could be a more attractive alternative to doing cardio sessions in the gym while still improving your cardiovascular fitness! 

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There’s plenty of other knock on effects of strong cardiovascular health including:

  • Improved stamina
  • A more active immune system
  • Lowered risk of disease

Therefore, holding hot yoga poses in high temperature classes will have a huge positive impact on both your fitness levels and overall health!



#5 - Boosts Your Mood 

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As well as a range of physical benefits, there are fantastic mental benefits of hot yoga

Many people turn to yoga as a natural way to deal with stress as it activates your parasympathetic nervous system which promotes feeling calm. 

There are mental health benefits to exercise of any kind, including the release of endorphins and serotonin which give you that post-workout ‘high’.

With that, scientific research suggests there is a direct relationship between frequent yoga practice and alleviated anxiety and depression symptoms, which is another fantastic reason to get involved!

Since hot yoga is thought to be more intense than some other traditional yoga types, this means that practitioners can feel enhanced effects of this post-workout ‘high’.

So, if you approached this article wanting to know what to expect from hot yoga, you now know that there are some fantastic mental benefits that you ought to take advantage of! 

We’ll now run through some additional FAQs that you may have ahead of your next session. 



Frequently Asked Questions

Is Hot Yoga Suitable for Beginners? 

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There are different types of hot yoga and some of them are more suitable for beginners than others. If you’re interested in hot yoga for beginners, consider starting with Bikram yoga. 

Some yoga instructors encourage yogis to have a basic grasp of traditional yoga before attending a Bikram class but this only needs to be a class or two.

Then, once you’ve gotten used to Bikram yoga and posing in a heated room, you can move on to other hot yoga types.

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Baptiste Power Vinyasa Yoga and Hot Power Yoga can often be rigorous and athletic and so it’s best to have a few Bikram classes under your belt before moving on to these types. 

If you’re new to the hot yoga scene, be sure to refer to our list of what to take to hot yoga classes so you’re prepared for your first class. 



What’s the Difference Between Hot Yoga and Bikram Yoga?

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Hot yoga is a form of yoga performed for exercise that encompasses various different styles. 

‘Hot’ simply described the conditions of the studio and the various styles each offer something different i.e. different temperatures, sequences, and duration. 

If hot yoga stems from Bikram, what is the difference between hot yoga and Bikram yoga?

Essentially, Bikram is a type of hot yoga now that several different strands exist that utilise different poses and breathing techniques!

Bikram yoga sessions are 90-minutes long and the class traditionally ends with a 2-minute savasana (a pose lying on the back for relaxation at the end of a session).

 

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Before You Go!

We hope that you now know more about the style and what to expect from hot yoga holistically, as well as the vast health benefits it provides! 

Don’t forget if you’re interested in starting your own hot yoga classes, or becoming a Bikram yoga instructor specifically, check out our different yoga courses!

Remember too that you can download and browse our full course prospectus to see what other qualifications we have to offer!

References:

Tracy, B. and Hart, C., 2013. Bikram Yoga Training and Physical Fitness in Healthy Young Adults. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 27(3), pp.822-830.

Fritz, M., Grossman, A., Mukherjee, A., Hunter, S. and Tracy, B., 2014. Acute Metabolic, Cardiovascular, And Thermal Responses To A Single Session Of Bikram Yoga. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 46, pp.146-147.

Written by Emily Evans

Content Writer & Fitness Enthusiast

Emily studied English Language and Literature at the University of Sheffield, graduating in 2021 with a 2:1 BA honours degree. Alongside her degree, she also gained experience in student publication as Forge Press’ Lifestyle Editor and Deputy Editor for Post-Production. This is where her love for content writing stemmed from, which also led her to OriGym. Outside of her work, Emily will either be found on a long hike, at the gym or making a mess trying new healthy recipes in her kitchen!

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