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The Benefits of Hot Yoga

By Dawn Morse MSc
As Published in Om Yoga and Lifestyle Magazine


The practise of yoga has been around for thousands of years, but has become increasingly popular in the Western word in the last twenty years. There are many styles of yoga, which are practised in many different ways, however all practical forms of yoga focus on physical movement through a series of postures.

One form of yoga that is becoming increasingly popular is Hot Yoga, which is a yoga class which is taught in a warm and humid environment. The warm environment has many reported benefits such as increased muscular relaxation, which aids flexibility and movement. The reduction in muscular tension and increase in movement can lead to a reduction in muscular or postural related pain.

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In addition to this the warm environment may increase the detoxification effects of yoga practise, which means that the practise will provide additional benefits for the condition of your skin and lymphatic system. Many hot yoga practitioners also find that they experience weight loss due yoga practise in a warm environment, which can be due to the body systems working harder whilst performing yoga asana in the heat.

Other reported benefits of yoga practise include;
  • improved muscular strength and condition,
  • increased flexibility, improved posture and
  • increased levels of confidence and body awareness.
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Many people question how the reported benefits of hot yoga are achieved or if there is a scientific basis for the claims, as many people receive the benefits of yoga practise regardless of room temperature. For example taking part in any form of stretching activity for a period of time will increase muscle length and therefore increase range ofmovement and flexibility. These benefits will then be experienced by the yoga participant as improved movement.
Furthermore, completing a weight bearing posture such as Warrior One or Downward Dog will aid muscular strength, muscular endurance and flexibility within the limbs, hips and shoulders, regardless of room temperature.

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Therefore, why are many yoga practitioners being swayed to practise yoga, be it Hatha or Vinyasa based, within the heat?

A key justification for this could be down to increased levels of superficial and deep muscular relaxation and increased levels of muscular pliability which can be received through increased temperature.
For instance, many of us will have a memory of laying on a beach, feeling the warm sun and sand around your body and feeling relaxed with little muscular tension. A similar response of the warm summer sun is often experienced when you lower yourself into a warm bath.
This type of relaxation response is achieved through a trigger in the nervous system. When the nerve receptors within the skin pick up warm external temperature signals, a relaxation response is experienced within the muscule. This relaxation response is, in part, a triggered by an increase in blood delivered to the muscule through a process known as vasodilation.

Vasodilation has multiple benefits such as increasing blood supply to the warm muscles and helping to maintain core body temperature through increased levels of perspiration. In addition, increased levels of blood to the working muscles help the body to become more efficient during exercise or yoga practce, as blood cells carry increased levels of nutrients and oxygen.
When muscles are warm and have a good blood supply they are also more pliable. This means that the muscles can stretch to a greater degree without discomfort or increased risk of injury.

During traditional yoga practise many people will experience increased levels of heat and may find that they perspire during class. Over time many will also experience increased levels of flexibility and improved posture.
When practising in a warm environment such as a hot yoga class, these benefits may be experienced at an earlier rate.
For example, due to the increased room temperature the body will warm up quicker and any muscular tension that may be present, will reduce at a quicker rate. Over time the yoga practitioner may increase their rage of movement at certain joints more quickly, compared to that achieved during a regular yoga class.


Many people report that they experience weight loss as a result of hot yoga practise. This can be experienced for several reasons.

For example anyone new to yoga or exercise may experience weight loss as they will be burning more calories during the day then they used to.

During a hot yoga class the body is placed under additional stress as it has to cope with the demands of yoga, along with room temperature. As a result increased energy demands are experienced both for yoga practise and to regulate the body temperature, to ensure that it remains stable.
Therefore, some yoga practitioners may find that they burn more calories during a hot yoga class, compared to that of a traditional class. Over time this may result in additional weight loss. Other considerations should be taken into account though, such as the duration of the class and the intensity of yoga practise, as higher intensity classes over a longer period will also place greater demands on the body
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It's important though to remain hydrated during a hot yoga class

as the room temperature will increase the risk of dehydration and heat stroke. Both will have a negative effect on your experience of yoga and ability to practise yoga during the class. In the latter case mild heat stoke may affect you for the next couple of days. Therefore; ensure that you are hydrated before entering a hot yoga class and sip water throughout the class.
As you get used to hot yoga your body will learn and adapt to the environment, which may mean that you don’t need to sip water as often.
Most importantly listen to your body and take action as necessary, to ensure that you gain a fulfilled and enjoyable experience from hot yoga practise.
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References:

Cash, M. (2012). Advanced Remedial Massage
McArdle, W., Katch, F., & Katch, V. (2007). Exercise Physiology
Thibodeau, G., & Patton, K. (2007). Anatomy & Physiology