105 degrees Fahrenheit and we're supposed to do what?
We already know that a regular yoga practice has a myriad of benefits, from cardiovascular strength to easing stress and depression. But why does it have to be hot? Do we need the heat to experience the benefits?
The heat is a tool.
In a Bikram-style 26 & 2 hot yoga class, we keep the heat 105 degrees Fahrenheit and the humidity at 40%. While it's not as hot as a sauna, which is usually between a 150F and 195F, the heated space can be challenging to practice in, especially in the beginning. However, the benefits are worth the sweat.
Benefits of Practicing Yoga in the Heat
You probably already know, that as you "warm up" your muscles it is safer to stretch them than when you're cold. The heat allows you access to warmed up stretching. It helps give access to flexibility and freedom of movement that would take longer in a cold room. A study from 2013 found that yogis who practiced Bikram yoga had greater flexibility in their lower back, hamstrings and shoulders than a control group. Anecdotally, we've found at Be Yoga, that our older students love the freedom of movement and the range of motion they have in a hot class.
The heat also allows our students who have limited ranges of motions to enjoy greater cardiovascular benefits and some increased range of motion.
Practicing yoga in a hot room also ups the amount of calories burned. An hour of traditional unheated yoga burns about 183 calories. According to researchers at Colorado State University, the burn averaged at 460 calories for men and 330 for women in a 90 minute Bikram class. Some people burn many more calories (over 1000!)
Thermodynamics (the relation of heat to forces acting between contiguous parts of bodies) show us that as we heat our bodies up, our blood vessels expand allowing more freshly oxygenated blood to flow throughout the body. Breathing in the warm air helps fuel your body for your movement by increasing the amount of oxygen and nutrients carried in your blood! It also increases the amount you sweat :). It gets your heart pumping, revs up your respiration and helps boost metabolism. It's so good for your cardiovascular system. Because of vasodilation (the widening of the blood vessels), there's easier access to the cardiovascular benefits even if you have limited mobility.
Several of the asanas we practice in original hot yoga sequence use what is referred to as a tourniquet effect to increase the therapeutic nature of the posture. For example, in salabhasana, locust pose, the practitioner lies on their arms, slowing the blood supply to their arms. When they release the arms, freshly oxygenated blood rushes through their blood vessels, clearing plaque and scar tissue. This effect is more pronounced in the hot room because of vasodilation. It's an amazing, healing benefit to the practice!
As sweating in a warm environment can improve circulation, it brings oxygen and nutrient-rich blood to the skin cells. Hot yoga helps nourish your skin from the inside out! Many practitioners love the healthy glow hot yoga brings to their skin.
See For Yourself
We can plainly see there's a myriad of benefits in practicing hot yoga. And there's still so much research to be done in all the ways hot yoga works. But come see for yourself! You'll feel the difference! Here's our schedule, if you'd like to join us in person or in a livestream class.
8 Benefits of Sweating It Out with Hot Yoga, James Roland, 2019 Healthline
Bikram Yoga Training and Physical Fitness in Healthy Young Adults, Brian L Tracy, Cady E F Hart, 2013 PubMed.Gov
Researcher: Hot Yoga Yields Fitness Benefits, Jeff Dodge, 2014 Colorado State University