Is Hot Yoga Really Good for You?

Hot Yoga is a very popular form of yoga practiced by many. Participants exclaim the benefits of hot yoga as increasing flexibility and relaxation. However, a kinesiology study is not supporting those claims.

Mandatory Credit: Photo by KPA/Zuma / Rex Features (841984b) Ruth McLoughlin (CQ) of Sacramento sweats it up as she holds a yoga position at Yoga Loka in east Sacramento Bikram Yoga The type of yoga performed here is called Bikram yoga, and it uses heat medicinally to keep muscles loose, open pores up etc. Heat is pumped into the room and approaches 100 degrees during the 1 1/2 hour session, and this is the only place in town where they actually turn up the heat during our scorching summers
Photo by KPA/Zuma / Rex Features (841984b)

Yoga is an ancient Indian philosophy, described as a therapeutic intervention and health maintenance practice that unites the mind and body to aid healing through the combination of physical postures, breathing techniques, and meditation.

There is ample research regarding yoga practiced in an environment that is thermoneutral, or in an environment that does not alter the metabolic heat production or evaporative heat loss of people. However, minimal research exists on the increasingly popular form of yoga known as hot yoga. Hot yoga is defined as yoga practiced in an environment that is often humidified and 95° F (35° C) or warmer.

A kinesiology Master’s thesis compared the physiological and mood effects deriving from a single bout of hot yoga and a single bout of thermoneutral yoga in 15 female, experienced yoga practitioners.

Data collected pre-to post-hot yoga and pre-to-post-thermoneutral yoga included flexibility of the lower back, trunk, and hamstrings, heart rate, sweat rate, and mood.

The results showed that all variables increased following both yoga classes. Flexibility was 10% greater following the thermoneutral yoga class than the hot yoga class. Sweat rate and heart rate were significantly greater during the hot yoga class than the thermoneutral yoga class. In fact the sweat rate was 52%  higher and heart rate  was 11% in the hot yoga versus the thermoneutral yoga sessions.

Mood was similar between the two forms of yoga.

Physical exhaustion was increased by 31% following the hot yoga class and decreased by 16% following the thermoneutral yoga class.

Although the study involved few participants it does lead to some cautionary observations and recommendations.

  1. Hot yoga may not be any better than thermoneutral yoga in increasing flexibility.
  2. Hot yoga does increase both sweat and heart rates which leads to heat exhaustion.
  3. Hot yoga may not be suitable for people with heart conditions or other medical conditions where heat stress is not advisable.
  4. All yoga practitioners and especially hot yoga practitioners may be advised to replace their water and electrolytes following a session because of the increased sweat loss. One great electrolyte replacement product I recommend is the Arbonne Phytosport Complete Hydration.
Phytosport Hydration
Click on image for more information
Source: Campbell, Hannah K., MSc Thesis “The Comparative Effects of Hot Yoga and Thermoneutral Yoga on Flexibility, Heart Rate, Sweat Rate, and Mood”, University of Arkansas, 2015, Dissertation/thesis number:1596177
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