February 20, 2017

Hot or Not? The Truth about Hot Yoga

by Kaitlin Monteith, Exercise Science Master’s Program Student

yoga-poseWhether you live in the city or the suburbs it is becoming exceedingly difficult not to notice the immense amount of pop-up yoga studios. On top of that, every single yoga studio seems to be a heated one, meaning that all classes are performed with a temperature range of 100 degrees to 117 degrees.  As the workout world is evolving more and more people have come to join the hot yoga craze—myself included—until I learned the extreme effects of heat on the body.

Traditional hot yoga moves through a fixed series of 26- poses in a 90-minute session, with a room temperature of 100+ degrees and 40 percent humidity. Yogis who are attracted to the more “physical” nature of hot yoga believe that they will experience a higher a calorie burn, increased flexibility and benefit from its “detoxification” mechanisms. Unfortunately, this statement is not 100% true.

History has shown people will try anything for an elevated caloric expenditure. However, according to a study done by Emory University; researchers concluded that hot yoga may not provide this over grossed idea of 1,000kcals burned per session. In fact, a 160-pound person can expect to burn roughly 477 calories per session. By comparison, the same person would burn around 189 calories in a hatha, or regular yoga class for the same duration. Furthermore, the majority of the initial weight loss from hot yoga consists of water weight lost through excessive sweating.  The “weight loss” will be put back on rather quickly following the workout. This means you cannot justify your double cheeseburger or venti caramel macchiato by participating in just one class.

Flexibility is a desired characteristic for many, especially women, but there is a difference between muscle flexibility and joint flexibility. Ligaments and tendons do not experience a large amount of blood flow. When you are in a heated environment, blood flow increases making you feel as if you are more flexible than you really are. When participants enter advanced poses in these hot studies, they may not feel their bodies’ natural stoppage point and surpass their safe zone. This is an important concept because when ligaments stretch out they stay that way and cause joint instability.

Finally, the major pull to hot yoga is its detoxification accomplished through excessive sweating. Sweat is a combination of water, salt, potassium, ammonia, and urea, with water being the largest component. True toxin elimination comes from the kidneys, liver, and even the colon. The purpose of the skin is to protect the body and regulate body temperature, not to “detox”. Participating in a 90 minute hot yoga session and sweating to death will not release your toxins. The blunt truth of it is that you are just dehydrating yourself and losing water weight.

So what’s the bottom line? Hot yoga is craze that many people are participating in for hopes of a “better and healthier” body. Unfortunately, many studies have proven that hot yoga shows no added benefit over regular yoga.  After reading the preceding if you still love to get your sweaty yoga on here are a few tips to keep your practice safe and healthy:

  • Handle the heat: If you begin to feel dizzy, try to concentrate on your breath and trust that you can recover.
  • Hydrate: Aim to drink up to two liters of water thoughout the day, and don’t try to make up for it by chugging right outside the studio.
  • Strategize you’re eating: Try not to eat two hours prior to class to avoid any nausea.
  • Work the attire: Bottom line is you are going to sweat! Choose lightweight clothing with minimal coverage to bear the heat. Many yogis choose spandex and a sports bra for class.
  • Don’t push it: Realize that there is a difference between discomfort and pain. If you cannot get into a pose, try the beginning stage of the exercise and work your way up to the advancement.
  • Embrace the downpour: Skip the towel, and let it rain! Sweat is a natural way to help maintain normal body temperature. Do not wipe away excess sweat before it evaporates, this acts as a shortcut, and you’ll need to sweat more just to achieve the same degree of cooling.


Goyanes, Cristina. “9 Things You Need to Know About Bikram Yoga.” Shape. Meredith Corporation, 2015. Web. 6 Jan. 2016.

Kelliher, Steven. “Can Hot Yoga Make You Lose Weight?” Livestrong. Demand Media, 8 Jan. 2014. Web. 7 Jan. 2016.

Larsen, Amber. “Hot Yoga: The Dangers and Myths You Need to Know.” Breaking Muscle. 2015. Web. 8 Jan. 2016.

Wilson, Jessica. “Battle of the Yogis: Hot Vs. Not (What Research says about Hot Yoga.” JessicaWIlsonYoga. 31 July 2013. Web. 8 Jan. 2016.

Additional Reading:

Hagins, Marshall, Wendy Moore, and Andrew Rundle. “Does practicing hatha yoga satisfy recommendations for intensity of physical activity which improves and maintains health and cardiovascular fitness?.” BMC complementary and alternative medicine 7.1 (2007): 40.

Hewett, Z.L. et al. (2011). An examination of the effectiveness of an 8-week Bikram yoga program on mindfulness, perceived stress, & physical fitness. Journal of Exercise Science & Fitness, 9, 2, 87–92.

Tracy, Brian L., and Cady EF Hart. “Bikram yoga training and physical fitness in healthy young adults.” The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research 27.3 (2013): 822-830.


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