If you’ve been thinking about trying hot yoga but are skeptical of the myriad health claims devotees swear by, here’s something that might help you take the sweaty plunge.
A December 2014 study published in the International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Medicine shows women who regularly practice hot yoga experience better sleep, weight loss, improved mood, and healthier blood pressure, plus other vital signs (basically, a better life in general).
The study was done on 50 overweight young and middle-aged women who practiced hot yoga based on the well-known Bikram method four times a week for 90 minutes, for one full year.
Now granted, that’s a lot of yoga and a big commitment. The biggest flaw with the study is that it doesn’t say if these women were doing any other kind of exercise before the study, or if they went from nothing to four classes per week. If you’ve been doing nothing, you can do just about any kind of physical activity four days a week and see results.
Another flaw I’d be remiss not to point out is that the study doesn’t compare results to regular, non-heated yoga. The science is pretty clear that the hot temperature is just personal preference--it’s not physiologically doing anything extra for your health, except maybe help your muscles warm up for deeper stretches. In fact, the body actually burns more fat when it’s cold.
But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do yoga, hot or not. “This study illustrates that hot yoga does have physical benefits. There was some weight loss, and the greatest benefits were in their sleep and in their emotional and mental wellbeing. But those kind of results are pretty typical across a wide array of people who do any kind of yoga regularly,” explains yoga instructor Russell Case, an expert advisor for yoga and mindfulness website sonima.com.
He points out that yoga has been studied and shown to reduce anxiety and stress, increase flexibility and mobility, and even protect telomere length (the end caps to your chromosomes), which keeps all the cells in your body younger for longer, thus increasing longevity. These are the reasons yoga is so awesome.
Although some participants lost weight, it wasn’t dramatic. “If your goal is fat loss, yoga alone may not produce dramatic results and it’s important to factor in a healthy diet in addition to regular exercise,” says Case. “There is also research that shows interval training is a highly efficient protocol for maximizing fat burn.” He also recommends incorporating strength training into your exercise situation if you want to build muscles.
So if you want to try hot yoga or you’re already addicted, go for it. All in all, although the study definitely leaves a lot to be desired, it’s still nice to know that hot yoga isn’t just a bunch of hot air.
- Have you ever tried hot yoga?
- What did you think?
- What’s your favorite de-stressing workout?