When Bikram Choudhury first introduced the concept of hot yoga in the 1970s, he unlocked a new path to wellness that has since been adopted worldwide. Hot yoga, a practice performed in high heat and humidity conditions, is more than just a sweat-inducing workout.
It’s a holistic journey that integrates body, mind, and spirit, promoting flexibility, strength, and inner peace. The heated environment also boosts metabolism, leading to significant calorie burn.
However, like any fitness regimen, hot yoga comes with its own set of pros and cons. While it offers numerous health benefits, it also demands caution from practitioners, particularly beginners.
In this article, we focus on hot yoga – exploring the hot yoga calorie burn, its advantages, potential pitfalls, and more.
Is Hot Yoga Good for Burning Calories?
Hot yoga refers to any type of yoga adapted to a heated environment, typically between 85-105°F (29-40°C) with 40% humidity. The heat is designed to improve flexibility, deepen stretches, support enhanced breathing and promote increased sweating. It’s no surprise that such a workout can burn a significant number of calories in one session (2).
The heated and humid environment naturally increases your heart rate and metabolism. This metabolic boost, combined with the physical exertion of maintaining the poses, contributes to calorie burn.
Additionally, hot yoga poses can engage multiple muscle groups at once. Holding and transitioning between these poses can help build strength and endurance, which supports muscle growth. Muscle tissue is metabolically active and burns more calories than fat, even at rest (3).
Therefore, the more muscle you build through consistent yoga practice, the higher your resting metabolic rate could be, leading to increased calorie burn.
A common misconception is that the high temperature of hot yoga sessions leads to greater calorie burn than other forms of yoga. That said, research suggests that the heat may not make as much of a difference in terms of calories burned as is often thought.
In reality, the heat primarily serves to warm up the muscles and increase flexibility, but it doesn’t directly contribute to calorie burn.
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How Many Calories Burned In a 1-Hour Hot Yoga Session?
Exactly how many hot yoga calories burned in a 60 minutes session will be influenced by the intensity of your practice, your body composition, and numerous other factors. However, studies indicate that you can expect significant calorie burn, ranging from around 330 to 600 calories from an hour-long class (7).
Power yoga, for instance, can burn about 360 calories in an hour. This style of yoga is often performed in a heated room and involves a dynamic flow of poses that significantly work your muscles and increase your heart rate.
Bikram yoga, another popular form of hot yoga, can help you burn even more. A session of Bikram yoga, which consists of a specific series of 26 postures and two breathing exercises performed in a room heated to approximately 105°F with a humidity of 40%, can help you get up to 477 hot yoga calories burned per hour.
A study from Colorado State University found that men burned an average of 460 calories and women burned 330 calories per 90 minute Bikram session (4). This difference is attributed to factors such as body composition and metabolic rate, which naturally vary between individuals.
If we consider other styles of hot asana yoga, such as hot vinyasa, the calorie burn can be even higher. An hour-long hot vinyasa class can average around 600 calories burned. Vinyasa yoga involves continuous movement and a variety of challenging poses, which combined with the heat, results in exercise that burns the most calories.
Is Hot Yoga a Good Way to Lose Weight?
Hot yoga can be an effective tool for weight loss, but it’s not just about the calories you burn during each session. The true power of hot yoga weight loss lies in its holistic approach that integrates physical, mental, and emotional wellness.
From a physical perspective, hot yoga is a full-body workout that combines strength training, flexibility exercises, and cardiovascular conditioning. This combination helps to build lean muscle mass, which boosts your metabolism and increases the number of calories your body burns at rest (6) (3).
Additionally, the heated environment of a hot yoga class causes you to sweat more, which can lead to temporary weight loss through fluid loss. However, this weight is usually regained once you rehydrate.
Mental and Emotional Benefits
From a mental and emotional standpoint, hot yoga promotes mindfulness and stress management (6). It encourages practitioners to focus on their breath, quiet their mind, and be present in the moment. This mindful approach can extend beyond the yoga studio, influencing dietary choices and promoting healthier eating habits.
Furthermore, regular hot yoga practice can help reduce stress levels, which is important for weight management as chronic stress is often linked with unfavorable eating habits and weight gain (5).
Building Consistency and Discipline
Hot yoga also helps in building consistency and discipline, which are crucial for long-term weight loss. The challenge of practicing yoga in a heated environment can foster resilience and self-discipline. Over time this can translate into other areas of life, including adherence to a regular exercise routine and a balanced diet – both essential for sustainable weight loss.
Enhancing Body Awareness
Lastly, hot yoga enhances body awareness. As you move through different poses you become more attuned to your body, understanding its strengths and limitations. This heightened body awareness can improve your relationship with your body, potentially leading to better body image and healthier lifestyle choices.
Does Hot Yoga Count as Cardio?
Hot yoga can indeed be counted as a form of cardiovascular or “cardio” exercise, but with a few caveats.
Cardio is defined as any exercise that raises your heart rate for a prolonged period and improves the function of your heart, lungs, and circulatory system. In a hot yoga class, the combination of heat and physical exertion can substantially increase your heart rate, similar to what you might experience during a brisk walk or slow jog.
However, it may not elevate your heart rate to the same degree or duration as more traditional forms of cardio like running, cycling, or swimming. Most yoga classes, including hot yoga, involve holding poses for a certain amount of time, which means your heart rate might not remain consistently elevated throughout the entire class.
In addition, hot yoga calories burned per minute can vary widely depending on the yoga levels, the sequence of poses, and the instructor’s pace. Some hot yoga classes might lean more towards strength and flexibility training with only a moderate increase in heart rate, while others might include a dynamic flow of poses that provide a more rigorous cardiovascular workout.
So, while hot yoga does have cardio elements and can contribute to cardiovascular health, it may not provide the same level of aerobic conditioning as other forms of cardio exercise.
What Else Is Hot Yoga Good For?
Hot yoga offers an array of benefits that extend far beyond weight loss. It’s a comprehensive practice that fosters physical health, mental clarity, emotional balance, and spiritual growth.
Physical Health Benefits
1. Improves Flexibility
The heat in hot yoga helps your muscles to relax and become more pliable, allowing for greater flexibility (1). Over time, practitioners can experience improved mobility and range of motion. This increased flexibility can help prevent injuries and improve posture and alignment.
2. Strengthens Muscles
Hot yoga encompasses a variety of poses that require strength and endurance. By holding these poses, you engage and strengthen various muscle groups. Regular practice can lead to increased muscle tone and definition (2).
3. Enhances Cardiovascular Health
The combination of heat and physical exertion increases your heart rate during a hot yoga session, providing a cardiovascular workout. Regular practice can help improve heart health, reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases (6).
4. Promotes Removal of Waste Products
Sweating is a natural process of the body, and in a hot yoga class you will sweat profusely. This intense sweating can help remove waste products from your body which may promote healthier skin (6).
5. Boosts Immune System
By its positive effects on circulation, stress reduction and overall well-being hot yoga may support your overall immunity and help contribute to a stronger immune system(1).
Mental and Emotional Health Benefits
6. Reduces Stress and Anxiety
Hot yoga incorporates deep breathing exercises and meditation, which can help reduce stress and anxiety. The practice encourages mindfulness, helping you stay present and focused, thereby reducing negative thought patterns and promoting emotional well-being (2).
7. Improves Focus and Concentration
The practice of maintaining poses while synchronizing your breath requires concentration and focus. Over time, this can translate into improved cognitive function, attention span, and memory.
8. Boosts Mood
Physical activity, including hot yoga, can stimulate the production of endorphins, the body’s natural mood elevators. Additionally, the meditative aspect of yoga can create a sense of calm and positivity (2).
9. Promotes Better Sleep
By reducing stress and promoting physical exhaustion, hot yoga can contribute to better sleep. A good night’s sleep is crucial for physical health and emotional balance (6).
10. Encourages Mindfulness
Hot yoga encourages you to be fully present in the moment. This heightened state of awareness can extend beyond the mat, helping you lead a more mindful and conscious lifestyle.
11. Fosters Self-Discipline
Keeping up with the challenging environment and demanding poses of hot yoga requires discipline. Regular practice fosters self-discipline, which can be beneficial in other areas of life.
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12. Enhances Body Awareness
Hot yoga helps you become more attuned to your body and its capabilities. This heightened body awareness can improve your relationship with your body, leading to healthier lifestyle choices.
13. Cultivates Inner Peace
Through its focus on breath control and meditation, hot yoga promotes inner peace and tranquility, helping you deal with life’s challenges more calmly and effectively.
Are There Downsides To Hot Yoga?
Yes, while hot yoga offers several benefits, it also has potential downsides that should be considered.
Dehydration and Heat Exhaustion
The high temperatures in a hot yoga class can lead to excessive sweating, potentially causing dehydration if you don’t replenish fluids adequately. It can also lead to heat exhaustion or even heat stroke in severe cases, especially for those new to hot yoga or with certain health conditions.
Risk of Overstretching
The heat can make your muscles more pliable, which might feel good at the moment, but it can also lead to overstretching. When muscles are overly warm, they can stretch beyond their normal capacity, increasing the risk of injury.
Not Suitable for Everyone
People with certain health conditions like heart disease, low or high blood pressure, or a history of heat-related illness should consult with a healthcare professional before starting hot yoga. Pregnant women are also generally advised to avoid hot yoga due to potential risks associated with overheating.
Potential Feeling of Dizziness or Nausea
The intense heat and humidity, combined with the physical exertion of the poses, can sometimes lead to feelings of dizziness, nausea, or faintness, particularly for beginners or those not acclimated to the heat.
May Not Offer Complete Fitness Solution
While hot yoga provides a decent workout, it may not offer the full spectrum of fitness benefits that come from a balanced exercise program incorporating cardio, strength training, and flexibility exercises.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Much Does 1 Hour of Yoga Burn?
The number of calories burned during one hour of yoga can vary greatly depending on several factors, including your weight, the type of yoga you’re practicing, and the intensity of the class.
On average, a person who weighs 150 pounds might burn approximately 200-350 calories in an hour-long Hatha (gentle) yoga class, and up to 600 calories in a more vigorous Vinyasa or Ashtanga class (7).
Will I Lose Weight if I Do Hot Yoga Every Day?
Weight loss is primarily driven by a caloric deficit, which means you need to burn more calories than you consume. Practicing hot yoga every day could potentially aid in weight loss by increasing your physical activity and consequently, your overall calorie expenditure.
However, weight loss isn’t guaranteed solely by practicing hot yoga daily. It also requires a balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle. Furthermore, everyone’s body responds differently, so individual results may vary.
Is Hot Yoga Enough of a Workout?
Hot yoga can indeed be a comprehensive workout as it combines flexibility, strength training, and cardiovascular conditioning. The heat adds an extra challenge which can enhance the intensity of the workout.
However, whether it’s “enough” depends on your personal fitness goals. If you’re seeking to improve flexibility, reduce stress, and maintain a moderate level of physical fitness, hot yoga could be sufficient. But if your goal is to significantly increase aerobic fitness or build large amounts of muscle, you might need to incorporate other forms of exercise into your routine.
Is Hot Yoga 3 Times a Week Enough?
Practicing hot yoga three times a week can certainly contribute to improved flexibility, strength, and stress levels. It could also aid in weight management when combined with a healthy diet.
However, the concept of “enough” is subjective and depends on your personal health and fitness goals. If you enjoy hot yoga and find that it meets your needs, then three times a week could be perfectly adequate. As always, it’s recommended to listen to your body and adjust your routine as needed.
The Bottom Line
Hot yoga, a form of yoga practiced in a heated environment, offers numerous health benefits, including improved flexibility, strength, cardiovascular health, and mental well-being. While it can aid in calorie burning and potential weight loss, it’s important to approach it with a balanced perspective, understanding its pros and cons. Regular practice, coupled with a healthy lifestyle, can make hot yoga a rewarding part of your fitness routine.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- Acute Physiologic Effects of Performing Yoga in The Heat on Energy Expenditure, Range of Motion, and Inflammatory Biomarkers (2020,nih.gov)
- Effect of high temperature yoga exercise on improving physical and mental well-being of overweight middle-aged and young women (2014,nih.gov)
- Muscle cells vs. fat cells (2020,medlineplus.gov)
- Researcher: ‘Hot’ yoga yields fitness benefits (2014,colostate.edu)
- Stress as a common risk factor for obesity and addiction (2014,nih.gov)
- The Effects of Bikram Yoga on Health: Critical Review and Clinical Trial Recommendations (2015,nih.gov)
- Yoga Calories Burned Calculator (n,d,caloriesburnedhq.com)