Health benefits, getting started and safety tips

If getting in shape and reducing stress sound like #goals, you’re not alone. The good news is that hot yoga and Bikram yoga are both aimed at boosting relaxation and fitness.

When practiced safely, hot yoga can bring you the following benefits.

1. Become more flexible (damn it!)

It’s no secret that warmed up muscles stretch better. It is safer to bend and stretch in hot weather and that can make these difficult poses a little easier to achieve.

You may find that the heat also allows you to settle down a bit further in each pose and increase your range of motion.

In a 2013 study, participants who did Bikram yoga had better flexibility in their lower back, hamstrings, and shoulders after 8 weeks than the control group.

2. Reduce stress

When life keeps piling up on the BS, why not try and sweat it out?

In a 2018 study of physically inactive and stressed adults, a 16-week hot yoga program significantly reduced participants’ stress levels.

3. Burn calories

Hot yoga is an effective way to burn calories. A 2014 study found that, on average, women burned 330 calories and men burned 460 calories during a 90-minute Bikram session.

The higher temperature makes your body work harder than usual. So even if a hot yoga class is less intense than the standard Bikram fare, you will still burn more calories than you would with traditional yoga.

4. Support your cardiovascular health

The extra heat and humidity makes yoga poses harder on your heart – a bonus if you want to boost your cardiovascular health up a notch.

A 2014 study found that a hot yoga session makes the heart beat at the same rate as a brisk walk of 3.5 miles per hour.

5. Strengthen your bones

When planning your workout routine, you can focus on your muscles and joints and not overthink your bones.

But premenopausal women and the elderly in particular should focus on strengthening bone density, as it decreases with age. (FYI: Women are at particularly high risk for osteoporosis, a disease that breaks down bones.)

In a 2014 study, premenopausal women who practiced Bikram yoga over a 5-year period had increased bone density in their lower back, hips, and neck.

6. Lower your blood sugar

If you’re at risk for type 2 diabetes, you may get additional benefits from hot yoga.

To be clear: any type of exercise will help lower the levels of glucose in your bloodstream. But a 2013 study found that a short-term hot yoga program increased glucose tolerance particularly well in obese older people.

7. Helps with relaxation and mood

Yoga originated in ancient India, where the practice was much more than physical exercise – it had a meditative and spiritual purpose. Today, it is still well known for its relaxing and mood-boosting benefits.

Yoga can also help fight depression. A 2017 review of 23 studies concluded that yoga was an effective way to reduce symptoms of depression.

Of course, depression isn’t universal: what works for someone else might not be your thing. Yoga is not a magic elixir for unwavering sanity and serenity, but it just might give you relief.

8. Nourish your skin and immune system

Don’t let being drenched in your own sweat keep you from increasing the heat – the extra sweat is kind of the issue.

Sweating in a hot environment can stimulate your circulation, which helps your immune system to function at its best. It can also help nourish your skin from the inside out, giving you a rosy glow. Who needs makeup?

Do you like regular yoga and want to give your workout a boost? Hot yoga might be the right challenge for you.

Hot yoga helps burn calories, build bone density, stimulate your heart, and improve flexibility. It can also reduce stress and symptoms of depression.

If you have heart or arterial problems, diabetes, anorexia nervosa, a history of fainting, heat intolerance, or if you are pregnant, consult a health care practitioner before trying hot yoga. You should also speak with your instructor before class to make sure you get the one-on-one support you may need.

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