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A simple definition for Hot Yoga

by | Nov 28, 2022 | Yoga For Beginners

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Yoga has been around for centuries and is practiced by millions of people around the world today. But its meteoric rise in popularity has really just taken off in the last several decades. One of the most appealing aspects of this ancient art is the wide variety of disciplines that practitioners can choose from to meet their needs. One type of yoga that has a strong following is hot yoga, but what exactly is it?

As the name suggests, hot yoga involves practicing this ancient art in hot and humid (from 80° F to 109° F) conditions that are intended to mimic the conditions found in India, where yoga originated. This popular discipline challenges the physical conditioning and mental fortitude of practitioners.

Yoga and its many disciplines have long been touted for their many benefits to mental and physical well-being. Hot yoga is a recent development in the continuing evolution of this ancient practice and judging from its immense popularity, this intense form of yoga is here to stay. Are you interested in learning more about hot yoga? Everything you need to know is below so grab a towel and keep reading. 

Hot Yoga 101

Hot yoga, as the term is used today, generally refers to a particular format in which yoga is practiced, rather than a specific discipline (with the exception of Bikram yoga, which is a specific type of yoga that is exclusively practiced in hot conditions). Put another way, virtually any form of yoga can be practiced in a hot variation, including vinyasa and hatha, to name a few.

As the name suggests, hot yoga sessions occur in a controlled environment where the temperature is maintained within a range starting from a balmy 80° F all the way up to a blistering 109° F, and in many cases, the humidity is also increased to artificially high levels (as much as 40% humidity).

The idea behind hot yoga is to mimic the hot and humid conditions found in many parts of India, where this ancient art originated many centuries ago. Although it is a fairly recent development in the very long history of the yogic arts, hot yoga is immensely popular with a huge following. This is largely due to the unique benefits afforded by this style of yoga, including:

  • Compared to yoga practiced in normal (i.e., unheated) conditions, hot yoga accelerates the warming-up process for muscles and joints
  • Practitioners report improved flexibility when participating in hot yoga
  • This format also increases blood flow to the muscles by diluting the blood vessels
  • Hot yoga provides a great cardiovascular workout by raising your heart rate
  • Another purported benefit is detoxification of your body through the profuse amount of sweating and elevated physical exertion that takes place
  • Some practitioners have reported improvement in various skin conditions, including relief from eczema

There is a common perception that hot yoga is better for you than other yogic disciplines because it allows you to sweat out all the impurities in your body. While this may not necessarily be true, what is certain is that hot yoga provides a strenuous workout in a challenging environment like no other.

When Did Hot Yoga Get Started?

For as long as any form of yoga has been practiced in the hot and humid climate of India, there has been hot yoga. But in its current form where these conditions are artificially created in a room, hot yoga has been around since the mid-1970s, when Bikram Choudhury brought his unique form of yoga to the United States by establishing his first heated studio in glamorous Beverly Hills.

While Bikram yoga may be the most recognizable (and arguably the most notorious as well) form of hot yoga, it is certainly not the only way to practice yoga in a heated room. In fact, practically any form of yoga can be practiced in artificially heated conditions and accurately be called hot yoga. 

Many disciplines, such as vinyasa, hatha, and even restorative, are taught and practiced in a hot version to appeal to yogis looking to work up a bigger sweat than traditional sessions can offer. There are even new forms of yoga, like Modo and CorePower, that are branding and marketing themselves as hot yoga. 

What Makes Hot Yoga Different?

While it may seem like stating the obvious, what makes hot yoga so vastly different from other forms of yoga are the conditions in which it is practiced. It is important to understand that just about any discipline can be practiced as hot yoga. It all boils down (no pun intended) to creating a hot environment in a room and maintaining an elevated temperature for the entire duration of the session.

Some forms of hot yoga also maintain elevated humidity levels which make the environment even more challenging. To say that hot yoga makes you sweat would be an epic understatement but there is more to this unique discipline than perspiring profusely.

It is said that hot yoga loosens the muscles and elevates cardiovascular activity which makes for a strenuous workout that would challenge even the fittest of the fit. There is also the mental aspect of overcoming uncomfortable conditions and focusing on the here and now of executing good techniques.

What Should I Expect From a Hot Yoga Class?

If hot yoga is something that appeals to you and you are intent on giving it a try, you would be well-advised to know what you are about to get yourself into (hint: it is going to be uncomfortably warm from the moment you step into the studio). Here are a few key things you should know before showing up for your first session:

  • Proper attire is important to ensure mobility and to wick away perspiration so wear athletic gear made from light, thin materials
  • A highly absorbent towel is a must to wipe away perspiration and you may want to have a second one on hand for your mat which can get slick from sweat
  • Proper hydration is important for any form of exercise and if you are planning to participate in a hot yoga session be sure to have plenty of water on hand
  • Consult your doctor before trying hot yoga if you have a medical condition such as low blood sugar, low blood pressure, heart disease, or any other condition that may make you susceptible to fainting or dizziness in a heated room

Hot yoga can be an invigorating form of exercise with a number of benefits for your physical and mental health. But because of the uniquely challenging conditions in which it takes place, hot yoga is not for everyone so it is important to know what to expect from a hot yoga class before giving it a go.

Final Thoughts on Hot Yoga

One of the reasons why yoga is practiced by so many people around the globe is that there is a discipline for every skill level. Some forms of yoga are ideal for beginners and people with physical limitations. For yogis looking for a unique and challenging way to practice the yogic arts, hot yoga combines the elements of heat and humidity to provide a truly invigorating experience on the mat.

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