Hot Yoga: Does It Really Burn More Calories?

Woman doing bikram hot yoga

Hot yoga and other high-temp fitness classes are now a big thing – but do they produce big results?

If you’re looking to kick your fitness routine into high gear, consider upping the temperature. Many workout classes now have a hotter equivalent: from hot yoga (often called Bikram yoga) to hot Barre, hot Pilates to hot cycling, you’re sure to find a workout that strikes your fancy. But does the soggy clothing and damp hair really mean you’re burning more calories?

The Hot Yoga Verdict

When it comes to hot yoga and other high-temp workouts, more sweat doesn’t automatically equal more calories burned. “…it’s unlikely that hot yoga burns more calories just because it may raise your heart rate higher,” writes Martica Heaner for MSN Health & Fitness. “In reality, the huffing and puffing and heavy sweating found in many yoga rooms is due to the hot room, not the hot yoga.”

That’s not to say that trying a high-temp workout won’t improve your health and vitality in other ways, of course.

Benefits of Hot Yoga and Other Hot Workouts

Working out in desert-like temperatures has both physical and psychological benefits, so don’t let the fat-burning realities stop you from trying these new fitness regimens.

  • When you do hot yoga or other hot workouts, you perceive your workout sesssion as more successful because of the intensity level (i.e. oodles of sweat equals a higher sense of accomplishment).
  • The heat relaxes your muscles, making it easier to properly bend and stretch your body. (Stiff muscles in cooler temperatures make you more prone to injury.)
  • It’s a cardio and strengthening workout in one: The heat increases your pulse rate and metabolism, which improves circulation and blood flow while you (literally) tone your ass off.
  • Whether or not the workout detoxes your body isn’t confirmed. Some experts say your body releases toxins through your pores, while others say your body only sweats to cool off.
  • Making it through an intense workout sesh like hot yoga takes you outside of your comfort zone, delivering a confidence boost.
  • It improves your discipline, focus and coordination – all the while relieving stress (the heat helps your body relax and improves your breathing).

Are Hot Yoga Workouts Safe?

Anyone wanting to try hot yoga or another hot workout class should master the workout routine in a cool environment first, then acclimate themselves to the heat afterward. Trying to adjust to both simultaneously will inevitably exhaust your body, which could lead to injury. This is especially true for those who are overweight or out of shape (you know, like me), because you’ll be putting added strain on your cardiovascular system.

Even if you are in shape, hot workouts might not be for everyone – there’s always the risk of nausea, headache, dizziness, weakness, and fainting, which go hand-in-hand with such high temperatures. The key is to stay hydrated and listen to your body: If you find the heat to be overwhelming, simply pace yourself, cool off, and stretch. Like with any new workout routine, remain consistent without overdoing it, and your body will strengthen and adjust.

Have you tried hot yoga or other hot workouts? Yay or nay?

Related on EcoSalon:

12 Workouts to Beat Fitness Burnout
4 Gadgets That Let You Workout While At Work
These Google-Powered Adidas Shoes Won’t Let You Skip a Workout

Image: Lynn Redmile

Krissy Brady

Krissy Brady is a women’s health + lifestyle writer who’s so out of shape, it’s like she has the innards of an 80-year-old. Instead of learning how to crochet, she decided to turn her emotional baggage into a writing career (genius, no?). You can follow her shenanigans on Twitter (you know, if you want).