Hot yoga is an umbrella term for the various disciples of yoga practiced in heated classrooms. Bikram yoga is perhaps the most popular of these; however, other systems denoted by the term include Baptiste, Forrest, Moksha and power.
In general, hot yoga is practiced in rooms with temperatures ranging from 90-105°F, with about 40 percent humidity; and classes last for around 60-90 minutes. The resulting heat promotes sweating and detoxification while also enhancing flexibility.
Although Bikram yoga utilizes a uniform 26-posture sequence, most hot yoga sequences vary depending on the class. For example, in Baptiste yoga, there is no structured sequence of poses, as students are encouraged to follow their own intuition instead. However, in Moksha yoga, instructors design their own sequences, but then utilize the same basic structure for each class.
Bikram yoga was the first system of hot yoga to be introduced to Westerners in the 1970s. The immense popularity of this discipline then gave way to the rise of other styles of hot yoga. Each of these branches deviates from Bikram in some way, namely in its sequence of asana, but the classroom conditions and health benefits are generally the same.
Most heated yoga classes maintain a vinyasa approach to yoga, meaning practitioners move from one asana to the next without hesitation. Vinyasa styles of yoga also emphasize synchronization of movement and breath, utilizing vigorous, fast-paced techniques to encourage continuous, fluid movement.
Perspiration promotes purification and flexibility, as well as improved circulation and metabolic function; because of this, hot yoga effectively stimulates weight loss and improves fitness. Practicing this style of yoga may also improve cardiovascular health, as it increases the heart rate and lowers blood pressure. Other benefits include increased strength and anatomical alignment.
Since heat stimulates the production of white blood cells, hot yoga enhances the immune system, making it a unique method of treatment for individuals with certain injuries or health conditions. Some practitioners also believe that heat aids in opening the chakras, in which case there may be supplementary spiritual benefits to the practice.
Teacher-training programs and certification processes vary among the various disciplines of hot yoga. However, most programs require 200 hours of training, which typically includes study of yogic philosophy, practice and physiology, as well as independent practice or apprenticeship.
- Drink plenty of water. It’s always important to stay hydrated, but especially when you’re exercising in the heat.
- Bring a towel. Sweat gets slippery so make sure to wipe your mat down.
- Calm the mind. Don’t let yourself get frustrated if you can’t get into one of the poses; just concentrate and take your time.