Time to Turn the Heat Up: What is Hot Yoga?

It’s hard to ignore the signs, they’re everywhere from gym flyers and noticeboards to national press and public transport; ‘Hot Yoga Classes’. But what is it and why is it different from normal yoga? 

What is Hot Yoga?

Becoming popular in the 1970’s as an alternative to traditional Hatha yoga, Hot Yoga is a 60 or 90-minute class consisting of a series of postures. Its nickname, hot yoga, is derived from the fact the classes are held in a room that is heated up to 40oC.

How is Hot Yoga performed?

Each class starts with breathing exercises (Pranayama) to release tension and relax the shoulders and neck before moving on to the postures:

  • Standing Series – strengthen muscles, improve body alignment and balance;
  • Spine Strengthening Series – focus is on improving posture and increasing spinal strength;
  • Floor Series – stretching and bending.

The session ends with another breathing session (Kapalbhati) which is reputed to aid digestion and restore the pulmonary system.

Where did Hot Yoga come from?

The founder of hot yoga, Bikram Choudhury, was born in Calcutta and was the undisputed All-India National Yoga Champion. Bikram devised the programme around a whole body approach with each posture performed in a strict order.

What are the benefits of Hot Yoga?

The health benefits of yoga are well documented and include improved flexibility, relaxation and a greater sense of wellbeing. Whilst this sedate exercise is equivalent to walking briskly, an hour and a half of yoga can burn around 300-400 calories.

By performing the postures in a heated environment, the risk of injury is minimized as the muscles are more relaxed and the detoxifying effect of sweating will help to cleanse the body. Although based on traditional exercises, this modified version of the ancient art of yoga also purports to heal the pain of chronic illnesses such as arthritis, aching joints and muscle injuries.

What do I need to know? 

As the exercise is performed in a similar environment to a sauna it’s important to stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water before, during and after your session and if you feel dizzy then sit down and try to focus on your breathing. It’s also important to make sure you don’t eat too much before your session as having a full stomach can make some of the postures uncomfortable.

As with any form of exercise, you should wear something that is not restrictive and, because of the heat, it should be light and breathable.

Listen to your body and don’t do anything that hurts. Some of the poses are tricky to master but none should cause pain.

So what are you waiting for? Come and join Yoga for the People and let your Hot Yoga mission get underway!