3 benefits of practicing hot yoga: is the sweat worth it?

How hot yoga can benefit both your body and mind

A group of people practicing hot yoga
(Image credit: Nate Johnston / Unsplash)

Hot yoga has developed a following over the last few years with many yoga studios now creating the effects of a hot yoga class. Some yoga studios specialise in hot yoga with specially designed heating systems whereas others crank up the heating to make the environment tropical while offering other yoga classes, too. Whichever way you practice hot yoga, it's sure to get your blood pumping, your muscles loose and your pores cleared.

Hot yoga is not a particular set of yoga postures or a routine like Sivananda or Ashtanga are. It’s a general yoga class but in a heated room with the temperature normally anywhere between 30-40 degrees Celsius. It’s not for the fainthearted, that’s for sure, and you'll definitely need a good yoga mat and a yoga towel to get you through. While other forms of yoga are about the relaxation aspect, hot yoga focuses more on the physical benefits the practice can bring and tends to attract those more inclined to workout in the gym. It’s a great way of bringing the benefits of yoga to those who want a more strenuous class.

While it has many benefits, we’ve picked out our top three. Remember, the heat of a hot yoga class can be intense and this can be challenging, more than you think. It’s important to take your time if you’re new to the practice and the best advice is to get familiar with yoga without the heat before attempting a hot yoga class.

3 reasons why you should practice hot yoga

1. Increased flexibility

As a hot yoga class is taken in high temperatures, this helps to loosen the muscles before you’ve even started your practice. With this in mind, it means a hot yoga class can be great for increasing your flexibility a little quicker than other forms of yoga. The heat allows stiff and tense muscles to relax. This relaxation then means you are able to go further in postures. So, rather than approaching a yoga posture with tight muscles (like when we are cold), hot yoga means you are able to enter yoga postures with a bit more ease. However, we should caveat by saying that hot yoga can give the impression of a false sense of flexibility.

The heat allows you to go deep in a posture but this isn’t because your muscles are naturally that flexible. It’s because of the relaxation due to the heat. In this case, it’s wise to remember this and not push too hard as you may cause yourself some muscle damage. Ensuring you are using activation and strengthening can also help to protect those slightly looser muscles. Lean into postures mindfully, as you would any other yoga class, rather than absent-mindedly going as far as possible without activating supporting muscles. Over time, you will gain this new flexibility but at the start, you’ll be relying on the heat more so be gentle with yourself.

Young woman outside in a splits dragonfly position

(Image credit: Monstera / Pexels)

2. Manages stress

Because of the intense heat, and some demanding yoga postures, hot yoga can be a fantastic way to unwind. If you’re feeling tired and sluggish, it can boost your energy and if you’re feeling angry or upset, it can help to relieve those stronger emotions. Hot yoga isn’t an easy yoga class (to be honest, I don’t think any form of yoga is!) but the heat makes it especially challenging. Due to this, your mind is entirely focused upon the class and the postures so it’s hard to think about anything else. Anything that’s bothering you will melt (excuse the pun) away. 

Although the start of a hot yoga class can feel overwhelming, by the end of it you’ll be pleased you stayed. There will be many ups and downs in even one hot yoga class but you’ll have worked through a lot physically and mentally by the end of it, helping to reduce any feelings of anxiety or stress. Plus, you’ll have the added benefit of all the happy hormones pumping through your body.

3. Increased stamina 

Exercise of any sort in 40 degree heat isn’t easy. Sticking it out for 60-90 minutes, even harder again. Struggling with the amount of sweat pouring off your body and covering your yoga mat while you’re trying to hold a downward dog…a whole other challenge. Hot yoga will press your buttons, make you want to laugh, cry and maybe even scream but one thing it will do is build your confidence and stamina. You’ll want to stop. You’ll want to give in. But if you keep going, you’ll learn something about yourself that you didn’t know you had.

As with any exercise, the more you practice the easier it gets over time and this is true for hot yoga as your body gets used to the positions in the heat. However, the heat will always remain a challenge and it’ll either be something which keeps you coming back or you’ll be looking for Yin Yoga classes once you’ve finished your hot yoga class.

Kat has 10 years of yoga teaching experience with further training in supporting injured students. She is qualified to teach Yin Yoga, Hormone Yoga Therapy and more traditional forms of Hatha yoga. She also has a certificate as a Yoga Therapy Practitioner.