I took my first hot yoga class about 2 years ago because I had a Groupon. Once a week for four weeks in a row I went into a hot room with 60% humidity and bent, stretched, and moved with 15 other sweaty strangers (and thankfully incense!) for 90 minutes.
Hot yoga really wasn’t for me. I only stuck it out because, well, I had a Groupon, and a Groupon is a terrible thing to waste.
After the class ended I felt dehydrated (even though I was drinking a ton of water), and extremely fatigued. I like coming out of my yoga class feeling refreshed and ready to take on the day, not like I need to go back to bed for a few hours. But I might be in the minority. People everywhere are loving hot yoga. There’s no denying this trend is resonating with yogis around the world.
But I couldn’t shake the feeling that there was more to hot yoga than my lone impressions, so for the past few weeks I have done some research about the pros and cons of hot yoga, and here’s what’s up.
#1: Pro – Hot yoga can be good for your skin
Sweating is good for your skin because it causes your pores to open up as the sweat is released. It’s also believed that sweating can help fend off toxins.
Some recent studies suggest that sweat contains a natural antibiotic known as Dermcidin that can kill bacteria, including E. coli and Staphylococcus aureus, on your skin.
Dermcidin is more effective than antibiotics when it comes to fighting off bacteria on your skin because bacteria are unable to quickly develop resistance against dermcidin. (Learn more here.)
#2: Con – Hot yoga is dehydrating.
Because you’re moving for 90 minutes in a hot room, this yoga class can be particularly dehydrating. You need to make sure to drink plenty of liquids before and after class.
The best way to do this is to drink more water than you need for the 24hrs before your hot yoga class, up to about an hour before class begins.
If you have a stomach full of water during class, you won’t be able to do many of the poses required of you.
As soon as you leave class, drink at least 20oz of water immediately, and continue to drink lots of water for the rest of the day to help replenish your body.
We recommend aiming for at least 3L of water per day, and 3.5L if you’re doing hot yoga.
#3: Pro – Hot yoga can help alleviate joint pain.
Anecdotal evidence from a number of different yogis I talked to indicate hot yoga helped them alleviate joint pain. Turns out, yoga might help joint pain, but whether or not the heat plays a role in this is unclear. “It’s important to keep muscles strong to support the joints, and movement is important to reduce stiffness,” Susan J. Bartlett, PhD, told WebMD.
In 2005, Bartlett did a study to see if yoga was safe and effective for people with arthritis and if they felt better when doing it regularly.
After 8 weeks of doing hatha yoga three times a week (twice a week with an instructor and once a week at home), people reported feeling much better, both physically and mentally. There were no bad side effects; no one had to stop doing yoga, and no one got worse.
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#4: Con – It can be hard to find a normal yoga class.
With hot yoga becoming more and more popular it’s becoming more and more of a challenge to find non-hot classes at convenient times. If you’re fortunate enough to live in a city with a large density of yoga studios, you might have to trek across town, but you should still be able to find convenient non-hot yoga.
Look for hatha, vinyasa, restorative, or yin, all yoga classes of the non-hot variety.
#5: Pro – You can get deeper into stretches.
When your muscles are cold, you’re not going to get as far into a stretch, and you even risk doing some damage. This is why runners warm up, and this is why we do a bunch of Sun Salutations at the beginning of Vinyasa. – We want to get our blood flowing.
When you do hot yoga, your muscles are already warm. You get to spend less time warming up and more time doing yoga. And with the heat in the room, you can get deeper into a stretch without hurting yourself.
But, does that mean you will never overstretch and pull a muscle? No. When you feel that pain at the edge of your limit, it’s your brain telling you what you’re about to do could cause serious injury. Listen to those cues. For bonus points learn about why stretching works.
#6: Con – There is a lot of misinformation about hot yoga.
People constantly spew hot yoga’s benefits ranging from weight loss to detoxing. There is no evidence to suggest that hot yoga gives you any more weight loss than any other style of yoga because the increase in weight loss is usually water weight.
In a pinch, losing water weight could help you shimmy into that little black dress that’s been hanging in your closet since high school, but it isn’t healthy, nor recommended, to focus on losing water weight.
If sweating alone would make us lose actual weight instead of water weight, you can bet home saunas would be a lot more common.
#7: Pro – It’s harder to get distracted.
When you’re doing hot yoga, it’s much harder to be distracted by things like what you have to do when you get home and what you’re going to get at the grocery store. The evidence is anecdotal, but yogis across the board seem to agree when the heat causes them to focus on their breath and movement more.
This means it is possible that hot yoga can be a more mindful practice because you are focusing more intently than you might be otherwise. But, as I said, this is entirely anecdotal, and I don’t see scientists sitting around hot yoga class with clipboards or fancy monitoring tools any time soon.
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#8: Con – It can be nauseating.
The combination of heat and humidity means in this yoga class, you could end up feeling dizzy. And with this dizziness often comes nausea. It’s completely normal to feel dizzy and nauseous, but it’s definitely not pleasant. When you feel dizzy, take a few sips of water and lie in corpse pose until the dizziness passes.
I recommend keeping some candied ginger on hand just in case you also get hit with a wave of nausea.
If you have a heart problem, diabetes, or vertigo, you should probably skip hot yoga altogether. In the very least, check with your doctor first.
#9: Pro and Con – Heat adds more difficulty
Having to focus on your breathing and balance adds a certain level of difficulty that a lot of people aren’t ready for. But if you are, it can be just the push you need to make you feel accomplished after class. This added difficulty is part of why hot yoga requires more focus (see #7).
#10: Pro – It can be refreshing.
A lot of people who do hot yoga think it’s more refreshing than non-hot yoga. While I’m definitely not one of these people, I don’t discount their post-hot-yoga euphoria. The only way you’ll know if it’s refreshing is to give it a go.
- It can be good for your skin
- It’s dehydrating
- It can help joint pain
- It can be hard to find a normal yoga class
- You can get deeper into stretches
- There is a lot of misinformation
- It’s harder to get distracted
- It can be nauseating
- Heat increases difficulty
- It can be refreshing
Do you do hot yoga? What did you think? Let me know in the comments.