Hot yoga is not for the faint of heart. Classes lasting 60 to 90 minutes in rooms as hot as 105 degrees Fahrenheit are no easy feat. You'll build muscle, you'll gain flexibility, you'll sweat and chances are good that you'll lose weight. But weight loss depends on a lot of factors, some within your control and some not.
What type of hot yoga you practice, how hard you work during the class, how many calories you consume and other lifestyle factors play a role in whether you'll lose weight and just how much weight you'll lose.
First things first: Weight loss and fat loss are two different things. Weight loss refers to a number on the scale; fat loss means losing adipose tissue. You might lose fat mass (so your pants are looser) but gain muscle mass and actually see your weight increase. That's a good thing.
On the other hand, sweating a lot during a workout can lead to water loss, and you might see that reflected on the scale immediately afterward. But as you rehydrate (and you should definitely rehydrate), those pounds will come back.
To lose body fat, you have to burn more calories than you take in through your diet on a regular basis. Lowering your calorie intake and increasing your activity level typically results in fat loss. The more calories you cut out of your diet and burn through exercise, the bigger the deficit and the more fat you'll shed.
Types of Hot Yoga
When many people think of hot yoga, they think of Bikram yoga, a style of yoga created in the 1970s by Bikram Choudhury. In classes of 90 minutes, students perform a series of 26 postures in a room heated to 105 degrees Fahrenheit. The classes are intense, and Bikram himself refers to the class rooms as "torture chambers."
But there are many other types of hot yoga. Any type of yoga performed in a heated room could be called hot yoga. However, not all these types will elicit the same calorie burn necessary for fat loss.
Baptiste power yoga performed in 90-degree rooms and other types of power yoga practiced in heated rooms keep the body moving throughout the duration of the class and include challenging postures and sequences that get the heart rate up. You'll burn a significant amount of calories in these heated classes. But other classes performed in heated rooms, such as yin or restorative yoga, do not get your heart rate up enough to burn the calories that will result in fat loss.
Read more: 13 Reasons to Start Practicing Yoga
How Much You'll Burn
Typically, the harder your body has to work, the more calories you'll burn. More intense exercise burns more calories. For example, jogging burns more calories than walking and sprinting burns more than jogging. How long you practice, your current weight, your fitness level and gender also play roles in how many calories you'll burn.
But one thing is for sure: Estimates for calories burned during a Bikram yoga class, for example, vary widely and may be inflated. While some practitioners claim you can burn 1,000 calories per class, scientific research doesn't support that.
In a 2014 study performed at Colorado State University, lead researcher Brian Tracy found that on average, women burned 330 calories and men burned 460 calories per Bikram class.
Hot Yoga Compared to Other Types of Exercise
Burning 330 to 460 calories per day through exercise will help you create the deficit needed to burn fat. Combined with a reduced-calorie diet, you're well on the way to creating the 500- to 1,000-calorie daily deficit needed to lose one to two pounds of fat per week. But you might burn even more calories — in less time — if you participated in other types of exercise.
The average calories burned in a 90-minute hot yoga class, according to Tracy's findings, are about equivalent to walking at a pace of 3.5 miles per hour for the same amount of time.
You can burn the same amount of calories in half the time by running at a pace of 5 miles per hour or cycling at a pace of 12 to 13.9 miles per hour. Cycling at a pace of 16 to 19 miles per hour burns just about as much in 30 minutes as a 90-minute Bikram class.
Ultimately, however, the most important factor in fat loss is finding an activity you love to do that keeps you exercising day after day. If hot yoga is your favorite activity, keep on doing it. Combine it with a healthy, calorie-controlled diet and you'll achieve fat-loss success.
Read more: Which Type of Yoga Is Right for You?