Although there are many reasons for you to enroll in a yoga class, weight loss is often near the top of the list of goals for anyone engaging in an exercise program. Hot yoga, which is also known as Bikram yoga, can help you lose weight by burning a substantial number of calories. Still, there are some risks involved when exercising under extreme heat.
Although there are a few different types of hot yoga, the mostly widely practiced form is known as Bikram Yoga, and it first came into prominence in the 1970s. Bikram classes generally run for 90-minute periods and includes 26 postures and various breathing exercises unique to the style. Classrooms are heated to around 105 degrees Farenheit to promote increased flexibility and the release of toxins within the body. (New Ref.)
A 160-pound person who participates in an hour-long hot yoga session can expect to burn roughly 477 calories, according to HealthStatus.com, which uses algorithms developed by researchers at Emory University. By comparison, the same person would burn around 189 calories in a hatha, or regular yoga class for the same duration. Still, the majority of the initial weight lost in a hot yoga class consists of water weight lost through excessive sweating. You'll put this water weight back on quickly following a workout, so stepping on the scale immediately after class isn't the most accurate way to determine your progress.
Temperature and Calories
Whenever you exercise, your body controls your internal temperature through a process known as thermoregulation. Heat is conserved when training in cold temperatures, while it is released when exercising in heat. Training in extreme heat causes your heart rate to rise rapidly, which can cause you to burn more calories during your workout. It is important to keep in mind, however, that you won't be able to train for as long in extreme heat, so the total number of calories burned won't exceed a longer training session at cooler temperatures.
Hot yoga may allow you to burn a significant number of calories, but it also has several other benefits, some of which are difficult to measure. In addition to promoting flexibility and core strength, hot yoga can help you reduce stress and manage chronic conditions such as high blood pressure and cholesterol. Losing weight is often a priority among exercisers, but there are superior exercises to hot yoga for burning calories. Still, the physical benefits of the practice may be outweighed by the mental and emotional satisfaction that comes with regular participation in Bikram.
As good as hot yoga is for you, not everyone is buying into the hype. Dr. Cedric Bryant, chief science officer of the American Council on Exercise, claims that many of the benefits associated with hot yoga are perceptual, and that you can get the same benefits from any yoga class. Although hot yoga has health benefits, it's always risky to work out in extreme heat. If you experience dizziness, nausea, headache or confusion during class, you need to step out and rehydrate to avoid heat-related illnesses.