While we have seen a substantial increase in the popularity and number of Hot Yoga establishments and classes in the last few years, it has actually been around since the 1970's when Bikram Choudhury developed a series of yoga moves and postures based on Hatha Yoga techniques and encouraged the practice of these in a heated environment over a 90 minute period.
While many Hot Yoga studios and their classes are still based on Bikram Yoga's series of 26 postures (including 2 breathing techniques) not all Hot Yoga is Bikram Yoga. Other styles, such as Vinyasa, are now being regularly taught in a Hot Yoga environment.
The rooms are usually heated to around 40oC with 40% humidity ensuring that participants get quite a sweat on. With this in mind, bringing your own mat, wearing appropriate clothing and having a water bottle to hand are essential.
There are a number of benefits to Hot Yoga put forward by practitioners, over and above normal yoga:
1) It's good to sweat. While there is some scepticism over the degree of actual detoxing the body does during a Hot Yoga session there is no question that sweating does bring about a gentle detox, and is good for the skin too.
2) Increased flexibility with heat. As your body's muscles warm up quicker and to a greater degree, so it becomes easier to achieve some of the postures required in the workout.
3) A better workout. Working in a heated room is also said to increase the heart rate forcing the body to work a little harder.
4) Increased psychological reward. With a combination of a good sweat and raised endorphins from the tougher conditions participants feel a greater sense that they have had a workout.
Whether Hot Yoga is better for you than traditional yoga is difficult to say. There are as many reports saying that there is no difference as there are saying that there is. The bottom line is that it's a variation on yoga (which has numerous health and fitness benefits) and if some people enjoy it more than traditional yoga and therefore attend regularly and stick to it, and if more people are being introduced to yoga as a result of this current fitness trend, then it's a winner in our book!
Click here to find your local Hot Yoga class or more traditional yoga classes.