Hot yoga may just be a waste of effort, offering little benefit over similar yoga at a normal temperature.
Most forms of yoga are thought to aid relaxation and muscle strengthening. But hot yoga, which typically involves going through a tough 26 poses in a warm and humid room, also makes people sweat intensely – which some take as a sign that it is better for you.
To find out if this is true, 33 middle-aged adults who were previously sedentary did a three-month course of either hot yoga or yoga of a similar pace and difficulty but at a normal temperature. They all did classes three times a week, while a similar group of people did no yoga at all.
Both yoga groups showed improvements in the health of their blood vessels compared with the control group. However, hot yoga was no better for this than the room temperature version. All other health measures, such as blood pressure and cholesterol levels stayed the same across the three groups (Hunter et al., 2018).
Hot yoga did have one hint of a benefit though. All groups stayed about the same weight through the study, but those who did hot yoga had an average reduction in the percentage of their body that is fat of 1%.
This may be too small to have a meaningful impact on people’s health.
Hunter, S.D., Laosiripisan, J., Elmenshawy, A. & Tanaka, H. (2018) Effects of yoga interventions practised in heated and thermoneutral conditions on endothelium‐dependent vasodilatation: The Bikram yoga heart study. Experimental Physiology. 103(3). https://doi.org/10.1113/EP086725.
New Scientist. (2018) Hot Yoga’s Sweaty Heat Not All It Is Cracked Up To Be. New Scientist. 27 January 2018, pp.17.