While yoga has risen in popularity through the years, hot yoga has followed closely behind. The classes involve the same basic structure, with a few key differences that make a world of difference.
Both forms of yoga are viable options for improving your condition, but understanding their differences can help you make a more informed decision in choosing classes and setting expectations appropriately.
Hot Yoga vs. Yoga: How We’ll Compare Them
While the general idea is that hot yoga is just regular yoga with the thermostat set higher, there are plenty of differences to consider. Looking at the origin of hot yoga provides background on why this practice branched off.
When comparing the two, the most immediate difference is temperature, and we evaluate what those different temperatures are and why they’re setting this way. We also look at the positions you use in either class, the reasoning behind this, and how the combination of the two affects the body.
There are different precautions to take with hot yoga, but it also offers benefits on top of what a regular yoga class can give you.
How Hot Yoga Branched from Regular Yoga
The original hot yoga class was developed in Japan in the 1970s by (now disgraced) instructor Bikram Choudhury. The idea for using a heated room came from his intrigue in the saunas that his students would use, and this interest evolved into what is known as Bikram yoga.
Choudhury found that the increase in heat made his students work harder and challenged the body to work harder. So he took to the stage to instruct his Bikram yoga classes by shouting out poses.
The rigidity and harshness of the sessions met harsh criticism, and Choudhury’s reputation fell after several lawsuits regarding gender discrimination, sexual harassment, and more.
While Bikram yoga is still practiced today, the approach is much more lenient and relaxed. Instructors insist on listening to your body and moving through yoga postures in a way that suits you personally.
You may also see it referred to under different names, including:
- Hot 26 (referencing 26 yoga poses)
- Hot 90 (referencing duration)
- Hot vinyasa (or styles other than Bikram yoga done in a hot room)
A heated room can transform any regular yoga class into a heated class, but it also unlocks many other differences.
Temperature is the most obvious place to start when comparing hot and regular yoga.
Not only does this tell how hot it has to be for a class to be considered “hot” yoga, but it sets the foundation for other comparisons.
A hot yoga class works best when using a room heated above room temperature. Most consider the best temperature range to be 80°F to 100°F. This is enough to get your body working harder and warm your muscles, tendons, and ligaments to improve flexibility.
Traditional Bikram yoga requires a specific temperature. While any hot yoga class can operate in that range, a Bikram yoga class has the room temperature set to 105°F.
Many consider 68°F as the optimal temperature for regular yoga, but any class under the above range can be considered traditional yoga.
The point is for the room to be comfortable enough for flexible movement. It shouldn’t be so cold that you don’t want to open up, but it also shouldn’t be hot enough to evoke the physiological response of hot yoga sessions.
How They Compare
Hot yoga will always involve heated classes above room temperature, but it needs to be a specific temperature if it’s an actual Bikram yoga class.
Regular yoga classes use classrooms set to a comfortable room temperature.
The traditional number of asanas is 84, but the number is muddled by texts that don’t match up and modern renditions of yoga.
Hot yoga involves a smaller range of positions than regular yoga, and with good reason.
Resting your ligaments, tendons, and muscles is much easier in hot yoga classes. The heated practice keeps your muscles warm throughout, and you can achieve a deeper stretch than in room temperature conditions.
This means that it’s easier to overextend your muscles, and the positions you use should be considered.
Most hot yoga classes follow the same 26 poses used in Bikram yoga. This keeps you safe while still unlocking the same benefits.
You aren’t limited in which poses you can do when performing regular yoga because you don’t need to worry about injury due to the high heat.
Your flexibility at room temperature still limits you, and you don’t have the beneficial greater range served up by a heated space, but you can move your body in more ways and unlock the benefits of more poses.
How They Compare
While you need to work through the limitations of cold muscles, a regular yoga class has a greater chance of including more poses beyond the 26 featured in Bikram yoga.
This makes it easier to master hot yoga. You only have a few poses to focus on, and hot yoga sessions create an environment that improves the flexibility needed to achieve these positions.
Effects on Body
There are plenty of health benefits to consider with both hot yoga and regular yoga classes.
A hot yoga session quickens your body’s response to the workout. It keeps your muscles warm throughout the entire session and also makes it easier to stretch:
You should expect more significant sweat with a hot yoga workout; the intense workout will also improve and increase your circulation.
All of the benefits listed above capitalize on the original effects on your body from a regular yoga class.
Yoga improves flexibility, regardless of room temperature, while increasing muscle strength and tone.
It may result in weight loss and improve circulation and respiration.
Many pursue yoga for its effects on mental health as well. It’s known to interfere with the central nervous system and the release of stress hormones, and it can boost “feel-good” hormones, such as oxytocin.
How They Compare
A hot yoga class offers a more challenging workout that builds on the effects of a traditional yoga session. As long as you are in proper health and take suitable precautions, you’ll find some yoga poses easier to master with hot yoga.
In short, hot yoga includes all the effects on the body from regular yoga classes, but it turns up the dial in all areas.
A more intense workout means you need to take more care. Certain people may not do as well in a hot yoga class, and there are plenty of safety measures you should consider to unlock the benefits of hot yoga safely.
Make sure you understand what your body is capable of before getting into hot yoga; some people are not as tolerant of heat as others. Check-in with your doctor if you are pregnant or have a preexisting condition, such as:
- Heart diseases
- Anorexia nervosa
- A history of fainting
- Low blood pressure or sugar
While staying hydrated, it’s imperative in a hot yoga studio. You will sweat quite a bit more, even if you’re doing the same poses as a regular yoga session, and you need to take in more water to keep up with that.
Wear clothing that wicks moisture off your skin. It should be lightweight and breathable while allowing a full range of motion.
Bring a towel over your yoga mat, and consider purchasing a sticky mat if hot yoga becomes a regular practice. The more grip the mat has, the more safely you can move without slipping. Gripping socks or gloves can help, as well as bringing a smaller towel for sweat on your hands and face.
Pay attention to your body. Breathing exercises in higher temperatures can help you prepare, but you must know when to step out or take a break in a child’s pose. Your yoga instructor will not fault you for keeping yourself safe.
The preventive measures for regular yoga are not as extensive as those in a warm environment. Unlike Bikram yoga, heat doesn’t up the stakes in a regular yoga class.
You still want to make sure you focus on breathing and stay in touch with your body. In addition, you want to meet the challenge without injury.
You still want to meet with your doctor and clear the activity if you have a preexisting condition or injury. The physical practice of yoga can exacerbate these issues.
Another essential detail to note with regular yoga is that you still need to follow a specific structure. Intelligent sequencing allows you to get the most out of this popular exercise, and it’s essential for a safe and practical session.
How They Compare
Hot yoga requires more precautionary measures than regular yoga. While you may see greater physical benefits from hot yoga, the risk of injury is also much greater.
This doesn’t mean that you can dive into regular yoga, and you should prioritize your health and safety in both situations.
The benefits of hot yoga build on regular yoga, but you may not be interested in what hot yoga studios offer.
To summarize, hot yoga benefits flexibility and circulation more than other forms of yoga. Greater exercise also burns more calories, leading to more effective weight management and bone density.
As previously mentioned, the heated environment warms up the parts of your body you need to stretch for certain poses. This offers greater movement flexibility, and the limberness can cross over into your daily life.
You also sweat more while performing yoga in the heat. The increased sweat removes more toxins from your body while keeping your pores clean. In addition, your heart pumping faster will improve circulation and bring more nutrients to the skin cells to nourish them.
What is the difference between hot yoga and regular yoga?
Hot yoga is practiced in a room heated to around 105 degrees Fahrenheit, while regular yoga is typically done at a cool or moderate temperature. The heat in hot yoga can help loosen muscles and make you more flexible.
Is one better than the other?
Both hot and regular yoga offer benefits, depending on your personal preferences. Hot yoga may be a good option if you enjoy the heat. Otherwise, regular yoga may be just as beneficial.
What are the benefits of hot yoga?
Some benefits of hot yoga include improved flexibility, detoxification, circulation, and mental clarity.
What are the risks of hot yoga?
Hot yoga may not be a good option for you if you have any health conditions that make it difficult to sweat or regulate your body temperature. It’s also essential to make sure you stay hydrated during and after class.
Can I do hot yoga if I’m pregnant?
If you’re pregnant, it’s essential to consult with your doctor before participating in hot yoga. Generally, it’s not recommended to raise your body temperature during pregnancy.
Is hot yoga safe for kids?
Hot yoga is not recommended for kids. Regular yoga classes are a better option if you want your child to try yoga.