How Many Calories Does Hot Yoga Actually Burn?
What exactly is hot yoga? Is it all its cracked up to be and will you lose weight, lose fat and burn excess calories? Let’s debunk any myths and clarify the truth about practicing hot yoga.
What is Hot Yoga?
Hot yoga is any yoga that takes place in a heated room, usually of 80 – 108 degrees Fahrenheit (27-42 Celsius). Most people associate hot yoga with Bikram Yoga, a set style of yoga created by Bikram Choudhury in the 1970s that grew to global popularity. In Bikram yoga, the classes are an intense 90 minutes and participants move through a sequence of 26 postures all in 105 degree heat. The poses are Hatha yoga influenced, and work well for those who like structure and routine (as well as heat!).
There are other types of hot yoga also; Baptiste power yoga takes place in 90 degree heated rooms. You can also practice hot vinyasa yoga or power yoga, which keep the body flowing rapidly through various asanas, sun salutations and postures in connection with the breath that raise your heart rate and challenge your balance, strength, stamina and flexibility. You can burn significant calories in heated classes but remember that regular yin or restorative yoga does not raise your heart rate in the same way so as to burn calories sufficiently for resulting in fat loss.
There are some big claims on how many calories hot yoga actually burns and whether or not you can lose weight with regular practice, let’s dive in.
Let’s get clear on fat loss versus weight loss
Losing weight (seeing your weight going down on your scales) and losing fat are two different things. When you lose fat it means losing adipose tissue. It’s possible to lose fat but gain muscle mass resulting in weight gain (but what’s weighing is your new muscle and not your fat).
During a hot yoga class it’s possible that you might end up losing a ton of water through sweating so much and that can seem like you’ve lost weight right after class. The thing is as you rehydrate those pounds will return.
There is something about working out in a hot yoga class that makes you feel as though you are having a more intense workout than you actually are. That’s due to the fact that your body’s natural cooling system (sweating) is triggered when you are in a hot and humid environment. Your heart rate increases and your natural instincts signal that you are working hard and burning calories.
That’s not to say that you don’t burn calories in hot yoga, you do. But if your mission is to lose body fat you have to address all lifestyle factors involved in losing weight.
How many calories can you burn?
Taking into account the water loss as discussed, some statistics exaggerate the amount of calories you can lose. Scientific research (a study performed at Colorado State University in 2014) found that on average a person burns between 330 – 500 calories an hour. Obviously this will vary depending on your level of fitness, gender, body type and weight as well as how often you practice.
So joggers and runners burn more calories than walking, a high intensity aerobic workout will burn more than a restorative yoga class. Those 400-600 calories you can burn in a 60 minute hot yoga can also be burned running or cycling at about 5 miles/ 12 miles an hour respectively.
Basically there are faster ways to burn the same amount of calories as your hot yoga class, but that’s not the point of exercise! The point is to enjoy the activity, and yoga has numerous other wonderful health benefits aside from weight loss. Plus the nature of a hot yoga class can really give you an endorphin boost. The heat, the rush of blood through your body and detoxifying, cleansing feel that leaves you with can be a real feel good that you don’t get through regular yoga.
Yoga as a practice in general is not a highly efficient way of burning calories; especially slower yoga like hatha, yin/yang or restorative but it has a variety of other wonderful benefits.
Flexibility, builds bone density, increased balance, strength, promotes relaxation, stress relief, increase in circulation, detoxification, mindfulness, muscle tone, better sleep, more energy, increased metabolism, increased blood flow.
In conclusion yoga can help you lose weight, but for best results you must address the type of yoga you practice and how hard you work during the class, what you actually consume in your daily diet and other lifestyle factors. For best results choose hot bikram, power or vinyasa yoga as these will burn more calories through faster, more rigorous poses/ flow and an increased heart rate.
If you really love hot yoga and want to lose weight, the best way to achieve that is to create a routine for yourself that factors in diet and lifestyle.
To lose body fat you must burn more calories than you are taking in through food on daily basis. The fastest track to losing weight is to combine an increase in activity level with a decrease in calorie intake.
Consider combining a consistent practice with a healthy diet right in nutritious foods, things that provide complex carbohydrates, plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables and enough water to keep you hydrated.
Hot yoga has some downsides to be aware of if you are just starting out in the practice. You can easily become exhausted and suffer from dehydration so make sure you are regularly sipping water. Your blood pressure can also drop due to the heat so make sure you stop if you feel dizzy and take it easy during your first class. The hot environment of the room and the fact that the heat increases your muscle flexibility can make it easier for you to overextend and hurt yourself without realizing. Take care if you’re starting out, bring water, a non-slip mat and a yoga towel.