Health & Wellness

Hot Yoga: Yay or Nay?

A new study suggests that the benefits of hot yoga aren’t all we thought they were

By Katrina Caruso


With the cold weather chilling our bones and things fitting just a bit more snugly after all those holiday treats, it may be tempting to hit the hot yoga studio this January. According to new research findings, though, hot yoga may not be any better for burning calories than room-temperature yoga.

Researchers at Central Michigan University studied 14 people with a varied background in practicing yoga to see whether the benefits of hot yoga stand up to the claims that it intensifies a workout.

The seven male and seven female participants in the study took two 20-minute classes, at the same hour and with the same teacher, a week apart. The practices were identical save for the temperature of the rooms: the hot workout was done at 35°C (95°F), while the standard workout was done at 22°C (72°F) degrees celsius. The researchers observed the subjects’ consumption of oxygen, as well as their carbon dioxide production, and every five minutes, the participants were asked about their level of exertion.

The participants all believed the hot yoga was more challenging, and their heart rate monitors found that their heart rates were much higher in the hot rooms. However, in both sessions, participants expended the same amount of energy.

While it’s normal to have a higher heart rate in a hot yoga class, the researchers found that heart rate does not mean more energy expended and the number of calories burned may be much lower than estimated; fitness trackers may therefore be overestimating the amount of energy a hot yoga class requires.

That’s not to say that folks should abandon their hot yoga if they enjoy it, but it’s something to keep in mind, especially if you believe that hot yoga is the fast track to a slimmer body. If you find hot yoga too intense, or don’t really see the point other than the fact that your daughter drags you to that Monday night class, it might be time to re-evaluate why you’re hitting the mat in such a hot room.


Photo: iStock/Eva-Katalin.