Does hot yoga really help you lose weight fast?
Bikram yoga, a common form of hot yoga, involves doing a sequence of yoga poses in a room that's heated up to 105 degrees Fahrenheit. If this sounds extreme, it's because it is! The promise, though, is that you'll work on your muscles, building strength while stretching them out. The heat will also cause your heart rate to rise, leading to a cardiovascular workout that burns fat and calories. And the sweat that pours out of you will detoxify your body and help you lose weight.
But is hot yoga really effective when it comes to shedding extra pounds quickly?
Hot yoga does burn more calories
A yogi who weighs around 160 pounds can expect to burn around 477 calories during a hot yoga session. If that same yogi practiced in a non-heated yoga class, he or she would only burn roughly 189 calories. So, it's pretty clear that a hot yoga class is more effective at burning calories.
Heated Bikram or Vinyasa yoga classes provide more intense aerobic exercise, which forces your body to react by expanding your lungs to hold more oxygen. It also puts more pressure on your overall cardiovascular system.
Will I actually keep the weight off?
Even though you burn more calories in a hot yoga class and feel a lot lighter by the end, you may just be losing a lot of water weight. In fact, most of the weight that you lose initially will be the result of excess water leaving your body as you sweat. But once this water weight is put back on (it's vital to rehydrate after a hot yoga class), you'll pack on a couple of pounds again.
To avoid any confusion about how much weight you're losing as a result of your hot yoga practice, avoid weighing yourself right after class. Instead, weigh yourself first thing in the morning to gauge how much you weigh before you consume foods and beverages. Keeping track of your weight in this manner a few days per week or weekly will help you better track the progress of your weight loss goals. Remember that your weight may go up and down depending on what you ate or drank the previous day -- for example, alcohol can make you retain water weight -- which is why we don’t recommend weighing yourself daily but rather weekly or a few times per week.
A good alternative to weighing yourself is to see how strong you feel over time. Last time, did you get to minute 30 in your hot yoga class before thinking, “When is this going to be over?!” whereas three weeks later, you rocked it right through the full 60 minutes without getting too tired?
A consistent yoga practice combined with other exercise, a healthy diet, and plenty of sleep is the surest way to lose weight, and keep it off. It’s also important to note that as you build muscle, you may actually gain weight as you get stronger and fitter.
Things to Consider Before Taking a Hot Yoga Class
Now that you know you can burn a lot more calories in a hot yoga class than you would in a regular yoga class, here are some things you should consider before your practice.
- Dizziness: You may start to feel overwhelmed and dizzy during a hot yoga class. If this happens, the best thing to do is pause, start breathing through your nose with your eyes closed, and focus on regaining balance. You can do this kneeling, in child’s pose, or even standing still. The dizziness should pass, but if it doesn't, it's best to leave the room.
- Hydrate: You need to drink plenty of water (as much as eight 8-oz. cups!) before a hot yoga session. Space out this water consumption throughout the day, though, as chugging liquids before class could make you feel nauseated. Bring a water bottle to class and take sips throughout class when necessary. We recommend coconut water after class to replenish electrolytes.
- Eat light: Avoid eating up to 2 hours before your class. If you feel hungry, snack on something light like applesauce or a banana a little while before class.
- Clean your mat: You and your neighbors in class are going to sweat...a lot. You'll want to clean your mat for hygiene purposes (and smell!).
Proceed with Caution
Hot yoga can be intense, so proceed with caution. Once you're used to it and know how to keep energized and hydrated throughout your practice, you'll notice hot yoga can help you shed excess weight rather quickly.
by Kelly Bivens
Certified Personal Trainer, Yoga Instructor & Mom
Edited October 2018