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8 Benefits of Sweating It Out With Hot Yoga

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Medically reviewed by Daniel Bubnis, MS, NASM-CPT, NASE Level II-CSS

Written by James Roland

Hot yoga has become a popular exercise in recent years. It offers many of the same benefits as traditional yoga, such as stress reduction, improved strength, and flexibility.


But, with the heat turned up, hot yoga has the ability to give your heart, lungs, and muscles an even greater, more intense workout.

Are you interested in learning more about the ways you can benefit from hot yoga? This article will take a closer look at what this sweat-inducing workout can do for you and how you can get started.

What is hot yoga?

You may hear the terms "hot yoga" and "Bikram yoga" used interchangeably, but they're not exactly the same thing.

Bikram yoga, developed by a yogi named Bikram Choudhury, is done in a room heated to 105°F (41°C) with 40 percent humidity. It consists of 26 poses and two breathing exercises that are done in the same order in every class. Bikram yoga sessions typically last 90 minutes.

Hot yoga, on the other hand, really just means that the room is heated above normal room temperature. The heat can be set to whatever the yoga instructor wants, though it's typically between 80 and 100°F (27 and 38°C).

Hot yoga sessions can include any variety of poses, and the time of each class will vary from studio to studio. And unlike Bikram yoga, which is a quieter, serious practice, hot yoga often includes music and more interaction among the people in the class.

Bikram yoga has lost followers in recent years due to assault allegations against its founder. Some studios may use the term "hot yoga" rather than "Bikram yoga" to describe their heated classes. So, it's a good idea to read class descriptions carefully before signing up.

What are the benefits of hot yoga?

Regardless of the room temperature, both hot yoga and Bikram yoga aim to provide relaxation of the mind and improve physical fitness.

A heated environment can make the practice of yoga more challenging, but some of the benefits may be worth it, especially if you're looking to make progress in one of the areas outlined below.

If done correctly and safely, hot yoga can provide the following benefits:

1. Improves Flexibility

You may already know that stretching after you warm up your muscles is safer than stretching cold muscles.

So, it follows that an environment like a hot yoga studio can make yoga poses easier and more effective. The heat allows you to stretch a little further and achieve a greater range of motion.

A 2013 studyTrusted Source of Bikram yoga found that after 8 weeks, yoga participants had greater flexibility in their low back, shoulders, and hamstrings than the control group.

2. Burns More Calories

A 160-pound person can burn around 183 calories an hour with traditional yoga. Turning up the heat can help you burn even more calories.

According to researchers at Colorado State University, the calorie burn can be as high as 460 for men and 330 for women during a 90-minute Bikram yoga session.

Hot yoga, even if it's not quite as intense as a Bikram session, will burn more calories than a traditional yoga workout.

3. Builds Bone Density

Supporting your weight during a yoga pose can help build bone density. This is especially important for older adults and premenopausal women, as bone density declines as you age.

A 2014 study of women who participated in Bikram yoga over a 5-year period found that premenopausal women had increased bone density in their neck, hips, and lower back.

This lead the authors of the study to believe that Bikram yoga may be an effective option for reducing the risk of osteoporosis in women.

4. Reduces Stress

Many people turn to yoga as a natural way to deal with stress.

A 2018 studyTrusted Source of stressed, physically inactive adults found that a 16-week program of hot yoga significantly reduced the participants' stress levels.

At the same time, it improved their health-related quality of life, as well as their self-efficacy — the belief that you have control over your behavior and social environment.

5. Eases Depression

Yoga is well known as a technique to help you relax and improve your mood. According to the American Psychology Association, it may also be a helpful therapy for reducing the symptoms of depression.

Additionally, a 2017 reviewTrusted Source of 23 different studies that focused on yoga as a treatment for depression concluded that yoga is an effective way to reduce depressive symptoms.

6. Provides a Cardiovascular Boost

Striking different yoga poses in high heat can give your heart, lungs, and muscles a more challenging workout than doing the same poses in a lower temperature.

According to a 2014 study, just one session of hot yoga is enough to get your heart pumping at the same rate as a brisk walk (3.5 miles per hour).

Hot yoga also revs up your respiration and metabolism.

7. Reduces Blood Glucose Levels

While any type of exercise can help burn energy and reduce circulating levels of glucose (sugar) in your bloodstream, hot yoga may be an especially helpful tool for people at higher risk for type 2 diabetes.

A 2013 studyTrusted Source found that a short-term Bikram yoga program improved glucose tolerance in older adults with obesity, but it had less of an effect on young, lean adults.

8. Nourishes the Skin

Sweating, and a lot of if, is one of the main objectives of hot yoga.

One of the benefits of sweating in a warm environment is that it can improve circulation, bringing oxygen- and nutrient-rich blood to skin cells. This, in turn, may help to nourish your skin from the inside.

Safety Tips

If you're in good health, hot yoga is generally safe. But, as with most types of exercise, there are some safety precautions to keep in mind.

  • Dehydration is a major concern with hot yoga. Drinking water before, during, and after a hot yoga class is essential. A low-calorie sports drink may also help restore electrolytes lost during your hot yoga workout.
  • If you have low blood pressure or low blood sugar, you may be prone to dizziness or lightheadedness with hot yoga. Check with your doctor to make sure hot yoga is safe for you.
  • Pregnant women should consult their doctor before trying hot yoga.
  • If you've had heat intolerance problems in the past, you may want to stick with yoga that's done at a normal temperature.
  • Stop right away if you feel dizzy, lightheaded, or nauseous. Leave the room and rest in a cooler environment.

How to Get Started

If you haven't done yoga before, you may want to try a regular yoga class first to see if the instructor and studio are a comfortable fit for you. While there, ask about hot yoga classes and if there are classes that cater to beginners.

You may also want to try out a few different yoga studios before you commit to one. Ask if the yoga studio offers free or discounted trial classes so you can see if it's the right fit for you.

If you're ready to give hot yoga a try, consider these tips to get started:

  • Wear lightweight, breathable fabrics that can wick away your sweat.
  • Bring a towel to place over your yoga mat, which may get a little slippery once you start sweating. You can also bring an extra towel for your face and hands.
  • Consider special gloves and socks that can provide a better grip in a hot yoga studio.
  • Bring a large, insulated water bottle filled with cold water that you can sip throughout your hot yoga session.

The Bottom Line


Hot yoga may not be for everyone. But if you enjoy regular yoga, and want to step it up a notch, it may be just what you're looking for.

Hot yoga offers a wide variety of benefits for both your mind and body. It can help you burn calories, build bone density, boost your cardiovascular fitness, and improve your flexibility. It may also help ease depression and reduce stress.

If you have any health conditions, including heart or artery issues, diabetes, anorexia nervosa, a history of fainting, or heat intolerance, consult your doctor first before doing a hot yoga session.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Healthline.

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Guillain-Barre syndrome occurs when the body's own immune system attacks and injures the nerves outside of the spinal cord or brain – the peripheral nervous system. Niq Steele / Getty Images

By Sherry H-Y. Chou, Aarti Sarwal and Neha S. Dangayach

The patient in the case report (let's call him Tom) was 54 and in good health. For two days in May, he felt unwell and was too weak to get out of bed. When his family finally brought him to the hospital, doctors found that he had a fever and signs of a severe infection, or sepsis. He tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 infection. In addition to symptoms of COVID-19, he was also too weak to move his legs.

When a neurologist examined him, Tom was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre Syndrome, an autoimmune disease that causes abnormal sensation and weakness due to delays in sending signals through the nerves. Usually reversible, in severe cases it can cause prolonged paralysis involving breathing muscles, require ventilator support and sometimes leave permanent neurological deficits. Early recognition by expert neurologists is key to proper treatment.

We are neurologists specializing in intensive care and leading studies related to neurological complications from COVID-19. Given the occurrence of Guillain-Barre Syndrome in prior pandemics with other corona viruses like SARS and MERS, we are investigating a possible link between Guillain-Barre Syndrome and COVID-19 and tracking published reports to see if there is any link between Guillain-Barre Syndrome and COVID-19.

Some patients may not seek timely medical care for neurological symptoms like prolonged headache, vision loss and new muscle weakness due to fear of getting exposed to virus in the emergency setting. People need to know that medical facilities have taken full precautions to protect patients. Seeking timely medical evaluation for neurological symptoms can help treat many of these diseases.

What Is Guillain-Barre Syndrome?

Guillain-Barre syndrome occurs when the body's own immune system attacks and injures the nerves outside of the spinal cord or brain – the peripheral nervous system. Most commonly, the injury involves the protective sheath, or myelin, that wraps nerves and is essential to nerve function.

Without the myelin sheath, signals that go through a nerve are slowed or lost, which causes the nerve to malfunction.

To diagnose Guillain-Barre Syndrome, neurologists perform a detailed neurological exam. Due to the nerve injury, patients often may have loss of reflexes on examination. Doctors often need to perform a lumbar puncture, otherwise known as spinal tap, to sample spinal fluid and look for signs of inflammation and abnormal antibodies.

Studies have shown that giving patients an infusion of antibodies derived from donated blood or plasma exchange – a process that cleans patients' blood of harmful antibodies - can speed up recovery. A very small subset of patients may need these therapies long-term.

The majority of Guillain-Barre Syndrome patients improve within a few weeks and eventually can make a full recovery. However, some patients with Guillain-Barre Syndrome have lingering symptoms including weakness and abnormal sensations in arms and/or legs; rarely patients may be bedridden or disabled long-term.

Guillain-Barre Syndrome and Pandemics

As the COVID-19 pandemic sweeps across the globe, many neurologic specialists have been on the lookout for potentially serious nervous system complications such as Guillain-Barre Syndrome.

Though Guillain-Barre Syndrome is rare, it is well known to emerge following bacterial infections, such as Campylobacter jejuni, a common cause of food poisoning, and a multitude of viral infections including the flu virus, Zika virus and other coronaviruses.

Studies showed an increase in Guillain-Barre Syndrome cases following the 2009 H1N1 flu pandemic, suggesting a possible connection. The presumed cause for this link is that the body's own immune response to fight the infection turns on itself and attacks the peripheral nerves. This is called an "autoimmune" condition. When a pandemic affects as many people as our current COVID-19 crisis, even a rare complication can become a significant public health problem. That is especially true for one that causes neurological dysfunction where the recovery takes a long time and may be incomplete.

The first reports of Guillain-Barre Syndrome in COVID-19 pandemic originated from Italy, Spain and China, where the pandemic surged before the U.S. crisis.

Though there is clear clinical suspicion that COVID-19 can lead to Guillain-Barre Syndrome, many important questions remain. What are the chances that someone gets Guillain-Barre Syndrome during or following a COVID-19 infection? Does Guillain-Barre Syndrome happen more often in those who have been infected with COVID-19 compared to other types of infections, such as the flu?

The only way to get answers is through a prospective study where doctors perform systematic surveillance and collect data on a large group of patients. There are ongoing large research consortia hard at work to figure out answers to these questions.

Understanding the Association Between COVID-19 and Guillain-Barre Syndrome

While large research studies are underway, overall it appears that Guillain-Barre Syndrome is a rare but serious phenomenon possibly linked to COVID-19. Given that more than 10.7 million cases have been reported for COVID-19, there have been 10 reported cases of COVID-19 patients with Guillain-Barre Syndrome so far – only two reported cases in the U.S., five in Italy, two cases in Iran and one from Wuhan, China.

It is certainly possible that there are other cases that have not been reported. The Global Consortium Study of Neurological Dysfunctions in COVID-19 is actively underway to find out how often neurological problems like Guillain-Barre Syndrome is seen in hospitalized COVID-19 patients. Also, just because Guillain-Barre Syndrome occurs in a patient diagnosed with COVID-19, that does not imply that it was caused by the virus; this still may be a coincident occurrence. More research is needed to understand how the two events are related.

Due to the pandemic and infection-containment considerations, diagnostic tests, such as a nerve conduction study that used to be routine for patients with suspected Guillain-Barre Syndrome, are more difficult to do. In both U.S. cases, the initial diagnosis and treatment were all based on clinical examination by a neurological experts rather than any tests. Both patients survived but with significant residual weakness at the time these case reports came out, but that is not uncommon for Guillain-Barre Syndrome patients. The road to recovery may sometimes be long, but many patients can make a full recovery with time.

Though the reported cases of Guillain-Barre Syndrome so far all have severe symptoms, this is not uncommon in a pandemic situation where the less sick patients may stay home and not present for medical care for fear of being exposed to the virus. This, plus the limited COVID-19 testing capability across the U.S., may skew our current detection of Guillain-Barre Syndrome cases toward the sicker patients who have to go to a hospital. In general, the majority of Guillain-Barre Syndrome patients do recover, given enough time. We do not yet know whether this is true for COVID-19-related cases at this stage of the pandemic. We and colleagues around the world are working around the clock to find answers to these critical questions.

Sherry H-Y. Chou is an Associate Professor of Critical Care Medicine, Neurology, and Neurosurgery, University of Pittsburgh.

Aarti Sarwal is an Associate Professor, Neurology, Wake Forest University.

Neha S. Dangayach is an Assistant Professor of Neurology and Neurosurgery, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

Disclosure statement: Sherry H-Y. Chou receives funding from The University of Pittsburgh Clinical Translational Science Institute (CTSI), the National Institute of Health, and the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine Dean's Faculty Advancement Award. Sherry H-Y. Chou is a member of Board of Directors for the Neurocritical Care Society. Neha S. Dangayach receives funding from the Bee Foundation, the Friedman Brain Institute, the Neurocritical Care Society, InCHIP-UConn Center for mHealth and Social Media Seed Grant. She is faculty for emcrit.org and for AiSinai. Aarti Sarwal does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

Reposted with permission from The Conversation.