What Does Hot Yoga Do For Your Body?

Yoga has long been known for its amazing health benefits. From improving flexibility and endurance to strengthening your core and increasing muscle tone, the physical perks are plentiful. The ancient Indian practice can also help alleviate back pain, relieve arthritis symptoms, and boost heart health, per Johns Hopkins Medicine.

In addition, yoga also provides a substantial boost to your mental health and can help lower anxiety and depression, while at the same time releasing endorphins. "Regular yoga practice creates mental clarity and calmness, increases body awareness, relieves chronic stress patterns, relaxes the mind, centers attention, and sharpens concentration," says osteopathic family physician Natalie Nevins, DO (via American Osteopathic Association).

Though you should start out with beginner yoga to learn the basics, once you get acclimated, there are so many different types of classes to explore, including power yoga, restorative yoga, and even prenatal yoga. Hot yoga is a popular pick among yoga enthusiasts, and with very good reason.

You can gain flexibility with hot yoga

Hot yoga employs all the same poses and techniques as any other yoga class, yet it is different from regular yoga in one important way. Whereas typical yoga classes are usually performed in an air-conditioned studio, hot yoga is performed under very warm and humid conditions. It is typically done in temperatures of 85-100 degrees Fahrenheit, though it can be even higher (via CNET).

According to Yoga Jala, hot yoga improves your ability to stretch and move. This works two-fold. The heat allows your muscles and joints to become looser so you can really lean into a pose and give it your all. The combined stretching and warm temperatures thoroughly relaxes joints that may have otherwise been stiff or tight. As you go about your day, you'll likely find that all of your movements are easier and less painful, or not painful at all, after a hot yoga session.

It releases toxins (but maybe not in the way you think)

There are many beliefs about why hot yoga is better for the body, and one benefit centers around releasing toxins. "You get to cleanse your body inside and out," says celebrity trainer Amy Rosoff Davis (via Byrdie). "You sweat away toxins and heavy metals while also getting all the benefits of a yoga class."

However, while you will sweat during hot yoga and sweat does release some toxins, the detoxifying benefits may be negligible. "Second by second, nanosecond by nanosecond, the human body is detoxing," Dr. Pam Peake, a Fellow of the American College of Sports Medicine, tells CBS News. "It's part of what it does, it never stops doing that." Peake says only 1% of toxins are released through sweat, and yoga doesn't have to be hot for it to help detox. "All physical activity — not just yoga — increases the motility and mobility of the organs to perform their normal detoxifying functions," explains Peake.

Hot yoga can aid in weight loss under certain conditions

Hot yoga does have the potential to burn more calories than regular yoga since you'll sweat more and likely work harder. However, you'll have to be on a consistent calorie deficit to lose fat long-term (via Insider).

In addition, how many calories are burned during a hot yoga session varies widely depending on the class and your level of commitment, as well as your metabolism. According to Livestrong, there are many other exercises that you can do in a shorter amount of time that will burn more calories.

Exercises that require more effort and endurance, like running or a spin class, will cause you to burn more calories than a typical hot yoga class. In addition, some types of hot yoga classes focus more on breathing and gentle movement, which don't typically result in burning a ton of calories either.

Cardio and respiratory benefits of hot yoga

When your body temperature is higher, it will cause your heart to work more while also encouraging your lungs to take deeper breaths. "Hot yoga carries all the regular benefits of yoga with a few added extras resulting from the heat, including an enhanced cardio challenge," hot yoga instructor Eloise Skinner tells Live Science. This extra cardio workout will cause your heart to pump harder than regular yoga, as it will also need to cool down the body while distributing more blood.

Not only does hot yoga boost the cardiovascular system, but it improves your respiratory system by giving your lungs a stellar workout and enhancing respiration (via Body Alive). You'll breathe harder, which will give your lungs an added workout in the process. At the same time, while you practice deep breathing, it will enable more oxygen to enter your bloodstream, boosting circulation.

Hot yoga can pose some risks

There are some considerations to take into account before embarking on a hot yoga class. Avoid hot yoga if you are pregnant or have a heart condition. The heat may also prove too much for those sensitive to it. If you have any medical conditions, you may want to think twice, as there is a very real risk of heatstroke or heat exhaustion, according to Mayo Clinic.

Be sure to hydrate very well because you can quickly dehydrate in the heat and humidity, which can result in muscle cramping and fainting.

Finally, since the heat allows for deeper stretching, it may lend itself to overstretching and injury. Hot yoga may compel you to lean more into the poses and fully let go. "Due to the increased flexibility of the muscles and the warmer temperatures, it's possible to overdo it," exercise physiologist Jorianne Numbers tells Women's Health. "You may push yourself too far in a pose or stretch and you may not actually feel that until after class."