Many people who have never done it consider yoga to be a gentle or even easy, form of exercise. Get them in a heated room and put them through their paces, though, and they are likely to quickly change their mind. The combination of heat and yoga does, in fact, stress the body like few other forms of exercise.
But is hot yoga good for losing weight?
What is Hot Yoga?
Hot yoga combines a yoga workout with heat in the form of a temperature-controlled room. The ideal room temperature is around 105 degrees F and classes can last up to an hour and a half. The humidity in the room should be around 40 percent.
The most well-known form of hot yoga is Bikram, but that is not the only one. Bikram yoga was created around 50 years ago by a yogi named Bikram Choudhury. His system, which he likened to being in a torture chamber, involved going through 26 poses in a room that was heated to 105 degrees. 
Technically speaking, any form of yoga that is done in a heated room can be considered to be hot yoga. When it comes to weight loss, the best forms of hot yoga are those that get your heart rate up so that you are burning a lot of calories. Hot yoga is also believed to help rid the body of internal impurities more so than regular yoga.
Baptiste power yoga is done in a room that is not quite as hot as Bikram yoga. However, the movements are performed in a more continuous manner so that your heart rate gets tighter. As a result, this form of hot yoga will lead to greater calorie burn and subsequent weight loss.
Hot yoga, along with most other forms, may involve including breathing exercises as part of the routine.
Weight Loss vs Fat Loss
In my experience as a personal trainer, I have found that most people are focused on weight loss rather than fat loss. There is a big difference between the two. Weight loss simply refers to getting the weight on the scale down. That scale cannot tell what sort of weight you lose. it could be water, muscle mass, minerals, bone tissue, or, possibly, fat.
Of all of those things, the only one you should want to lose is fat. All of the others are necessary for your health and well-being. In order to tell whether you are losing fat or muscle, water, and other compounds from your body, you need to use a better way to measure your results than the scale. A better way is to measure your body fat percentage and use an old-fashioned tape measure to take your bodily measurements.
Hot Yoga Weight Loss
When you take a hot yoga class you will lose weight. In fact, if you stand on a scale immediately before and after your hot yoga class, you might see a drop in body weight by as much as 5-6 pounds. While that may make you feel good, the reality is that most of that weight loss will be water weight that you have sweated out in the hot yoga studio. As soon as you hydrate, you will put that weight back on.
So, how much fat can you lose through hot yoga practice?
A Revealing Study
A recent study out of Colorado State University was designed to answer that question. The researchers analyzed a group of previously untrained Bikram yoga practitioners who performed 90-minute yoga poses for 8 weeks.
The results showed that the members of the group had modest increases in strength and flexibility. Balance improvement was much greater. However, the amount of fat loss was minimal. This small rate of weight reduction was somewhat surprising to the researchers, who had noticed how hard the group was working in the warmer temperatures. 
A follow-up study was designed to look further into the issue. This time the subject group consisted of people who were experienced, yogis. The subjects were connected to equipment that could measure their vital statistics. It was found that the core body temperature and heart rates of the subjects increased significantly while they were doing the hot yoga sessions. However, their metabolisms were only slightly increased, being about the same as a person who was briskly walking.
This measure of the metabolism is a good indication of the body’s calorie-burning process. At the conclusion of the second study, the researchers found that men will burn, on average, 440 calories during a hot yoga weight loss class. Women will burn an average of 330 calories during a 90-minute yoga for weight loss class. Other forms of exercise can burn many more calories than that. For example, rowing can burn up to up to 880 calories per hour.
The lead researcher in this study observed that people’s perception of the intensity of the work involved in a hot yoga class is altered as a result of the heat and humidity. 
Maximizing Your Hot Yoga Weight Loss
The research that we have considered makes it clear that hot yoga is not the most effective form of weight loss exercise. There are many other forms of exercise, such as rowing, running, and cycling that will burn more calories. However, if you are a dedicated hot yoga enthusiast, you are probably doing it for more than just the weight loss benefits.
Here are some tips to help you maximize the weight loss effects of hot yoga.
- Follow a yoga diet plan – the key to fat loss is to reduce your caloric intake so that you have a daily negative calorie balance. This means that you’re burning more calories than you consume each day. We suggest cutting your calorie intake by between 250-500 calories below your maintenance level. Go here to find out what your caloric maintenance level is.
- Hydrate – it is imperative that you drink plenty of water before during and after your hot power yoga classes. The heated environment is going to cause a lot of water loss, so you need to quickly replace them with ample water to avoid dehydration. We recommend drinking a minimum of 3 liters of water on your hot yoga days.
- Eat 5-6 light meals spaced about 3 hours apart rather than three large meals. Avoid eating within an hour of beginning your yoga session.
- Do some form of cardio workout as part of your exercise regimen on your non-yoga days. Our favorite is rowing, which is one of the few forms of cardio that works your entire body. Rowing is also a low-joint-stress form of cardio.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is hot yoga good for weight loss?
No, hot yoga is not an overly effective method of weight loss. Studies show only a modest rate of calorie burn during a 90-minute hot yoga session of about 440 calories for men and 330 calories for women. If you are purely wanting to lose weight, exercising on a rowing machine is a better option.
Is hot yoga the same as Bikram yoga?
Bikram yoga is a form of hot yoga but there are other types of yoga that are included under the umbrella of hot yoga. These include various types of power yoga, such as Baptiste power yoga.
What is hot yoga good for?
Hot yoga will assist to rid the body of toxins and helps to improve cardiovascular health, including lowering blood pressure and resting heart rate. It also increases flexibility, reduces stress, and may increase bone density. Hot yoga will also improve a person’s general fitness level.
Hot yoga is yoga performed in a heated room. While it has many benefits, it does not produce a significant amount of weight loss. In addition to following your preferred style of yoga, you can improve your fat loss results by following a reduced-calorie diet and doing some additional cardiovascular exercise such as using a rowing machine.
- Hewett ZL, Cheema BS, Pumpa KL, Smith CA. The Effects of Bikram Yoga on Health: Critical Review and Clinical Trial Recommendations. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2015;2015:428427. doi: 10.1155/2015/428427. Epub 2015 Oct 5. PMID: 26504475; PMCID: PMC4609431.
- Hunter SD, Laosiripisan J, Elmenshawy A, Tanaka H. Effects of yoga interventions practised in heated and thermoneutral conditions on endothelium-dependent vasodilatation: The Bikram yoga heart study. Exp Physiol. 2018 Mar 1;103(3):391-396. doi: 10.1113/EP086725. Epub 2018 Feb 4. PMID: 29349832.
- Bourbeau KC, Moriarty TA, Bellovary BN, Bellissimo GF, Ducharme JB, Haeny TJ, Zuhl MN. Cardiovascular, Cellular, and Neural Adaptations to Hot Yoga versus Normal-Temperature Yoga. Int J Yoga. 2021 May-Aug;14(2):115-126. doi: 10.4103/ijoy.IJOY_134_20. Epub 2021 May 10. PMID: 34188383; PMCID: PMC8191229.