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We Asked An Expert: Is Hot Yoga Better For You Than Regular Yoga?

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There truly is a type of yoga for every type of person. The beauty of yoga is that it has evolved to meet the needs of so many different types of people. I am a certified yoga instructor in traditional vinyasa flow, but I’m not about to get on my pedestal and tell you there is one type of “true yoga” and everything else is a waste of your time. That is simply not the case!

The most important thing to do is to find a yoga practice that aligns with your values, your goals, and your personality. Thankfully today you can find everything from an upbeat, music-focused power flow class to yoga with weights. Many people will prefer to stick to their traditional Iyengar or Ashtanga classes, while others will be obsessed with hot yoga. Is your goal weight loss or is your goal to destress? Your goals will determine which class is the best for you. Ultimately the yoga you enjoy most is going to be the yoga that is better for you.

However, if it’s between hot yoga and regular yoga—which is better for you? There is an answer, and I break it down here.

What is hot yoga?

Hot yoga comes from Bikram yoga, which is also referred to as the Hot 26. The class is broken down into a series of 26 poses for 60-90 minutes. The room is generally heated to 105 degrees. The purpose behind heating the room is to warm the body to help you move deeper into each pose. You will of course sweat, a lot. Many students find the heated room and the sweating rejuvenating and detoxifying, while others may experience heat exhaustion and mental fog. The benefit of doing the same class every single time is that you can master each pose, but be careful not to get sloppy and move too fast with the poses since you know what to expect.

What is vinyasa flow?

Vinyasa flow is inspired by Iyengar and Ashtanga yoga, but has added flow. Iyengar yoga consists of jumping from pose to pose and spending time perfecting each pose, while vinyasa flow creates a sequence to get you from one pose to the next. Classes will be different every time, and sometimes they will build up to a peak pose. For example, if you are moving toward crow pose (bakasana) then you need to open the hips and work on the actions of coiling the knees to the shoulders. A vinyasa class would incorporate these movements and eventually bring you to crow pose, which you’ll be more likely to do with the hour of preparation.

Vinyasa flow warms the body through sun salutations and moves through waves of postures, usually ending class with an inversion and/or backbend before moving into savasana. The benefit of having different poses in every class ensures that you learn a variety of yoga poses, open all parts of your body, and strengthen every muscle in your body. You will never get bored, and you will become a very well-developed yogi.

Which is better for you?

When comparing the two, vinyasa flow is going to be better for you. You want to warm the body from within, not externally. When you warm the body naturally, you can move into each pose safe and to your own ability. When you warm the body externally in a hot room, you’ll be more susceptible to muscle and ligament tears. You will be more likely to over-stretch the body. You may go to a hot yoga class and think you can do all of the poses, and then go to a vinyasa class and realize you actually cannot do everything you thought you could. In order to truly change the body, you must heat from within.

Another reason I believe vinyasa flow is better than hot yoga is because hot yoga was originally designed to mimic the climate of India, hence the hot temperatures. What many people don’t know is that in India, yoga studios are often outdoors so that the air can circulate. When we do hot yoga classes indoors, we’re not allowing air circulation and it becomes far from what it would actually feel like to do yoga in India.

When to choose hot yoga

There are 3 reasons to choose hot yoga over vinyasa flow. If you have moved somewhere new, especially if you moved to the South, then you are likely to experience bad allergies. Hot yoga has been shown to improve and/or heal allergies in this kind of scenario. Another reason to choose hot yoga is if you are the Ayurvedic type Vata. Vata types balance out in warmer environments. They are more likely to get cold, and hot yoga tends to suit them better than other types. If you don’t know your type, take a simple Ayurveda quiz. Lastly, if hot yoga is simply your jam, then do it! You know your body better than anyone else, and you know what feels best for you. Don’t let anyone else tell you what kind of yoga to do—you do you!

Kate Wilke is a freelancer in the midst of health coach and yoga training, as well as a certified meditation instructor. When she's not paddle boarding or skiing, she's informing someone about global warming (or cats) over a local double IPA. Follow her on Instagram — @meditatekate