Hot Yoga Isn’t Better Than Regular Yoga For Improving Heart Health, New Research Says

You don't need all that extra heat to get the benefits of Bikram Yoga

A woman doing a yoga pose
Fizkes / Thinkstock

You don't need all that extra heat to get the benefits of Bikram Yoga

Hot Yoga or Bikram Yoga has become quite the craze in recent years. But a new study published in the journal Experimental Physiology has found that it doesn’t offer any additional heart health benefits compared to regular yoga.

Bikram Yoga consists of 26 poses which are done in enclosed rooms that are typically heated to about 105 degrees Fahrenheit. To conduct the study, the participants, previously sedentary adults, were divided into three groups. One group went to Hot Yoga classes three times per week.

The second group went to a yoga class that was held in a 73-degree Fahrenheit room and the third group did not go to any yoga classes. At the end of the test period, researchers measured the vascular performance of the participants. They mainly focused on how well the blood vessels are able to dilate during blood flow spikes which is also known as endothelial function.

Both groups that practiced yoga saw an improvement in their endothelial function which is a sign of lower heart disease risk, TIME Magazine notes. The group that didn’t do any yoga at all did not experience any changes in their heart health.

Previous research had suggested that Bikram Yoga was particularly good for the heart because of the addition of heat. It’s been used to market these sessions, TIME reports. But the new study indicates that the practice of yoga is what’s ultimately beneficial and not the heated rooms.

“It’s definitely showing benefits to the 26-posture sequence,” study author Stacy Hunter, an assistant professor in the department of health and human performance at Texas State University, told TIME. “It just doesn’t seem like the heat is necessary in terms of improving heart health.”

The heat of Bikram Yoga excludes lots of people from the practice. Pregnant women are advised to avoid hot yoga because any dramatic increase in the temperature of the mother’s body has the potential to harm the unborn fetus, the Washington Post reported last year.

An article in the August 2016 edition of The Journal Of American Medicine documented a case where a woman collapsed during a Bikram Yoga session. Her pupils were dilated, her skin was hot, and there was blood coming from her mouth. Fortunately, she survived the experience after CPR was administered for 45 minutes and she was put on a vasopressor machine.

So, if you wanted to try Bikram poses but don’t think you can take the heat, the new research shows that you really don’t need it.