What is hot yoga?

Hot yoga is starting to heat up even more as the additions of new infrared studios are making their way into the mainstream.

Unlike Bikram studios, the heat is for these classes is infrared.


Infrared is “radiated heat; it’s the same as the feeling of warmth from the sun on your face and the heat from a coal fire. It is even the same form of heat emitted by your own body.1

Not only is this heat pleasant (instead of stuffy and humid); but the style of classes tends to be much more free, energized and fun.

How does it work?

I had heard how many calories were burned in an hour, but I wasn’t really sure I believed the numbers, so I started digging…

I found numbers ranging from 0 an hour (yes some still claim no extra calories are burned2 ), to 660 an hour.

One study that found 20 women riding stationary bicycles 3 times per week for 4 weeks whilst exposed to nearby infrared rays, on average lost 8 cm’s or 444% more body fat compared to the 20 women doing the same exercise without Near Infrared Heat.3

How much research is there?

There are a minimal number of studies overall, which is not nearly enough to come to a definite conclusion that hot yoga burns more calories in every situation.

Comparing the exact same class in both scenarios is fair; like Bikram or infrared yoga to “regular” yoga (like Hatha). Trying to extrapolate results from a study of people doing spinning in infrared is not the same.

The number of calories you will burn is relative to many factors: your body type, current fitness level, hydration status, intensity you bring to the class, how fueled up you are, your gender, and others.

According to the text, “Thermal Effects on Cells and Tissues“, BMR changes as a function of temperature. BMR will change by 7% for each temperature change of 0.9 degrees Fahrenheit.

“Thus, when external conditions affect your body temperature, your body will burn more calories as it tries to compensate for the anomaly and restore your body to its normal temperature, increasing your BMR. This effect occurs in conditions of both heat and cold.”4

A new discovery

I discovered infrared hot yoga four years ago and I fell in love with it.

It wasn’t just yoga though; the studio had fitness classes that were high intensity. Not much cardio, but your heart was pumping hard!

There are many benefits to this type of heat, including the wonderful detoxification; it lessens joint and muscle pain, increases flexibility, improves recovery time, circulation to the muscles and much more. 5

I definitely leaned out my body doing infrared classes. I lost fat and gained strength and flexibility, loving every minute of it!

hot yoga_2As far as the numbers that are being thrown out there, I know that if I did a hot yoga class that was simply holding poses, no matter how much I sweat, there is no way I would burn 660 calories in an hour.

I know this because I eat almost the same things every day, and when I work harder I’m hungrier.

660 calories is almost half of my total daily calories and I know I don’t get that hungry after class. If I was burning it off and not replenishing I would waste away to nothing.

After a 1.5 hour intense total body strength and cardio class, I’m absolutely famished and even then I would not say my calorie burn was 660. Maybe 500 calories.

The magic isn’t calories

Most people are way too focused on the calories in/calories out equation. When we talk about weight loss, so many other factors affect your ability to lose weight that calories are most often the least of your concerns.

You should first look at things like sleep, hydration, stress, and quality and balance of food.

Calories from different sources are far from equal. You’ll never get the health you want by eating out of a box, going to bed too late, chronically stressing and drinking coffee, juice or pop instead of water; whether you do hot yoga or not!

My Verdict

It is clear to me that, even without taking into account the calorie consuming benefits of infrared hot yoga, there are enough beneficial elements to do it all the time anyway! You’ll feel so good in many different ways.

And when you’re doing something you like, you do it frequently, and are therefore burning more calories than if you had forced yourself to do something you hated infrequently, or just avoided moving at all.

Your metabolism gets revved up when you’re more active. The goal is healthy weight loss right? So the answer to “does hot yoga burn more calories?” is fairly simple to me…it’s an emphatic YES!

Connect with Expert Caroline Harrison


1 Herschel: How far Herschel infrared heating works 

2 Daily Mail – Sorry Gwyneth Hot yoga popular celebrities does NOT burn calories study claims

3/5 The Benefits of Near Infrared Energy by Lawrence Wilson

4 Live Strong – does your body burn more calories if you are hot or if you are cold

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