Hot yoga for weight loss and overall well-being

Yoga combines physical poses, controlled breathing and meditation or relaxation. There are many styles, forms and intensities of yoga. Hatha is one of the most common and beginners may like its slower pace and easier movements.

Hot yoga is a vigorous form of yoga performed in a very warm, humid studio. During the bikram form of hot yoga, the room is heated to about 40 degrees Celsius and has a humidity of 40 percent.

Regardless of the type you choose, the core components include poses designed to increase strength and flexibility, and controlled breathing to quiet the mind and improve awareness.

Potential health benefits include:

Stress reduction. Studies have shown that yoga may reduce stress and anxiety. It can also enhance your mood and sense of well-being.

Improved fitness. Practicing yoga may lead to improved balance, flexibility and strength.

Management of chronic conditions. Yoga can help reduce risk factors for chronic diseases, such as heart disease and high blood pressure. It also might help alleviate chronic conditions, such as depression, pain, anxiety and insomnia.

Specifically regarding hot yoga, the challenge comes from both the temperature of the studio and the intensity of the different standing and stretching postures. The postures require lengthy, forceful and sustained contractions of all major muscle groups. The demanding nature of the poses and the heat are designed to raise your heart rate and exercise your muscles.

Although you may sweat more during hot yoga, the research is ongoing regarding its effects on body fat and heart health. In general, yoga may be a useful addition to an overall weight-loss plan that includes regular aerobic exercise and a healthy diet. Although yoga is not considered a high-intensity workout in terms of burning calories, it is a great way to get more physically fit and certainly has benefits such as mindfulness, which can help with managing and sticking to your diet.

While yoga can quiet the mind and body, which leads to relaxation and less stress, the intensity of the hot yoga workout and the high temperatures could cause other issues.

Although most people can perform hot yoga, there is an increased risk of dehydration, heat exhaustion or heat stroke.

You will want to drink plenty of water before, during and after the workout. Also, be aware of the signs of heat-related illnesses. If you feel lightheaded, dizzy or in any way sick, stop immediately and seek medical attention.

It’s probably best to skip hot yoga if you have heart disease or a history of heat-related illness such as heatstroke or dehydration.

Mayo Clinic News Network (TNS)