There is no denying that yoga is an amazing way to gain flexibility, strength and mental clarity. But as yoga is becoming more and more mainstream, many are substituting a 90-minute yoga class for good, old-fashioned resistance training and cardio.
Hot yoga, a form of yoga performed in a room heated to 105 degrees, is especially popular and people are signing up for it in record numbers. But is it an effective trade off? Can a hot yoga class replace the gym?
On average, a 150-pound woman will burn around 477 calories each hour during hot yoga, compared to the 660 calories the same woman would burn running for an hour at an 11-minute-mile pace.
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However, some of the calorie burn during hot yoga is due to the body working so hard to keep itself cool. During hot yoga, the heart rate does increase, but that doesn’t mean there’s a higher physical demand on your body. Simply put, a hot room does not make for a more intense workout.
One could expect to see a one- to three-pound weight loss during a hot yoga class, but this is purely water weight, and will return when you rehydrate. No extra calories or fat have been burned. You are just sweating because you are hot.
But is yoga, heated or not, a sufficient workout? Flow and Power yoga, which are fast moving and challenging, will put enough stress on the muscles for them to grow stronger. Other gentler, more restorative forms will do little more than work your flexibility and mental focus, which we all need from time to time.
Hot yoga has its benefits: The hot atmosphere makes muscles and joints more flexible, going further to increase your flexibility than doing the same workout at a moderate temperature. Sweating is a detoxifying and purifying process for the body. Your muscles will gain endurance as you hold postures for an extended period of time.
Your muscles, however, must be worked through their full range of motion, against resistance, a minimum of two times a week to properly develop. Yoga, of any kind, just doesn’t provide that.
The fault does not lie with yoga, it is with people that blindly follow a fitness trend and pour their whole health into it without knowing the basics of exercise. I will be the first to admit that exercise isn’t always about pushing your body as hard as it can go. Yoga is a great complement to any fitness routine to be enjoyed once or twice per week. But it shouldn’t replace that routine.
Kelly Turner: firstname.lastname@example.org; Turner is an ACE (American Council on Exercise) certified-personal trainer and fitness writer. www.KellyTurnerFitness.com; on twitter @KellyTurnerFit.