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How to Keep Yourself (& Your Students) Cool in the Hot Yoga Studio

A hot yoga studio is a great place–it's also easy a spot that's easy to overheat. Keeping students, like these folks, cool should be a teacher's number one priority.

I still remember my first hot yoga class. I got dizzy, started seeing stars, and had to leave the class to go throw up.

I remember the teacher scolding me for wiping off sweat and for drinking water. I never went back to that studio and swore off hot yoga.

That is, until my sister started practicing in another heated studio and promised me I’d like it.

She was right. I left the class feeling energized and immediately got a membership. 

Not all hot yoga classes are created equal, friends.

Hot yoga has grown in popularity for good reason.

There are tons of added health benefits when practicing in a hot room. But you don’t have to overheat your students for them to get these benefits.

While 105 degrees may have been the standard with Bikram yoga, for some students that is simply too hot.

 For those who have trouble regulating body temperature (like those with hypertension, diabetes, etc) it can put them at risk for heat-related illness.

In this article, we’ll cover the benefits of hot yoga, how to teach hot yoga safely, and tips to keep your students from overheating.

The Hot Yoga Benefits

Hot yoga has all of the same benefits of practicing yoga without heat, like increased flexibility, better bone mass, increased strength, and mental health benefits.

But the added element of heat brings with it its own set of benefits.

Here are some benefits to practicing in the heat:

  1. Increased flexibility. Yes, all yoga helps to increase flexibility. But the heat warms up your muscles faster, allowing you to stretch more deeply. Students who practice hot yoga regularly often see results quickly.
  1. Burns more calories. The added element of heat makes your body work harder to regulate your body temperature. You sweat more and your heart works harder to circulate blood. According to research done by Colorado State University, on average women burned 330 calories in a 90 minute class, while men burned an average of 460 calories.
  1. Improves heart health. Everything works harder in a hot yoga class - your heart, your lungs, and even your muscles. Hot yoga has been shown to get your heart pumping as much as a brisk walk, making it a great form of low impact cardio.
  1. Regulates blood glucose levels. Exercise has been proven to help with type 2 diabetes because it helps control blood sugar levels. According to a study done by the Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies, researchers found that 8 weeks of hot yoga significantly improved glucose tolerance in older adults.
  1. Helps manage mental health and improves symptoms of anxiety and depression. Studies on both heated and non-heated yoga have shown improvements in mental health. A study in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that 8 weeks of at least two hot yoga sessions per week reduced symptoms of depression for middle aged women. Another study in the Journal of Mental Health showed decreased stress levels after just one hot yoga session.
  1. Improves skin. Hot yoga is a sweaty practice. The added heat and humidity are sure to have you sweating. That increased sweat means more circulation to your skin cells which can help your skin produce more collagen. Hello, post yoga glow!

When is Hot Yoga Too Hot?

For most healthy adults, practicing in a heated room is no problem. But for those with difficulty regulating body temperature, those with hypertension, those taking diuretics, those with diabetes, and some people with obesity, hot yoga could pose a problem.

Heat exhaustion is no joke. Teachers and students alike should watch out for signs of heat related illness like dizziness, dehydration, headaches, drops in blood pressure, vomiting, and even seizures.

Students should feel good during and after class. If your students have a headache after class, the class was too hot.

The table below (scroll down for a closer look) indicates the “feels like” or apparent temperature and shows levels of danger based on the apparent temperature. 105 degrees with 40% humidity? That puts your students in danger of heat exhaustion, muscle cramps, and possibly even heat stroke.

Some people are more sensitive to heat, while others have a higher tolerance to it. For me personally, my perfect temperature for practice is between 80-90 degrees with 40% humidity.

A hot yoga studio is a great setting for a class like the one pictured here, but teacher should be aware of the signs of heat exhaustion.
  1. Improves heart health. Everything works harder in a hot yoga class - your heart, your lungs, and even your muscles. Hot yoga has been shown to get your heart pumping as much as a brisk walk, making it a great form of low impact cardio.
  1. Regulates blood glucose levels. Exercise has been proven to help with type 2 diabetes because it helps control blood sugar levels. According to a study done by the Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies, researchers found that 8 weeks of hot yoga significantly improved glucose tolerance in older adults.
  1. Helps manage mental health and improves symptoms of anxiety and depression. Studies on both heated and non-heated yoga have shown improvements in mental health. A study in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that 8 weeks of at least two hot yoga sessions per week reduced symptoms of depression for middle aged women. Another study in the Journal of Mental Health showed decreased stress levels after just one hot yoga session.
  1. Improves skin. Hot yoga is a sweaty practice. The added heat and humidity are sure to have you sweating. That increased sweat means more circulation to your skin cells which can help your skin produce more collagen. Hello, post yoga glow!

When is Hot Yoga Too Hot?

For most healthy adults, practicing in a heated room is no problem

But for those with difficulty regulating body temperature, those with hypertension, those taking diuretics, those with diabetes, and some people with obesity, hot yoga could pose a problem.

Heat exhaustion is no joke. Teachers and students alike should watch out for signs of heat related illness like dizziness, dehydration, headaches, drops in blood pressure, vomiting, and even seizures.

Students should feel good during and after class. If your students have a headache after class, the class was too hot.

The table below indicates the “feels like” or apparent temperature and shows levels of danger based on the apparent temperature. 105 degrees with 40% humidity? That puts your students in danger of heat exhaustion, muscle cramps, and possibly even heat stroke.

Some people are more sensitive to heat, while others have a higher tolerance to it. For me personally, my perfect temperature for practice is between 80-90 degrees with 40% humidity.

This hot yoga graph explains how to tell when a hot yoga studio is too warm.

Tips for Regulating the Heat in Your Hot Yoga Studio 

Below are some tips to keep your students cool when the yoga room is hot.

Watch the Temperature

If you’re practicing outdoors, do your best to find a shady place to practice or bring a shade structure.

If you’re practicing in a studio, monitor the heat. Remember that humidity increases the apparent temperature. If the studio you teach at requires a certain temperature for heated yoga classes, talk to the studio owner about safety - yours and your student’s.

Safety should be the number one priority, not sweat.

Encourage Hydration

Don’t discourage your students from taking water breaks. Instead, encourage them to hydrate before class and take small sips throughout to avoid a belly full of water.

Have Cold Towels Available 

Some of my favorite hot yoga studios have had a fridge full of cold towels just outside of the practice room so students that felt overheated could step out of class and grab a cold towel if they needed to cool down.

There’s nothing better than being given a cold lavender towel just before Savasana. It’s like dessert.

Encourage Your Students to Rest & Take Breaks as Needed

I like to give lots of modifications so students can keep working in a less intense pose, or invite students to sit upright to help bring their heart rate and temperature down.

Poses where the head is below the heart, like Downdog and Child’s Pose, are not advised to use as resting poses in the hot room as these gentler inversions keep the heart rate elevated.

Watch Your Students 

If they’re sitting a lot or taking many water breaks, it’s probably too hot.

Open the door for a few seconds to let some cool air in throughout class to keep the heat manageable.

Schedule Cooling Poses Into Your Sequence 

Child’s Pose isn’t the only resting pose.

Sequencing in milder poses like Low Lunge, Cat Cow, Lizard Lunge, Half Lord of the Fishes, or Half Splits can give students the opportunity for an active recovery. Give plenty of modifications so that students who are getting fatigued from the heat don’t feel the need to push themselves too far.

Adriana Lee
Adriana Lee
Adriana's yoga journey began at a young age and continues to inspire her every day by healing mind, body and spirit through the breath. She received her 200 Hour RYT through Frog Lotus Yoga's center, Suryalila, in Adalusia, Spain. She also trained an additional 50 hours with Heba Saab at Body Heat Hot Yoga in Las Vegas, NV. She continued training with Heba by assisting and acting as a mentor to her 200 Hour trainees. She trained with Cameron Shayne in Miami and received a 50 Hour certification in the Budokon Yoga system. She is also a certified Pilates instructor and a Reiki Level 2 practitioner. Her yoga practice has brought sweetness and authenticity into her life and her intention is to share that sweetness and help her students strive to be their own authentic selves.