Bikram yoga might not make you lose as much weight as you thought. In fact, a new study shows it burns as much calories as a brisk walk. Someone in stretch pants has been lying to us.
In hot yoga, the sweating and stretching can make you think you’re killing it in terms of shedding calories but, according to Time, Dr. Brian L. Tracy, an exercise scientist at Colorado State University, says that is not so.
Tracy and his researchers held two experiments on Bikram yoga’s physical effects using one group of healthy but sedentary adults with no yoga experience and another group of experienced yogis. Over eight weeks, Tracy put the sedentary group in a series of 90 minutes yoga classes in 104-105 degrees. Ultimately, they developed a bit more muscle, strength and could really stand on one foot for a long time… but their weight was another matter.
“To be honest, we were pretty surprised by the small size of the weight change, because when you’re in the Bikram studio you feel like you’re working really hard,” Tracy says. “And remember, these were people who didn’t regularly exercise before the study. We were expecting a bigger drop.”
The experienced yogis underwent a similar experiment, except this group was “hooked up … to equipment designed to measure their heart rates, body temperatures, and energy expenditures during a typical Bikram session.” The data explained the weight loss conundrum: during hot yoga, your heart rate and body core temperature rise in a big way but the metabolic rate (ie. how many calories our bodies burn) is the same as walking briskly. Men burn an average of 460 calories and women drop about 330, says Tracy.
And while you’re dropping much fewer calories than expected, the heat can still pose a threat to your health. All that sweating isn’t cooling you off if it doesn’t evaporate and a classroom where the humidity isn’t tuned correctly can be a problem.
Pay attention to your bodies, folks. If you feel nauseous, light-headed, confused or develop muscle cramps, it's probably time to leave the hot room and have a seat, says Tracy.
P.S. Do not drink a shit ton of red wine and try to ante up the next morning because you want to "start the new year off right" with a hot yoga class because you will feel like you're dying. Take it from me.