Hot Yoga Is No Better Than Normal Yoga for Your Heart

bikram yoga in Times Square
People brave high temperatures while practicing Bikram yoga in Times Square on June 20, 2012, in New York City. John Moore/Getty Images

If you're doing yoga for the purported health benefits, don't sweat it if there isn't a hot yoga studio nearby. A new study published Thursday in Exercise Physiology found that high temperatures didn't supercharge yoga's effect on a measure linked with heart health.

Hot yoga, which can also be called Bikram yoga, is a series of 26 poses done in a very, very hot room—about 40 degrees Celsius or 104 degrees Fahrenheit. For this study, people went to three, 90-minute classes each week for about three months.

Researchers had already done some work showing that yoga may improve the way people's heart vessels expand and contract. As a person ages, their vessels can't expand and contract as well as they once did, the paper noted, and this vasodilation issue has been linked with heart disease.

bikram yoga sweat
Students practice Bikram Yoga at the City Studio on March 13, 2007, in London. Matt Cardy/Getty Images

Study author Stacy Hunter, who Time noted is both a professor at Texas State University and a research director for an organization that provides funding for yoga studies, said the findings might be particularly good news to people who just can't take the heat of a hot yoga class. As the New York Times's Well blog reported in 2016, hot yoga may put more of a strain on people's bodies and make them more likely to dehydrate. One woman nearly died during a hot yoga class, according to a paper published in August 2016. And women who are pregnant may also way to avoid hot yoga, given that any increase in a woman's core body temperature can have an impact on a developing fetus, the Washington Post reported.

"This is the first publication to date to show a beneficial effect of the practice in the absence of the heat," she stated in a press release accompanying the paper.

The study, however, was fairly small—just 52 people were included, spread out into three groups—and everyone was middle-aged and healthy. (Additionally, the paper noted, not all studies have found that yoga improves heart health; one paper that Hunter published using a different yoga sequence had no effect on vasodilation.)

There was one difference between hot yoga and not-so-hot yoga: people who did the former lost a bit more body fat. Despite that result being statistically significant, New Scientist reported, the difference was unlikely to have any impact on a person's health.

So if you like hot yoga, that's fine. It's winter; spending some time in a very hot room can be nice. But if you'd really rather not, you've got a bit of evidence to back you up now.