Monday, May 14, 2012

Hot Yoga: Polluting the Planet One Class at a Time

A Bikram Studio opened in Halifax recently. Another heated yoga studio. At this point, it's actually difficult to find a non-heated yoga class in the city. Two Moksha studios, a Bikram studio and a quick look at Halifax Yoga reveal 3 to 4 heated classes per day.

Heated and Hot Yoga remain trendy in our yoga-verse with hundreds of yogis sweating it out every day. The spread of heated yoga classes to non-hot specific studios is purely a reflection of demand- by paying for your 75-90 minutes of getting your sweat on, you're directly participating in a carbon heavy industry.

As climate change is a real phenomena that is impacted by greenhouse gas emissions (caused by carbon emissions from a variety of sources, one being coal powered heating), practicing hot or heated yoga directly supports an increase in carbon emissions. It's kinda like driving a Hummer... or choosing only energy INefficient appliances... or littering. It's terrible to say, but let's 'fess up here- choosing hot and heated yoga is choosing a carbon emitting, polluting yoga practice.

Of course, there are levels of energy usage for your heated practice.

Rooms are heated to 105 F... for all classes. Think about that- these rooms are kept heated at 105 F for hours on end during summer AND winter seasons. Unfortunately there isn't any information online on how the studio is insulated and what type of heating is used. From pictures you can see there are windows... and I would hope they were extremely well insulated and sealed as most of our heat is lost there. At 3 classes a day you already have a studio being kept at 105 F for over four hours, minimum.

Bikram yoga studios also expend quite a bit of water energy on showers, laundry and cleaning all that sweat. Imagine a studio having 20 yogis per class, 3 classes a day. Most of these yogis will either shower in studio or at home. That's 60 extra showers a day. That's 15-30 litres per minute per shower (Ecoholic Home, 2009). If each person took a 10 minute shower, that's 9,000-18,000 litres of water.

Rooms are heated between 90 and 100 degrees. At the Halifax studio there are on average 10 classes a day. That's over 10 hours of keeping those rooms heated. Unfortunately, heat escapes. It's unavoidable and extremely obvious if you ever walk by the studio (the windows in the front lobby are constantly fogged up).

Similarly to Bikram, water usage (and waste) has a significant potential for impact. Let's say for 10 classes (assuming that daytime classes will run 5-7 people and evening classes upwards 10-15) you have, conservatively about 90 people a day. That's 13,500 to 27,000 extra litres of water a day. What is different is that Moksha uses energy star rated laundry appliances, in floor heating that decreases it's energy use by a potential of 40% and uses natural cork flooring and low VOC paints.

That said, 40% less energy leaves 60% extra energy just to heat a room for yoga.

"Heated/Hot" Yogas:
These are the "heated" classes you see around town. Generally heated using portable floor heaters, these classes are arguably just as wasteful as full out hot yoga. I know for a fact that certain studios "pre-heat" their class rooms up to an hour before class starts, turning on these energy sucking heaters for an EMPTY studio. Several heaters are needed for one classroom, I generally see at least 3-4 per class.

Further, these classes are in studio spaces that are not specifically made to keep the heat in. Windows and classroom doors with rolled up towels underneath do a poor job of insulating. On top of that, they also usually have showers and the water usage that goes with it.

Yogis talk the talk about going vegan/vegetarian, buying an eco friendly mat or biking to class to decrease their carbon footprint, but honestly it all seems a bit hypocritical if you step into a hot yoga class.

  • Instead, support local studios who don't heat their classes. 
  • Ask for more "non" heated classes in the schedule. 
  • Explain your choice to either 
  • a) not frequent their studio or 
  • b) not frequent their "heated" classes by voicing your concern to studio owners about the environmental impact their heated yoga is having on our planet.
  • Practice the original "Hot" yoga: outside in the sun during a local Yoga in the Park.
article copyright of EcoYogini at


  1. Thank you so much for your post. I taught hot yoga for three years and just like you said, I am health conscious, earth conscious, etc. but somehow it never occurred to me that my yoga practice was hurting the planet. I also think that maybe my hot practice was not always good for my body...

  2. Wow, such a creative, thought-provoking post. I bet the plethora of hot yoga classes in your area is related to the cold least colder than in my area in Washington, DC. About the only time I enjoyed "hot yoga" was at a gym in San Diego during the month of June gloom. I had just moved there from Florida and the hot, humid atmosphere made me feel at home. I attended one more in DC and it made me feel more dizzy than at home.

  3. Agreed! I taught hot yoga years ago as one of my first ventures into teaching. It was a hard time- I needed the money and the experience but had difficulties with so many aspects of hot yoga! Another environmental thing that really got to me, besides the waste of energy heating and humidifying the room, was the LAUNDRY. If you do hot yoga regularly then you are washing your yoga clothes each and every time. My clothes were soaked at the end of the class, and I was teaching so that means I wasn't moving quite as much as the students. I did laundry quite a bit. With my regular yoga practice, I often rewear my clothes several times, at the very least the pants are reused, before they are washed. Seems like a minor thing, but a lot of water is used for each load of laundry!

  4. @Lulu: oh yeah- hot yoga has never agreed with my body at all... :S

    @Melissa: ah! I guess I just assumed it was trendy everywhere- but perhaps it does have to do with the ridiculous amount of damp, fog, rain we get all year!

    @BluebirdM: yes- the laundry would be shocking i'm sure! especially all those towels at the studios too. I also usually rewear my yoga clothes at least twice (sometimes three times-eek!- if i feel i don't sweat that much lol).

  5. ...speaking of laundry, I'd be interested on your take on cloth diapers vs. disposables!

  6. Thank you for this post; I hope LOTS of yoginis read it. This type of yoga has never appealed to me because I hate to be hot, but aside from that it is truly wasteful and thoughtless. And if people want to work up a sweat, there are easy ways to do so - go for a run, ride a bike, skip rope....

  7. @Melissa: ah yes! i wrote a few posts about that a few years ago, it might be time to revisit (since I'm about to become a first time auntie!!) :)

    @Anon: yep, i hear you 100%!! :) glad you liked the post!

  8. I still want to learn yoga some day, but man, I do not like being hot and sweaty! ;) So it's sad that hot yoga is so popular, I guess, for selfish reasons. ;)

  9. Living in the tropics, I struggle with the other side of the equation - do I let my students (or myself) swelter in 35 degree heat and humidity, or do the eco-unspeakable and turn on the A/C? In practice it's all about compromise I guess: I try to use the fans instead, or turn on only one A/C (there are 3 in the room)... Some teachers insist on keeping the natural heat, but I think it's just too uncomfortable to ask people to practice in a crowded room with no ventilation and sticky heat!

  10. Tons of great info here I had no idea about...thanks so much for sharing.
    I must say I prefer my living room floor yoga with my Rodney Yee
    Happy glorious Long Weekend my fellow Canadian!

  11. @Melissa A: well- learning yoga is possible without the amount of heat in a hot yoga class! :) but yes, i agree that the popularity of hot yoga is sad...

    @La Gitane: ahh- that is a good point! it is all about balance, for sure. That said, the style or theory of your yoga practice doesn't revolve around a/c for ALL of it's practices around the world.. But definitely that is a tricky question worth exploring! (maybe another post? I'm sure there are solutions)

    @Boho Mom: Happy Long Weekend!! :) Haha, yep I practice a lot in my living room with my two cats!

  12. Personally, I love hot yoga. I tend to sweat when I practice yoga in a non-heated environment anyway so I wouldn't feel comfortable wearing my clothes more than once.

    I just looked on Moksha's website to confirm that they use Bullfrog power (which I know they used to) but I couldn't find it anywhere. I would think paying for Bullfrog power would certainly offset the carbon emissions associated with heating the studio for classes?


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