Hot Yoga: Harmful to the Environment?

Hot yoga class
Photo by Veganicat

Hot yoga is one of the most popular styles of hatha yoga, yet it conflicts with one of the most cherished yogic principles: ahimsa (non-harming). Many yogis are environmentally conscious individuals, but practicing yoga in a room heated between 85 and 105 degrees requires more energy and water than a regular yoga class. While a hot yoga practice can make you feel great, is it worth the harm it causes to the environment? Can yoga students and studios mitigate this harm through other eco-friendly choices?

Environmental impact of hot yoga

What hot yoga fans may not realize is that turning up the heat uses exponentially more energy with each increase of degree. According to Pacific Gas and Energy, it takes 3-5% more energy for every degree added to heat above 68°F. Assuming a regular yoga class is heated to 75 degrees, then a hot yoga class heated at 85 degrees would use 30-50% more energy and one at 105 degrees would use 90-150% more energy.1 The colder it is outside, the more energy it takes to heat, so hot yoga in colder climates would have an even greater impact on the environment.

In the US, 67% of all energy generated comes from coal, natural gas, and petroleum. These sources of power cause poor air and water quality, negatively impact human health, and destroy habitats for both people and wildlife. Burning fossil fuels is one of the sources of climate change, causing a variety of impacts throughout the regions of the US including sea level rise and extreme weather events like droughts and floods. Climate change is also destabilizing and compromising world food production.

Hot yoga makes you sweat, and all this extra sweat requires extra cleaning and washing of students’ yoga clothes, mats and towels. Hot yoga may also increase students’ shower usage depending on how hot and sweaty the class is. Not only does this reduce efforts to conserve water, but if hot water use is increased it will also create additional energy use.

How hot yoga studios are offsetting energy consumption

The good news is that several hot yoga studios are already taking steps to offset energy consumption. Yoga studios can lower their energy use with more efficient heaters, better insulation, energy efficient windows, and other green building techniques. They can also offset or mitigate their environmental impact through sustainable building materials (bamboo flooring), energy efficient lighting, low flow showers and toilets, sustainable props and mats, and water bottle filling stations instead of bottled water. Studios can offer lightly heated classes (85-95), saving at least 30-60% energy over hot styles heated to 105°F. Additionally, hot yoga studios can donate and support environmental programs and renewable energy or participate in carbon neutral or zero footprint programs.

Ways you can practice hot yoga without turning up the heat

If you love hot yoga but struggle with the knowledge that it’s harmful to the environment, offset your own practice by volunteering for a local environmental group or donating to one of your choice. Take a lightly heated class (85) instead of a hot class (105) or a non-heated class and layer up with long sleeves or a sweatshirt instead of a tank top. And remember to ask your studio what they are doing to offset your hot yoga class impact and encourage them to make a difference.

1.  Exact energy use will depend on site specific information such as outside temperature and the efficiency of the building in question.

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