Sweating for the Gods: How Hot Yoga is Blending Religion, Pop Culture, and Fitness Into a New Spiritual Movement

Sweating for the Gods: How Hot Yoga is Blending Religion, Pop Culture, and Fitness Into a New Spiritual Movement May 19, 2023

Folks have been sweating for the gods for a long time

Image by Gerd Altmann from pixaby


Yoga is not new

Folks have been sweating for the gods for a very long time. Apparently, for 5000 years. And for good reason. Doing the practice brings an immediate result. And if this is maintained, mysterious effects arise, which can inspire an entire spiritual movement.

Sometimes a moment stretches into infinity

I started practicing yoga in 2004. My motivation for doing this was realizing that my body was crooked from working in construction for many years. I was so inflexible that I couldn’t get my fingers past my knees, and even reaching that far would shoot pain from the back of my ankles up to my hips. Something needed to be done!

There was a book lying around the house written by Lillias, a yoga-teaching TV star from the 1970s.  The oversized book was my first introduction to yoga. I meticulously did what she prescribed to the reader daily. Over time, much to my surprise, something profound happened—something I had given up on being able to do in this life. Finally, I was able to touch my toes.

Image by StockSnap from Pixaby

Mysterious results

That was enough for me to rave about yoga, but more would arrive as I continued my daily practice. When I had enough practiced ease to connect my movements with my breath, euphoric bliss began to move around my inner body. Especially when I did backbends. I needed a teacher to explain how or why it was happening. Later, when I studied Buddhism, I found out how the yoga poses and the breath can open the energy channels and give rise to natural wisdom and bliss.

An inner strength also arrived. There was a very tall hemlock tree behind our house, and every Christmas, we put a cluster of tiny white lights at the top. The tree was about 50 feet high, and I would climb it with the power cord tied around my waist, hold myself up there with my legs hooked around the lean bending branches while I used my hands to take down the old lamps that crows had picked to shreds and install the new ones. On the way up the tree, I noticed that the climb was much easier than the previous years. I felt like a superpower had ignited inside my body, giving me more strength and agility. And this force was coming from somewhere deeper than my muscles. I knew it was the yoga practice.

Around that time, I began to feel and notice my spine in a way I’d never felt before. Blissful energy ran up the centre of my spine as I walked down the street.

Add a few years on, much to my amazement, I became a yoga teacher, which led me to my Buddhist teachers, which led me to do extended yoga and meditation retreats, receive profound yoga teachings, and begin to teach a very spiritual style of yoga.

Here is a link to my website with teaching schedules and access to meditations


Image by Gerhard Liplod from Pixaby

All of this helped me discover a depth of myself that was invisible to me beforehand. This allows me now to treat others better and have empathy, compassion, kindness, and love for myself and others.

I tell this story because I understand how hot or any other style of yoga has become a vast spiritual movement.

Any spiritual movement must come from a spiritual result

If we talk about what religion is supposed to provide for people, doesn’t it have to be some form of refuge from suffering? One way or another, we all go for shelter. We go for refuge when we see the doctor if we’re sick. Or we call the police for refuge when there is a different kind of trouble. What about shelter from suffering? Where can we go? Where is the port in the storm? If people are experiencing relief from suffering from doing yoga, then why not go for refuge in that practice and take it as far as it can lead us?

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Yoga makes people feel better

Benefits of Hot Yoga

  • Increased flexibility
  • Greater lung capacity
  • Better bone mass
  • Burns calories 
  • Relief from depression
  • Regulates blood glucose levels
  • It helps manage stress.
  • Boosts heart health.

Hatha yoga benefits

  • Better sleep. Doing yoga can not only help people to fall asleep faster but can also improve their quality of sleep
  • Reduce stress
  • Improve balance and core strength
  • Relieve neck and back pain
  • Lower levels of depression
  • Strengthen flexibility
  • Enhance mindfulness


After a good yoga session, many people experience total relief from their problems for at least a brief period of time. It will last for different lengths of time for different people. For some, this quiet ease disappears as soon as the chatter starts at the end of class, while others carry it into the world for a while.

If doing yoga can take us out of ourselves and help us gain access to a divine mystery while sweating in a hot room doing poses meant to open up the channels, and we can have that experience without a lot of thinking involved, then it sounds like a healthy spiritual movement to me. And it sounds like a good reason to wear a t-shirt with a picture of a yoga-style deity on it.

Image by AshutoshGoyal from Pixaby



The inner goal

Master Patanjali, one of the most renowned masters of yoga in history, wrote the famous Yoga Sutras of Patanjali and claimed that all the moving poses are meant to work the body and breath so that the ability to meditate with energy flowing smoothly into the centre of their being arises spontaneously, and they discover the divine within themselves.

That is the inner goal of yoga.


Here is a link to a podcast episode on Calm abiding meditation

Image by Sergei Tokmakov from Pixaby


Take joy!

It is easy to see how deities’ Eastern influence began appearing on yoga studio signs and yoga shirts and pants. Why not celebrate the upward spiral? All the hype of yoga in pop culture, like the beautiful studios and the advertisements showing beautiful bodies in tight, high-quality yoga gear, is an external display that can be an avenue to the inner display.

Here is a link to my article on who can benefit from meditation


Why not bring attention to a practice that brings a result? If hot yoga shines a promise and a result can be found, why not get all pop modern crazy about it? And if someone is seduced by the pop of it all, they may try it. And if the heat in the room is too much, they may try Hatha yoga instead. All the bright flashing pomp may attract someone and create a chain of events that brings them closer to the divine.

I say light it up, world!


Image by Okan Caliskan from Pixaby


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