Hot Yoga: What to Know About This Sweaty Style
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Who said you can’t work up a sweat doing yoga? You’ll shimmer plenty in a hot yoga class, and it won’t all be from the room temperature. Many such classes offer plenty of intensity for serious athletes looking to improve their on-field performance. However, it’s still gentle and accessible enough for ordinary mortals in search of a mind-body workout that leaves them feeling cleansed.
What should you expect if you have never gone to a class before? What are the origins of this style and its health benefits? Here’s what you need to know about hot yoga as you prepare to work up a sweat on your mat.
The Origins of Hot Yoga
Hot yoga has relatively recent official roots, although the practice began thousands of years ago — long before indoor air conditioning. Bikram Choudbury brought many of the techniques to the rich and famous in the United States, although he got his international start teaching in Japan. There, he sought to reproduce the conditions on the Indian subcontinent by cranking up the heat in the studio, letting the island nation’s natural humidity do the rest.
While Bikram classes demand temperatures of 105-degrees Fahrenheit and 40% humidity, today’s hot yoga teachers interpret the term more flexibly. Many don’t crank the thermostat much over 95-degrees Fahrenheit — which is still plenty warm for working up a sweat.
Unlike Bikram, hot yoga classes don’t follow a set sequence. Instead, teachers are free to use any combination of poses or asanas and pace classes to meet their participants’ needs. Some teachers encourage rapid, vinyasa-style movements to keep your heart rate elevated, while others implement more power techniques, holding poses like warrior for considerable time to burn out your muscles.
What are the benefits? Practitioners believe that sweating helps you cleanse your body of toxins, although western science refutes this claim. However, that’s not to mean you won’t reap perks. Your liver and kidneys do much of the work of cleaning your body, and regular exercise helps them function at their peak — so you do indirectly rid yourself of the bad stuff more effectively with regular practice.
Additionally, you’ll achieve all three components of total fitness in most classes. Rapid vinyasa transitions between poses activate your cardiovascular system, while holding static strength builds muscle. Flexibility is a natural byproduct of doing yoga, and the heat may assist the process by loosening up your muscles and ligaments more than a cooler room.
What to Expect From a Hot Yoga Class
Hot yoga classes vary in intensity, with their one shared characteristic being high room temperatures. However, most instructors who embrace this style keep you moving. Therefore, you can expect your class to range in intensity from a medium-level Hatha class to an energetic Ashtanga session.
You will get sweaty. If you don’t like being seen in public with your hair sticking up on your head in funny places or rings forming beneath your arms, you’ll need to shower when you finish. Most sessions in traditional gyms last an hour, while those in private studios may go 90 minutes.
However, like many yoga classes, you’ll find participants of all levels. This inclusive activity welcomes anyone of any fitness ability. You can modify any pose that makes you uncomfortable to suit your unique body.
Tips for Getting the Most Out of Your Hot Yoga Class
Are you ready to start your hot yoga journey? Here are seven tips for getting the most out of your hot yoga class.
1. Talk to Your Doctor
Although talking to your doctor is sound advice before beginning any exercise program, it’s particularly crucial when starting your hot yoga journey if you have a heart condition. That’s because your heart rate increases by ten beats per minute when your internal temperature rises by one degree, amplifying the stress on this organ.
Therefore, get your physician’s okay first if you take blood pressure medication or other prescriptions to manage a cardiovascular condition. Learn how to listen to your body and stop if you experience dizziness, lightheadedness or discomfort.
2. Talk to Your Instructor
It’s always smart to arrive at your first class a few minutes early to chat with your guide. You’ll get a much better understanding of how they run their class and what intensity to expect.
You’ll also get a chance to voice your needs. Let your guide know about any physical restrictions you have that may require modifications. Furthermore, some teachers take a hands-on approach, maneuvering you into different postures. Let them know if you prefer not to be touched.
3. Invest in the RIght Gear
Hot yoga means that you can slip and slide on the wrong mat, and most gym-provided models will leave you skating. It’s always best to bring your mat to class to avoid sharing germs with others. Once you see how damp you get, you’ll consider it a worthy investment.
Look for mats designed with non-slip surfaces. Some materials become grippier with use, making them ideal for hot yoga classes.
4. Bring Plenty of Water and Towels
Sweat dehydrates you more quickly. Please bring plenty of water with you and sip often, even if your guide doesn’t provide break times.
Furthermore, you’ll likely need more than the one tiny gym towel most facilities provide. Bring a few extra — if nothing else, they make lying in savasana more comfortable when you finish your routine by keeping your back off your sweaty mat.
5. Mindfully Tune In
Even people without heart conditions can get a bit lightheaded in a hot yoga class. The risk increases if you have an empty stomach, although many students prefer to practice before breakfast to make moves like twists more comfortable. Please, mindfully tune into your inner experience and take a break at the first sign of dizziness.
6. Keep Safety First
It might sound funny to say you have a hot yoga injury. However, the number of people visiting hospital emergency rooms for such harms has increased by 70% in recent years because of the growing interest in the practice.
Challenge yourself but don’t push beyond your limits. If a move seems too difficult, or you start slip-sliding away, come out of the pose and regroup instead of risking injury.
7. Relax and Have Fun
Finally, hot yoga, along with the other forms, invites you to relax and have fun. You won’t be an expert at first, and that’s okay. Go at your pace and take pride in getting a little better each time you hit the mat. If you make a mistake, you’re in good company, so laugh it off and move on to the next pose.
What to Know About Hot Yoga
Hot yoga is a fabulous way to work up a sweat. Although you won’t directly perspire your toxins away, you will improve your health.
If you want to feel drenched and pleasantly drained after your workout, give hot yoga a try. The right gear and attitude will help you find joy in your practice.