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It’s 95 degrees and there is sweat dumping out of pores that you didn’t even know you had (aka who knew your forearms could sweat?). As you lower into plank, your mat is getting soaked by the drop full. It’s running down your arms, into your eyes, soaking your clothes. You breathe into that space, filling the belly and enjoy that tingling sensation of the systems in your body coming alive.
This is hot yoga. It is hard work, friends. It is healing.
What It’s Like:
A typical hot yoga class will run about 60 minutes in a room set to 95 degrees. The lights are a bit lower in these classes as it takes an incredible amount of focus and breath work to practice in this space. Aka don’t look at other people for comparison. Stay on your own mat and focus on taking your practice to a whole new space. Breathe. You will go through a series of postures, and possibly even a flow, depending on the level. It will be similar to your regular practice. The challenge comes from the environment.
I’m no guru, and I haven’t been practicing for many years, so I’m still in the space that most of you are: still exploring and finding their own practice on the mat. From this space of authenticity, yet educated awareness as an instructor, I thought I’d share some information that is most useful to the hot yoga newbie. From one friend to another 🙂
1. Advance your physical practice. If you thought your forward fold was deep, wait till you do it in a hot practice. Flexibility increases in this warm environment. So come willing to try out those wraps and binds…you may find yourself more able to get into them. Just be careful to not push yourself too far…let your body tell you where to venture and where to stop.
2. Detox, baby. This space is a dumping ground for all that negative ick we gather throughout the day. You’ll find your heart is pumping pretty fast and that’s totally normal…this is hard work and you’re increasing your circulation, further helping the body restore and cleanse. Expect lots of twists in a hot class as they are highly beneficial in the detox process.
3. Yoga high. This class will give you a pretty amazing rush as those endorphins flood in, especially as your body temp settles back to normal. I love this space after a good practice. It reminds me of the miracle and incredible gift my body is. I am grateful to the Lord for gifting me with this vessel.
1. It’s hot. Like really, really hot. Combat dehydration by drinking at least 20 ounces of water throughout the hour before your class. Drink during your class and flush your system with a good 20-60 ounces throughout the next two hours after your class.
2. You may become dizzy or feel sick. First, that’s what child’s pose is for. Take it a lot. When your teacher calls for the chattarunga (which will happen in most transitions from one standing pose to another), rock back into child’s pose and meet up with the class at the next directive. Eat your last meal before class about 1-2 hours before class. If you eat too far away from your class time you’ll feel dizzy or faint. If you eat too closely to your class time, you could feel pretty sick to your stomach. When you go from a bent or folded position to a standing position, take it slow, and make sure our head is last to come up. If you still feel dizzy, lower into child’s pose, sip some water and wait patiently for this to subside. BREATHE. A lot. Most of the time, we get dizzy in yoga because we aren’t breathing anymore. If you are trying to breathe, but you find that you can’t find your deep yogic breath then what you’re doing is maybe still too advanced for you. Modify, or take a child’s pose to recenter. You have not failed, friend. You are super brave and a crazy yoga lady trying all these new fun things!
3. Spiritual. It’s no mystery that hot, sweaty environments have been used for transic, meditative practices throughout history. While most yoga studios in the US focus mainly on the physical practice of yoga joined with the breath, the hot classes will sometimes incorporate more of a spiritual element. There may be chanting music, or meditative practices within these classes. If this is not your thing, and you like to keep religion out of your practice then it’s worth a call ahead to check. For my Christian sisters out there, as believers in Jesus Christ, we want to be very careful about these situations, and that is for you to discern. Check in with Spirit on this. If, for whatever reason, this is an environment that causes you to feel uncomfortable, you’ll struggle to relax. Your spiritual spidey senses will be all alert as you’re trying to filter out some of the mystic practices. It’s not worth the $10+ drop-in fee at that point. So, it never hurts to call and ask about the practice and what typically goes down in the hot classes if this is a concern. Better to know now then awkwardly walk out later if you end up not feeling comfortable.
In addition to the other tips that I provided above, here’s a few extra little tidbits.
– consult your doctor before attending a hot yoga class. This unique and somewhat intense environment shouldn’t be taken lightly and you should definitely make sure that your doctor or naturopath, who knows your medical history and possible medical conditions, considers it to be a beneficial addition to your yoga practice.
– plan on attending one class for now, and space out your classes a week or two apart from one another. It can take a while for the body to acclimate to the environment. Going longer than 2 months in-between hot classes may mean you will start the acclimation process all over again. So if you’re planning on only occasionally attending hot classes, they will always be a bit more exhausting and difficult than if you made it a more regular thing.
– come early for class and tell the teacher that you’ve never done this before so could she please make sure she gives plenty of directives for modifications for some of the poses? (aka, knee to the mat in crescent lunge, child’s pose instead of chattarunga). Your teacher wants you to enjoy your practice and grow your practice. She will be more than happy to do that. (Sidenote: we love when you talk to us. We have no idea what your struggles are or what directives you need by just looking at you sometimes…give us some love so we can love all over you in class).
– Wear loose clothing. For your first time, leave the leggings and tight yoga top at home and trade them for shorts and a loose flowing tank top and a sports bra.
– Hair up. If your hair is short, make sure you have a nice wide headband that stays in place. You may not want that in the future but the first time you experience this kind of sweating it could distract you as it runs in your eyes.
– Ditch the makeup. Take it off before you enter the room….it could end up in your eyes and BURN.
– Bring your own towel(s). I mean–it’s a LOT of sweat. Keep it to yourself 🙂
– Most studios provide water or bottles of water. But, if you’re not sure, bring 2-3 bottles of water, and keep them right by your mat. You may not drink it all, but better to be safe than dizzy 🙂 Sip, don’t chug. Yoga doesn’t like a full tummy.
– After class, when they offer you to wipe your mat off with their spray, do that. Rolling up your mat with all that sweat still on it could cause your mat to smell terrible tomorrow when you unroll it again.
Hopefully this helps as you consider venturing into the hot yoga world 🙂 Call the studios in your area, check Facebook, get a good idea of what’s out there! And try it!