It’s clear…yoga is hot! In almost every city you can find a multitude of yoga studios; many of them are offering hot yoga.
Hot yoga is basically the practice of yoga in a hot, humid room; generally between 80-95 degrees. The twist on this centuries’ old practice is intended to help warm your muscles so that you can more easily stretch and hold postures that you might otherwise have difficulty holding. I personally think the trend is particularly hot because we are moving into an era of extreme sports.
Whether pushing ourselves to extremes through programs like Insanity, participating in races like Tough Mudder, or even turning up the heat in your traditional yoga class, it seems that we have a real thirst for our exercise to be intense, challenging, and far from boring.
So I decided to give hot yoga a try. Luckily, I have a friend who opened an adorable new studio (shout out for Twist Yoga @TwistYogaLO) which made it all the more alluring to test out this trend. While I have long been a lover of yoga – although not always consistent in my practice – hot yoga is a variation that seemed a little intimidating to me. So I called a friend and experienced yogi to join me in my initial try.
To start, I wanted to make sure I was clear on what I was signing up for. Some yoga studios offer Bikrim Yoga, which is a specific class with a set series of postures that happens to take place in a hot studio. “Hot Yoga” as a more general term, can mean any form of yoga, just in a hot space.
Walking into the room for the first time, it felt as if I’d open the door to the beach. Warm, humid air hit me immediately and I felt instantly relaxed. It didn’t take long into the class for that relaxed feeling to wane into a serious workout. If you’ve never taken yoga of any kind, you’d be mistaken to think it is only about touching your toes or twisting like a contortionist. Sure, there is a great deal of flexibility that comes into play, but the strength needed to hold certain postures is the real secret. It wasn’t long before I was dripping with sweat. Ah, like a free facial!
Our instructor, Kristin Fondran, would add absolutely motivating statements such as “breathe in what you need (.ie. strength, confidence) and breathe out what you don’t (i.e. self-judging, worries).” This is where the mind part of this mind-body exercise becomes so addictive. Every “practice” (a great reminder that you don’t have to be perfect at this) ends with a relaxation that involves lying on the floor. To me it is the absolutely reward for the hard work you just put in.
Overall, I would say that hot yoga may help you to feel a little more limber as compared to regular yoga. Any yoga practice should be a progression and if you don’t like it at first, give it a few more chances before you throw in the yoga mat. You should dress appropriately (cropped yoga pants and athletic tank are good…remember no shoes), bring plenty of water, and you may want a yoga towel to cover your mat – because you are going to sweat! And in ANY kind of exercise, you have to listen to your body. If you feel dizzy, lightheaded, or in general not right – just come to your mat. Yogis are extremely forgiving.
If you are a complete newbie, get there early, tell the instructor you are new and let her know of any injuries you may have. Blocks and straps are helpful yoga tools that help you achieve poses if you aren’t quite flexible enough. Humility is another great tool to bring. Leave your self-judging at the door and understand that it is ok if you don’t get everything right. You may be tempted to look around the room, but realize there might be people in the class who have done yoga for years – so don’t compare.
I have never once regretted the time I’ve taken to be at a yoga class. It really is one of those exercises that makes you feel good in body and mind. It is refreshing in a way that the treadmill is not. I don’t consider myself an expert yogi by any means and I certainly like the variety of many different kinds of exercise in my fitness plan, but yoga has stood the test of time for a reason. Hot or not, I encourage you to give yoga a try.
photo credit: Amber Karnes via photopin cc