You may have heard of hot yoga before, and perhaps you’re interested in trying it, but going to your first class can feel intimidating. It may seem like everyone knows what they’re doing. It may seem like everyone is fitter than you. But it isn’t a competition and you shouldn’t feel intimidated. Yoga is for everyone, and everyone is a beginner at some point.
If you are unfamiliar, hot yoga is a vigorous form of yoga practiced in a room heated anywhere between 80 and 105 degrees Fahrenheit. Bikram is one type that you may be familiar with, but there are also heated Vinyassa classes as well. You can easily imagine the benefits of adding therapeutic heat to an already therapeutic yoga practice—improved flexibility, balance, mood, fitness and stamina. Of course, with the addition of heat, you need to practice with caution. Here are a few things you should be aware of before beginning a hot yoga practice.
You’ll need towels. Yes, you’re going to sweat… a lot. Things are going to get pretty warm. Just expect it. Don’t fight the poses and the heat, embrace them by breathing. Focusing on how hot and uncomfortable you are can only make everything more challenging. Let yourself become enveloped by your sweaty practice and reap the benefits later on.
Muscle and joint strain is possible. Yes, you may feel like you suddenly have superhuman flexibility due to the addition of heat, but you still have limitations. There is a human tendency to overdo it and push yourself a little too far in hot yoga classes, so try to keep yourself on the cusp of comfortable. If you feel any small pinching, burning or straining sensations, ease out of the pose and take a moment to assess. It’s better to play it safe and hand out in savasana than to wind up on the sidelines for a month with a muscle or joint injury.
Dehydration can undo everything. Hot yoga should make you feel amazing. However, if you aren’t hydrated, you may be greeted with dizziness, lightheadedness, nausea and dehydration post-class rather than a relaxed sense of calm and balance. To reap the benefits of hot yoga, make sure to properly hydrate yourself—bring at least a liter of water to class and don’t guzzle a large iced coffee before or after class. Also, avoid heavy foods. Actually, it’s probably best to avoid eating for at least an hour before class in case you develop some nausea. And during class, listen to the needs of your own body. Rest or drink water if you need to, even if no one else is. (Just make sure you remain quiet and polite.) You want to feel amazing after a yoga class, not strained, lightheaded, dizzy and dehydrated.
Be gentle with yourself. Be nice to yourself before and after class. Hit up savasana or child’s pose anytime you feel like things are getting too intense. Allow your practice to serve your needs. And always inform your teacher of any injuries or conditions you have ahead of time. If you have low blood pressure, are on prescription medication, or have a cardiovascular condition, always consult a trusted professional before starting hot yoga. Give yourself plenty of time to cool down. Treat yourself to a refreshing salad, smoothie or juice afterward.
If you’re new to yoga, I would recommend trying unheated yoga before moving into the heat in order to familiarize yourself with the postures and flow of a class. Yoga, heated or not, is excellent for the body. If you are looking to adopt a regular yoga practice in 2017, good for you! Pat yourself on the back for making a change in your life and taking time for yourself. Hot yoga is worth a try, but anything that brings you into balance and happiness is worth your time.