One of my resolutions for 2016 is to get some of my flexibility back. With all of my long hours on the TV set where I work, my hips have taken a beating over the last several months. Yoga has always been a way for me to loosen up my joints and to work on flexibility. But instead of doing a regular yoga class, I upped it a notch and decided to give hot yoga a try.
What is Hot Yoga?
Hot yoga is yoga that is done in hot or humid conditions. Commonly associated with the Bikram Choudhury style, a style brought to the U.S. in the 1970s, the term hot yoga can refer to any yoga style that uses heat. Depending on the style and studio, the temperature for hot yoga can range anywhere from 90-105 degrees. The heat allows the body to stretch and can increase one’s flexibility in the poses.
Like regular yoga, hot yoga has both physical and mental benefits. Some of these benefits include stress relief, improving balance, building strength, promoting body awareness and self confidence, and using breathing techniques.
My Experience with Hot Yoga
Before we began our yoga practice, the instructor gave us a brief explanation of how class would be conducted. Unlike most yoga classes, he would verbally guide us through each of the poses, instead of demonstrating them at the front of the room. This is a characteristic of the Bikram style, which asserts that the guided-direction approach forces students to stop thinking and focus on being in the moment.
At first, the idea of a 75-minute class was daunting. But once we started going, I started to feel more confident, and I concentrated on the practice. Once we completed our warm-up, which lasted about 10 minutes, we did several standing poses and strengthening exercises before ending the class on our backs. Throughout class the instructor offered beginner, intermediate and advanced options for students, and occasionally adjusted students as we went through the poses.
Once class was finished, I felt renewed, my mind was clear, and I was excited that my first experience with hot yoga was a success.
It’s getting hot in here…
Now, I would be lying if I said that I didn’t notice the temperature. I began to sweat profusely before we even finished our warm up. In the beginning of class, I tried to dab the sweat off my face and arms with my towel. However, by the middle of class I realized it was useless and let my sweat drip. There was so much sweat that it made more sense just to let it be and focus on the movements.
As I got warmer, I noticed that the heat increased my level of concentration and allowed me a deeper range of motion with many of the poses. I also paid more attention to my movements to avoid slipping on my sweat as we moved around on our mats (yes, I was really that sweaty). The room reached 104 degrees by the end of class.
I did notice at the end of class that I felt lighter and maybe a little dizzy. I read that this was a possible reaction and gave myself a few extra moments on the mat before leaving. Once my body adjusted to the normal temperature and I drank more water, I was as good as new.
I felt great the rest of the day, and I will definitely incorporate hot yoga classes into my fitness regimen in the future.
Want to give it a try?
Hot yoga is definitely better suited to a studio designed for that purpose than it is for at-home practice, unless you really don’t care about your energy bills. The good news is, hot yoga has gained enough momentum in the U.S. in recent years that most metro areas have at least one studio that offers it.
Do a search for a studio in your area that offers hot yoga. Some studios specialize exclusively in hot yoga (these will often bear the Bikram nametag somewhere) while others mix it in with regular yoga classes. Once you find a few studios, narrow your choices down based on Yelp reviews. Another way to find a studio is to ask for recommendations from friends, family or co-workers.
Be sure to choose good workout clothing for class. My advice is to wear breathable fabric that wicks away sweat, keeping you as dry as possible. For my first class I opted for Nike Dri-Fit yoga pants and a breathable tank top. Some people suggest wearing shorts, but for me, the less contact between my mat and my sweaty limbs, the better. Wear something that is going to be comfortable for you.
Remember to bring water and to listen to your body. If you feel light-headed or dizzy, go into child’s pose and drink water! If a particular pose doesn’t feel right to you, make sure you use one of the modified options instead.
As always, remember to check with your physician before starting any new exercises.