Want to try hot yoga but don’t know where to start?
Here are 10 tips to assist your journey
Hot yoga is a powerful system that combines yoga postures and popular fitness moves with a very hot, and humid environment to facilitate sweating. The thought of this can overwhelm the new student, and I am here to help make it easy for those, like you, who really need the healing benefits of Hot Yoga.
“Give me a chance to create a fever and I will cure any disease,” said the great ancient physician Parmenides. Hyperthermia in general means a body temperature that is higher than normal. High body temperatures are often caused by illness such as fever or heat stroke. But hyperthermia can also refer to heat treatment – the carefully controlled use of heat for medical purposes. Hot Yoga is good for young and old, overweight and thin, the sick and the healthy. We even have a student who lost 135 pounds with us practicing hot yoga.
A few studies take the body temperature higher, around 107° F, for short periods of time. The study suggests that this may cause certain immune cells to become more active for the next few hours. Other studies are testing hyperthermia and chemotherapy along with other treatments that are designed to boost the activity of the person’s immune system. From the sweating in hot yoga classes, the practitioner may detoxify the inner poisons from medications & chemotherapy. Oxygen levels are increased, there is increased immune function, increased kidney function, and a huge decrease in the stressors that get stuck in the mind as well as the body. Hot Yoga is good for everybody. Large or small. thin or obese, sick or well. Hot Yoga may be for you!
Here are my tips to help you get started.
Tip #1- Drink a lot of water. Water, pure water. Not tea, soda or coffee. Not flavored water or ice water and not sparkling water. You need to drink pure, clean water before your class. I suggest drinking 32 oz of room temperature water upon waking. And then another 32 oz of water a 1/2 hour or more before your class. Its best to use a water filter at home so you can be assured that you are getting pure, clean water without additives or plastic residue. Water to the Hot Yoga partitioner becomes a part time job. I drink up to 200 ounces of water per day. This is to saturate the tissues, hydrate the cells and facilitate the proper means to sweat. The water you drink is not just to replace what you will lose in sweating, this water will help improve the circulation and assist in the detoxification of your body. Its great for weight loss as well. Many times we think we are hungry and we are usually just thirsty. If you aren’t carrying a water bottle around with you, you are probably dehydrated. I always suggest drinking an entire bottle of water before your yoga class. Its better to drink before the class then during the class. Drinking during the class may actually make the class harder, as it awakens digestion, which is depressed during the thermoregulation process.
Tip #2- Don’t eat before yoga class. With all that water how can you eat? If you take a morning class, wake up, drink your water, and perhaps eat a watery piece of fruit or juice. Its not a good idea to drink a pot of coffee & have a bagel before your first yoga class. The coffee will jack you up and raise your heart rate too high, only making the class more challenging. And that bagel, well, it turned to glue in your stomach and may cause lots of nausea. The reason you don’t want to eat before yoga classes is simple. Because of the thermoregulation and the raising of the heart rate, We are playing with the fight & light response in class. When the body is in fight or flight mode, the digestion goes on tho the back burner, and food causes indigestion because its not being metabolized in the class. We suggest not eating 3-5 hours before class. Now some people take that too far, and they don’t eat all day, run 6 miles & then come to yoga class. This person may have a hard time because the blood sugar may drop. You may need some sugar in your blood so you can maintain your balance. A Juice, an apple or a banana. I suggest drinking a protein shake. Sun Warrior shakes are our favorite.
Tip #3- Dress appropriately. We don’t suggest yoga pants for our yoga classes. There are some awesome new products on the market made out of bathing suit material. They are tight and don’t hold the sweat. For this reason, we don’t suggest wearing cotton and don’t suggest tshirts. What is good to wear is a tank top and leggings. Men do well with swim trunks. But please, no speedos. and ladies, please don’t show up in your bikini. Too little clothes allows the sweat to fly all over the place & you may be too slippery. So what do you wear? Anything from companies like Onzie, Lulelemon, and Athleta are just perfect. Wearing some clothing helps to absorb the sweat but too much clothing and you may be weighted down. Always bring a change of clothes for your drive home, or pack your bath robe from home.
Tip #4- Bring a towel. I say this to everyone, bring a towel. And they show up with a facecloth. You need to bring a large beach towel. Think of the one that you would throw on your chaise lounge or bring to the beach. The towel should cover most of your body when you lay on it while doing the postures on your back. Perhaps bring two towels. No bring three, one small towel for your face & for your hands. There are these new yoga towels on the market from companies like Yogi Toes & Gaiam. My experience is that they are only for people who spritz and aren’t really absorbent enough for those who really sweat. If you bring a yoga towel, bring another towel as well.
Tip #5- Expect to be neauseas, dizzy, maybe even hallucinate. Seems kinda funny, but everyone experiences nausea, stomach upsets, and may even see stars in a hot yoga class. In some way its our fear of feeling this that makes it worse. I try to think that I’m dizzy because the yoga is working. The practice is constantly squeezing the body, and pushing the blood up to the head. The super high oxygen levels also make someone feel dizzy. Its your choice weather you decide this is a good or a bad sensation. Its only a temporary feeling, and the more you control your breathing, and the fitter your body gets, the less dizzy you will feel. The healthier you get from the practice, the more these symptoms seem to subside.
Tip #6- Get to class early so you can get into the back row- Rushing to yoga class and showing up late is not only disturbing to others, but its very stressful for you as well. Make the time to get to class early, change your clothes, sign in to the class, and find a good spot in the back row. Many students show up 20-30 minutes early to class and allow their bodies to acclimate to the heat. This also will allow you to meet the other students and you can get some great advice from them.
Tip #7- Don’t try everything in your first class- Many first time students experience the ego pressures to do everything in the class. Don’t fall into this trap. You don’t have to externally do everything. The best advice I can give everyone in their first class is to give the poses only 50% while you give your breathing 100%. Its challenging to listen to the teacher and try to think your way through everything, especially since you don’t have the understanding of what expected of you, or what your body can actually do. Breathe more, give yourself permission to rest, and slowly try to approach the entire class, rather then thinking you have to do everything in your first day. Its a relief knowing yoga isn’t like the gym. Nobody is judging you or trying to compete. Resting may be the greatest challenge in a yoga class, and may actually give you the most benefit.
Tip #8- Stay in the room. Many people get very uncomfortable in a hot yoga class and may feel the need to run. I suggest stay with that feeling and simply sit down and work on your breathing, or completely lie down until your body recalibrate and settles down. If you think that you gotta run out and cool down outside, then that thought will always give you away to escape. We don’t suggest escaping. We suggest learning to trust your breath and your will power to help calm you down. Then you will have this tool ready for you in life, when the heat is on and you want to run, now you learn to stay and change your inner state.
Tip #9- Just breathe. I am always teaching my students to breathe, and I still always find students holding their breath and trying too push too hard in the poses. This not only feels terrible, may make you really dizzy & nauseous, but this may lead to injuries. Its a good practice to count your breaths. I use a 6 count inhale & exhale. It seems like we have been trained to push our body and our mind so much in our culture that we forget to breathe. Its very easy to forget. I am suggesting to practice over and over to train your mind to breathe deeper, and exhale more.
Tip #10- Have a light heart. Don’t judge yourself too much. Stop thinking you look like an idiot and its too hard. Get past your conditioned thinking. As a child, simply learning to stand & to walk we fall over 300 times. Its good we didn’t have these self defeating thoughts then. Stop projecting onto the teacher, the heat, the others and just take responsibility for your breathing. Nothing else. Most of yoga is unseen. Just focus on what is happening in your mind, your thoughts, and how you can control your breath. Yoga leads to inner peace, not simply looking like everyone else. Our minds may so effected by our culture that we don’t even see it. Just try yoga today, have an open mind, and an open body will follow.
Article written by Mary Grace.
Hot Yoga teacher since 2000. Join her at Yoga Oasis or Maui Hot Yoga sometime soon.