Hot Yoga Survival Tips

Do you love hot yoga? Have you ever tried it?

I find people either fall into three categories when the topic of hot yoga is brought up. They either react with:

  • passion (they love it! They’re obsessed with it!)
  • hate (they tried it! They hated it!)
  • fear (they want to maybe try it! But they think they will die!)

Haha, sorry about the exclamation marks. Just trying to show that people tend to be fairly passionate on this subject ;).

I thought I’d do a quick hot yoga survival tips post. This is mainly for those who haven’t tried it and are fearful of it, but it could also be helpful for those who did try one class and hated it – maybe I can persuade you to try again? And I already know that those who LOVE hot yoga will be right alongside me cheering, so this post is a given for them ;).

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I’m actually not one of those people that loves hot yoga so much that I’m obsessed with it. I do understand people who are a bit more hesitant about it. That’s why it’s so important to approach it properly and to try a few different classes out. So let’s get started breaking this down – what IS hot yoga anyway?

  • There’s Bikram yoga, the ‘original’ heated yoga. Founded by Bikram Choudhury, it’s been popular since the early 1970s. It’s pretty regimented – classes are 90 minutes, follow a routine of 26 set postures and two breathing exercises and usually these are fairly strictly timed. Again, this all depends on your teacher and class. The postures are usually done in the same order as well. The room is heated to around 105 F/40.6 C and is pretty darn humid also.
  • Hot yoga evolved from Bikram – because Bikram Choudhury patented Bikram yoga, you have to be trained in Bikram to offer it, and you have to offer classes that go through the exact posture routine and timing and temperature that Choudhury set out (see above point). Therefore for those studios that wanted to offer heated yoga but with a few differences, hot yoga evolved. These classes usually incorporate most of Bikram’s poses but sometimes with slight variations and teachers can mix it up a fair bit. There is a reason for the order of the poses and for the inclusion of certain poses, so that tends to remain the same, but with room for variation no two classes have to be the same. It also doesn’t have to be 90 minutes, and rooms are sometimes not quite as hot as Bikram, sometimes a few degrees cooler (not much though).

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There are other forms of yoga practiced in heated rooms but I don’t want to get into those – for simplicity’s sake, let’s stick with the two above.

What are my experiences with hot yoga? Well, I tried Bikram. And after two classes, I was bored. The fact that it NEVER changed, that classes were 90 minutes long (a LONG class when you’re doing exactly the same thing again and again) and that the teachers I had (and they’re all different!) were so regimented and bootcamp-like took away a lot of the things I loved about yoga.

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The 26 Bikram poses

A lot of people enjoy Bikram precisely because it is predictable. Students know what to expect, they find comfort in that, and they can track progress a lot more easily by doing the exact same routine every time. For me, as a competitive person by nature, I enjoy yoga because I am not constantly looking at ‘progress’ and rather am just appreciating that I have good and bad days and they’re all okay. So it just depends on your personality, I think.

I enjoy hot yoga a lot – different teachers might throw a flow sequence in there, sometimes it’s offered for 1 hour or 1 hour 15 minutes rather than 90 minutes, sometimes the room is cooler, sometimes it’s hotter…I like these variations. They keep it interesting for me. So it totally depends on the person.

Having covered that, here are some basic survival tips for getting through your first few hot yoga classes, whether you choose Bikram or another form of hot yoga:

  • Be hydrated, but don’t drink a ton of water right before class or during. Some poses are actually uncomfortable to do with a full belly of water so just take small sips during class. Drink a LOT after class though! Preferably something with electrolytes like coconut water. You WILL sweat. A lot.
  • Wear as little clothing as you feel comfortable in. Trust me, you will want to rip those clothes off haha!
  • Bring a mat towel. You can just use a beach towel over your yoga mat but there are specific mat towels sold (and many studios rent them) that perfectly cover your mat, aren’t too thick and are non-slip. I have a great one from Lululemon that my wonderful friend Tara gave me for my birthday last year and it is a godsend. When it gets wet it actually becomes more slip-resistant.
  • Bring a second towel, a small one, for your face. Sweat getting in your eyes (especially when you wear contacts like me :)) is NOT fun.
  • Rest when you need to! So important.
  • Try and stay calm. You get agitated when you get hot, but fidgeting and flinching and letting yourself get annoyed just keeps you hot. Just stand STILL and take deep breaths in mountain pose. You’ll feel better.
  • Don’t leave the room. The sudden changes in temperature don’t make you feel any better even if you feel you just need to get out of the heat. Remember, heat rises, so lower to your mat and it will be a bit cooler and you can just rest.

NOTE: I’m not a yoga teacher, so I’m not making these suggestions as a trained professional, but rather just because these are things I have learned in class that have helped me. Please always check with a teacher if you have specific concerns before starting a class!

I hope these tips help and that they convince you to try it one more time if you had a bad experience! But please note, if you don’t like it and hot yoga is just not your thing, don’t sweat it (literally – haha). That’s the beauty of yoga – there’s a type out there for everyone, you just need to find it. 🙂

QUESTIONS:

  • Which hot yoga type are you? Lover, hater, fearer? Or is yoga just not your thing?
  • Any survival tips to add to this list for those who haven’t tried hot yoga before?
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Comments

  1. Hmmm, I guess I am right in the middle there. I tried Hot yoga and really enjoyed it, but for some reason have not gotten into it. I would like to try again after reading this. The idea of a mat towel is great, because I literally kept sliding off my mat (and then giggling uncontrollably unfortunately!)
    Thanks Anna – I will give it another go.

    • Haha a mat towel really does help. Hot yoga won’t end up being for everyone but if you didn’t hate it and you found the heat bearable then you’d probably love it – for me it’s very dependent on the teacher. Hope you get a chance to try it again Ali! x

  2. I love the hot yoga, it is my favorite! I do the hot yoga twice a week!

    What a great post to help people who may be taking their first hot yoga class!!

    happy Wednesday! ❤

  3. I’m in the I loooooove hot yoga category! I used to live in the middle of nowhere upstate NY and classes were only $3 a session (for students) and it was sooo amazing!! Now that I live in a major city i can’t find a class under $15. So sad!! So for now I stick to regular yoga that is covered in my gym membership, but always looking out for a groupon 😉

    • Aw that’s a bummer – I loved student classes too! Are there any rec centres in your city that charge less? I always find rec centres charge a lower fee than studios, but then I guess not many rec centres have the room and heating system that is needed for hot yoga. Groupons to the rescue I guess! 🙂

  4. I have practiced hot yoga for years – on and off, currently off! I fell in to OBSESSED category 🙂 These are great tips Anna! I guess the only other helpful tip I could offer would be to adjust any expectation to lose a ton of weight as a result of doing strictly hot yoga (as usual there are so many factors to being healthy and fit!). I found it made me ravenously hungry afterwards not to mention thirsty too. It is a wonderful workout for the mind and body for sure, and I miss it sometimes, but my body is much much happier (and better regulated) outdoors in the fresh air!

    • That’s a great tip – and totally true. There are LOTS of factors that go into weight loss. Plus you don’t want to overdo hot yoga and get dehydrated! It would be like doing an hour long sauna every day if you practice too much and don’t rehydrate! Thanks Shira!

  5. I’ve never tried hot yoga before. My gym never offered it at a time I could go!
    I’ve always wanted to get into yoga, but for some reason I just can’t stick with it. I need some working to do because I know how good yoga is for u!

  6. I’m a huge fan or hot yoga – and can sway between Bikram or Baptiste, or any other type of hot. These tips you’ve provided are great for anyone who may be a bit scared to try their first class or ask questions of the studio/teacher they are going to.

    I think the other tip I’d add to compliment your list is “No one is looking at you so do your thing”. We can often get hung up in class that we aren’t doing the poses right, or deep enough, or that everyone will judge you for taking Child’s Pose. Truth is, people are concerned about their own practice too much to judge you, and if they see you in child’s they will most likely feel at ease to know that they too can take it without feeling judged.

  7. I’ve never tried it before, but I am scared of hot yoga. I can’t handle heat period, so the idea of exercising in it makes me want to throw up a little.

    • I would start gentle – find a studio that doesn’t heat the room as much. There are a lot of ‘warm’ yoga classes available – typically these won’t be the same style as hot yoga, they’ll be just a regular class practiced in a warm room, but it’ll help give you an idea of whether the heat helps or hinders you.

  8. i love bikram! it is my favorite thing in the world and when i leave a class, i feel SO good!!

  9. Great post! I really want to try hot yoga one day but haven’t found the time yet. Truthfully, I’m a little scared because I really hate heat!

  10. I’ve tried Bikram yoga a few times and got bored as well. I loved it the first time, then after going back a few times realizing it’s the EXACT same thing every time, I quickly got bored with this. I then tried flow yoga and really enjoyed that, it keeps you moving and keeps things different! You are right, there are so many different types of yoga classes out there, anyone could find one that they enjoy!

    • So glad you found one that worked for you! Hot yoga is easier for me than flow because my lower body is much stronger than my upper and hot yoga is focused very much on squats and lower body strength. Flow is challenging for me due to the amount of upper body strength it requires, but that’s why I do it! It’s great to mix it up and challenge yourself 🙂

  11. Bikram Yoga is my LIFE!!!!
    Great tips, I was so so not prepared my first time, but I still went back and now I’m hooked.
    It may even become a Olympic Sport ( the asana’s not necessarily ‘yoga’). I think that would be amazing.

  12. I have not tried hot yoga, but I really want to. Right now I practice Ashtanga yoga. I do actual like the predictability of it, and it has a really good flow. I also like a class that is a little more “spontaneous” as well. I guess I just like yoga all around!
    I know there is a Bikram yoga studio in Vermont, but I am not sure if there are any other hot yoga offerings. I will have to check it out!

    • Ashtanga is one of those that I have yet to try – I have SO many friends that do it and I’m convinced that because of the structure I would just find it boring, like I do with Bikram, but that’s really closed minded of me. I WILL try it, I promise!

  13. I loooove hot yoga, but haven’t been in awhile. I love these tips. It’s funny, because they’re the exact same ones I give to other people who are planning to go for the first time 😛

  14. Oh, I love this post! I feel like same way about Bikram–it felt too bootcamp-like and intense. I always thought yoga was supposed to be peaceful. But my yoga studio changed over to hot yoga recently and so I have been taking Yin Yoga {which is just 60 min of gentle stretching AND there is music–something I missed out on with Bikram} and I absolutely love it! It’s not as hot {but close enough} and it is so relaxing and lovely! Thanks for this post; it makes me happy 🙂

    • Yes, I completely forgot about the music issue! Of course with hot yoga that’s a teacher-to-teacher thing, some use it some don’t, but you’re right, it’s NEVER on with Bikram and that just sucks to me! I love some music when I do yoga – I really want to try out dance yoga, where the yoga is kind of choreographed to a soundtrack. And I LOVE Yin, I did a whole post on it a while ago – I feel like I had a 2-hour massage every time I emerge from a yin class! My studio also does a ‘warm’ yin class and it’s divine! xx

      • Wait, did you just say DANCE yoga??? I must know more about this!

      • Haha I know! It’s quite specialized so it’s only ever offered in certain studios, and at mine it was just a temporary workshop :(. But any time I see it offered anywhere I jump at the chance to take it! You could always do your own at home of course – sometimes I put really dancey-type music and get out my mat haha!

      • How cool would it be if they started doing tap dance yoga? I would dust off my tap shoes in an instant. {Okay, I’m totally lying–I don’t have tap shoes, but really–how cool would it be??!} 🙂

      • Haha wow that would quite be something! I don’t even know how that would work…but it sounds unique enough that it could be a fabulous business opportunity lol!

      • I think I am going to invent it now 🙂

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