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 ;).
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).
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.
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. 🙂
- 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?