Defined as a group of mental, physical, and spiritual practices; yoga is an excellent way to calm and clear your mind. Yoga can help you strengthen and tone your muscles, and can help keep your body loose and flexible. As a result, there is a “mind-body-spirit” connection that is often developed within this practice. Nowadays, yoga has become a fitness trend, and the popularity is soaring. According to a survey done by the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), yoga is the most commonly used mind and body practice for both adults and children.
There is a broad range of yoga practices and schools out there, but one of the newest trends in the fitness world is hot yoga. Hot yoga is practiced in a room heated to 90-105 degrees Fahrenheit, and while it is challenging, there are amazing benefits to this practice. For those of you who have not yet dived into the world of hot yoga because of fear and anxiety of the heat, don’t sweat it. With the proper “know-how” and preparation, you can ensure that you will survive hot yoga, without passing out.
1. Know Which Class You Are Taking – Some studios have different classes available, so make sure you know what you are getting into before you go. This means, look at the studio’s website and read their class descriptions. Many studios have Bikram and Vinyasa classes available, so it is important for you to know the differences between each class. If you have any questions or concerns, feel free to call up the studio so you can talk to someone directly.
2. Don’t Wear Makeup – Just don’t do it. You will leave a mess on your towel and potentially look like a clown with makeup smeared across your face. With the amount of sweat you will be releasing, there is no point wearing anything on your skin. Believe me, the other people in the class will be more concerned with themselves and their current pose than to take notice of what you have on your face.
3. Dress the Part – Hot yoga is obviously done in a hot environment, so make sure you dress for the occasion. Don’t wear anything heavy or baggy because they will become drenched with sweat, and it will be harder to move around in. Stay away from pants or long sleeves. Instead, opt for breathable shorts and a short-sleeve shirt. If you are a male, wearing just a pair of shorts is almost always acceptable, as well as wearing a bra and a pair of shorts for a female. Just make sure that the fabric you are wearing is breathable and features moisture wicking material.
4. Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate – Do not go to hot yoga without hydrating, ever. Being dehydrated is the number one way to pass out during class. You can also hurt yourself by doing this, so you will not be doing your body any favors. Hot yoga is intense, and the intensity does diminish significantly if your body is properly hydrated. The best rule of thumb is to start hydrating as soon as you wake up that day. You will be less likely to pass out, or get sick after class. Just make sure you hydrate and replenish yourself with electrolytes before, during and after class, because you will probably sweat more than you ever have before. Just make sure you take breaks during class to hydrate, and take small sips, don’t guzzle.
5. Watch What You Eat – Watching what you eat before class plays a huge role in your ability to handle the class. You do NOT want to eat fast food or anything greasy before hot yoga unless you want to get sick. Remember, you are what you eat, so fuel your body with nutritious foods before your hot yoga session. Never go to class hungry either, make sure you eat something wholesome a few hours before class. A good rule of thumb is to not to eat anything within 3 hours before class starts. Otherwise, you run the risk of getting an upset stomach and feeling nausea during class.
6. Come Prepared – Make sure you bring your yoga mat, a few different towels with you, your hydration method of choice, an extra change of clothes, and shower supplies. You will need a towel to wipe yourself off during class, a towel to place down on your yoga mat to help prevent yourself from slipping, and another towel to use for your shower after class. Yes, you will need a towel for your yoga mat, because it tends to become like a slip and slide from all the sweat. There are towels designed for yoga mats, but these can be pricey. If you want a cheaper option, use an ordinary beach towel or invest in socks and gloves that have an anti-slip grip on the palms and soles.
7. Change Your Perspective – Don’t head to your hot yoga class filled with fear and anxiety. As Frank Herbert once said, “fear is the mind-killer,” so don’t let your fear take over. You will have a much better experience if you don’t let fear take the wheel and drive. It’s OK to feel fearful, but let it pass. Instead, just breathe and view this experience as an exciting and positive one. You’d be surprised to see how things just “flow” better when you go into an experience with optimism rather than fear.
8. Inform the Instructor – When you go to your first hot yoga class, you should seek out the instructor before class to introduce yourself and to let them know that this is your first time. Some instructors will ask that question before they start the class, but not all of them do, so be proactive and let them know before class begins. Many instructors will take the time to explain each pose more in depth when they know that there is a first-timer in the room. They also are more likely to keep an eye out and will check on you to make sure that you are doing well during the duration of the class.
9. Don’t Compare – Yes, you will probably be watching others during class, but remember only to look at others to view the current pose if you aren’t sure how to do it. Don’t look at other people and compare yourself to them. Remember, everyone starts off at the low end of the pole. You can’t expect perfection or mastery out of the gate. Time, effort and hard work are needed, and there will probably be other students there who have been practicing for years. Of course, they are going to look like professionals, but realize they too were in your position at one point as well. So don’t stress yourself out by comparing yourself to others. Be proud of yourself for taking the first steps and only study other people when you aren’t sure of the current pose.
10. Take It Slow – Hot yoga is intense, so if you are feeling nausea or dizzy during class don’t feel embarrassed to sit or lay down. The main objective should be to stay inside the room for the whole class, so don’t worry if you need to rest and breathe. You can still receive the benefits from being in the heat and staying with the class, even if you are lying down. It’s very common for those new to hot yoga not to be able to do their first class straight through. So know that you are not alone and hot yoga will get easier in time.
11. Remember to Breathe – While this may seem like common sense, many people don’t breathe while they exercise. On many occasions, our monkey brain takes over, and this can lead to anxiety, stress, and fear which can seriously hinder your performance and can make you forget to breathe. In hot yoga, do not breathe through your mouth, which can help stimulate the fight-or-flight response. Instead, only breathe through your nose. If you concentrate on your breath by taking slow, deep breaths during exercise, you will certainly feel the benefits and will lessen your chances of fainting.