Temperatures over 100 degrees, sweat coming out of places you didn’t even know could sweat, and a smell that can only be described as wet-dog-meets-hockey-gear: Who wouldn’t want to try hot yoga?
In all seriousness, hot yoga can be incredibly beneficial, whether you’re looking to improve your strength and flexibility or you just want a warm escape during this chilly time of the year.
Even if you regularly practice other forms of yoga, hot yoga can be intimidating. The following points will help clarify some of your questions and help you work up the confidence to give it a shot.
Condition Yourself Ahead of Time
Hot yoga can be demanding, so make sure your body is ready. First, make sure you’re properly hydrated, which is best done by drinking water regularly all the time, not chugging several bottles in the hours leading up to class. You’ll also want to arrive with a relatively empty stomach. If you’re hungry ahead of time, have a light snack, like fruit or nuts. You’ll regret indulging in sweets or rich foods prior to class. Finally, listen to your body. Hot yoga is not your friend if you have a hangover or if you feel like you’re coming down with something. If your best needs rest, give it what it needs.
You’ll Get Used to the Heat
The heat of the studio might feel intense at first, especially if you’ve just stepped in from wintery conditions. Though it might be hard to believe, your body will adjust to the heat, and it won’t take long. Your mind will be so engaged with what’s going on with your body—balance, placement, alignment—that it will forget about the heat.
Don’t Let Sweat Bring You Down (Literally)
Expect to sweat—a lot. You will want to bring two towels with you: a hand towel to wipe off sweat between asanas (poses), and a larger towel to lay over your mat. There are microfiber towels specifically made for yoga mats, which your studio might have for you to rent or borrow. Alternatively, a beach towel should do the trick. If you forego the towel, you’ll find that your mat will get very slippery with sweat, making the class much more difficult than it needs to be.
If you’ve taken yoga before, you’ll know that your breath should guide your practice. This is especially true for hot yoga. Let your body take the deep inhales and exhales that it needs, and notice when your breath pattern changes: this is usually your body giving you a signal. Short, shallow breaths will tell you that you have gone too far. Holding your breath is a sign that you should ease off a little.
Hot yoga is incredible—just ask the girl next to you who has attended a hot class every day for the last eight years and is currently contortioned into an impressive pretzel. As in most yoga classes, not everyone in the class will be at the same level. Don’t feel discouraged if you can’t take the same variation of a pose as everyone else in your class. Your first hot yoga class is about getting used to the temperature, the poses, and the environment. Allow yourself to make progress over time.
Know When to Back Off
Even those who practice hot yoga regularly will have their off days, so don’t feel badly if you need to take a rest. Though it might be tempting to run out of the heated room, don’t! The sudden change in temperature might be too much. Instead, take a break from the poses and lie down on your back. Wait until your body mellows out before getting back into the series of poses.
Don’t Overthink, Just Do
Your inner monologue throughout your first hot yoga class might sound like a prolonged scream, or it might contain a few expletives. Ignore it, and follow the teacher’s instruction. Don’t think “I can’t” before attempting a pose. Takes cues from the teacher and from your body.
Keep Your Practice Sustainable
You did it! You might feel a little shaky after your first class, but you’ll also feel empowered and strong. It’s a feeling like no other. Now, give your body what is deserves. Rehydration is essential: replace the fluid you lost through sweat. Take it easy for the rest of the day. If you loved the class, then find a way to incorporate it into your regular routine. If you’re not sure, consider trying a class with another instructor, or seek out a different style of hot yoga. If you hated it—well, at least you tried it!