Seven Tips for Venturing into the World of Hot Yoga

hot yogaFew peo­ple think of yoga as an extreme sport, but the con­cept of hot yoga can be intim­i­dat­ing for some. Lots of people—both prac­tic­ing yogis and yoga vir­gins alike—steer clear of heat­ed yoga class­es, fear­ing that the style of yoga is too intense or that they won’t be able to han­dle the dis­com­fort of bak­ing in a hot room.

It’s true: hot yoga can be chal­leng­ing. But it can also be an awe­some expe­ri­ence, a great stress-buster, and a sol­id work­out that helps with strength, bal­ance, and flex­i­bil­i­ty. Curi­ous about hot yoga but not sure how to approach it? We’ve got you covered.

Keep It Light
As with any sport or activ­i­ty, the right gear will make your expe­ri­ence a lot more com­fort­able. When it comes to hot yoga, less is more: think light cloth­ing that will wick mois­ture away.

The “hot” part of hot yoga can vary, depend­ing on the type of class. Some class­es are mere­ly in a slight­ly-warmer-than-usu­al room, while oth­er yoga stu­dios are heat­ed up to 105 degrees Fahren­heit. Regard­less of the type of class you’re tak­ing, don’t wor­ry about dress­ing for warmth. The pur­pose of your gear is more to keep you decent, rather than to pro­vide insu­la­tion. Shorts and a tank or tee will do just the trick—though don’t be sur­prised if you find your­self peel­ing off your top lay­er ear­ly in the class.

Tech­ni­cal fab­rics are a good bet for keep­ing you com­fort­able while you sweat—and you will sweat.

Bring (or Rent) a Mat Towel
You’ll prob­a­bly want to bring a bath tow­el for your post-class show­er, but don’t for­get to bring a tow­el for your mat, too. It doesn’t take long for all those drops of sweat to pool onto your mat, which makes for a slick sur­face. It’s tricky to hold a down­ward dog when your hands and feet are slip­ping all over the place, to say the least.

There are tech­ni­cal mat tow­els made with microfibers that will eas­i­ly absorb your sweat with­out slid­ing out of place. In a pinch, a reg­u­lar beach tow­el will do the trick, too.

hot yogaDrink Up, Before and After
Did we men­tion that you’ll sweat a lot in a hot yoga class? Be sure to drink plen­ty of flu­ids to keep your­self feel­ing sol­id through­out the class. That doesn’t just mean you should guz­zle a bot­tle of water right before class—it means you should make a point of drink­ing plen­ty of water in the days lead­ing up to a class, too.

You’ll like­ly feel parched after class, so be sure to replen­ish all of the lost flu­id. Sweat isn’t just water—it’s potas­si­um and sodi­um, too—so a drink with elec­trolytes is a great way to stay hydrated.

Dis­close Your Inexperience
Before the class begins, take a moment to men­tion to your teacher that it is your first hot yoga class. There’s no shame in being new, and this allows the teacher to keep an eye on you to help you with tricky pos­tures and to make sure you’re han­dling the heat just fine. Your teacher will like­ly tell you about some options that are avail­able if you feel over­whelmed by the heat, like tak­ing a break in child’s pose or in savasana (lying on your back).

Tune into Your Body
Chances are good that you’re going to expe­ri­ence some dis­com­fort dur­ing your first hot yoga class—and in most sub­se­quent hot yoga class­es you take, for that mat­ter. While some dis­com­fort is to be expect­ed, it’s impor­tant to pay atten­tion to how you’re feel­ing and to know when you need to reel it in.

Shaky legs in a war­rior pose, sore ham­strings in a for­ward fold, and sweat sting­ing your eyes in a stand­ing pose—this type of dis­com­fort is gen­er­al­ly okay. But if you feel light­head­ed or nau­seous, it’s time to back off and take a breather.

Tune Out Every­one Else
The beau­ti­ful thing about yoga is that it isn’t a com­pe­ti­tion. While there is often a mir­ror in the stu­dio that allows you to see yourself—and every­one around you-you can take com­fort in know­ing that oth­er peo­ple gen­er­al­ly aren’t pay­ing atten­tion to you.

It’s easy to feel self-con­scious when you’re try­ing any­thing new, but the best ben­e­fits are reaped when you’re able to get out of your head. Feel free to peek at your neigh­bor if you aren’t exact­ly sure where your hands are sup­posed to go in a par­tic­u­lar pose, but don’t let your­self com­pare your pose, body, strength, or flex­i­bil­i­ty to theirs.

Embrace the Sweat
When you take a hot yoga class, you’re going to dis­cov­er that you have the abil­i­ty to sweat in places you nev­er thought pos­si­ble. But try not to let that dis­tract you. Don’t wor­ry about wip­ing your brow, dab­bing your sweat off with your shirt, or tow­el­ing off between pos­es. Just let it hap­pen and focus instead on the pose, on the way your body feels, and on what is going through your head. After a few class­es, you just might find your­self enjoy­ing the lev­el of sweati­ness that can only be achieved through a hot yoga class.