Hot yoga refers to any yoga style practiced in a heated room with temperatures ranging from 90 to 105 degrees. The theory behind hot yoga is that it helps the body to sweat out toxins while allowing the student to use their elevated body heat to achieve deeper poses.
Many people feel that hot yoga is only a physical practice, but I disagree. It requires extra body awareness to keep your body safe and mental strength and breath awareness to keep calm and centered in the extreme heat. It also feels really good during winter months.
I myself started practicing with Bikram Yoga, the hottest of hot yoga. It was physically challenging for sure, but even more than that was how it challenged my mind. You are choosing to put yourself in a steaming room and workout in it. Your mind is screaming to get out and be comfortable in a normal temperature, but strength of mind as well as body and breath awareness keeps you in the room and trying your best. I strongly believe that my early hot yoga practice helped me transform my breathing capabilities for the more advanced regular yoga practices I delved into later in my yoga journey.
People practicing any type of hot yoga, especially beginners, should take extra precaution in class. Because the heat makes you feel like you can stretch deeper into poses, it gives you a false sense of flexibility. If you are many inches from touching your toes in normal temperature, don’t strain yourself to grab them in class. Overstretching in a heated room can commonly lead to muscle strains or damage to your joints.
The heat also puts more strain on your heart and challenges your endurance.
Hot yoga is not recommended during pregnancy or if you have extremely high blood pressure. If you have any conditions that make you concerned about trying hot yoga, ask your physician for their advice. If you decide to take class, let the teacher know of your condition well before practice so they can give you modifications and keep an eye on you.
A few tips for staying safe in a hot yoga class include:
– Drinking lots of water beforehand and bringing water with you
– Bringing a towel mat and hand towel
– Wearing light and breathable clothing
– Breathing through your nose to keep your mind calm.
– Listening to your body to avoid overstretching
– Pacing yourself. Start slowly and take breaks when you need them.
Both hot and regular yoga provide great physical and mental benefits. If you find that hot yoga is not right for you, find another yoga style that does work well for you. There are lots to choose from.