Hot yoga, aka bikram yoga, can be quite intimidating for those who are either new to yoga in general, or haven't been to a hot yoga class before. If the 105ºF temperatures aren't enough to scare you away, the thought of getting sticky and sweating with a group of strangers can be enough to turn you off of it. But, once you get past the heat and the sweat factor, hot yoga classes can provide you with some of the best workouts of your life. Here's what you should know before attending your first hot yoga class.
- What to bring: Unlike traditional yoga, hot yoga requires a few more accessories to make the class more enjoyable. I like to bring a big bottle of water so that I can stay hydrated throughout class; my own yoga mat; a slipless yoga towel to help keep me in place during the practice; and a smaller towel for face/neck sweat. Note: towels are not required, but with all of the sweating you do, they are nice to have.
- What to wear: I tend to just wear my regular yoga clothes to class which are made out of sweat-wicking materials. I would suggest steering clear of baggy or articles of clothing made out of cotton because anything baggy will just become a nuisance, and cotton actually traps sweat, so you'll feel even more uncomfortable.
- What the atmosphere is like: As soon as you walk into class, the sudden temperature change will be a shock to your system. You'll feel like you just stepped foot into the Sahara Desert! Find a place in the room to set up your mat and towel, and within a few minutes you'll acclimate to the temperature. Some men choose to not wear shirts, and sometimes just tiny bike shorts during class, so don't be alarmed if a half-naked man walks in (now for a half-naked woman, that I've never experienced!). I've been to some classes where people are really chatty before and want to talk about the weather, etc., but I actually prefer the classes where it's complete silence beforehand — helping you get your "om" on before the teacher walks in.
- The actual class: All hot yoga instructors bring their own flair and style to class. Some teachers use loud, rhythmic music, while some use quiet, meditative music, while some don't use any music at all. And just like other types of yoga, the poses can be really intense and be held longer than others, or quick, like a flow sequence. Remember to keep filling your lungs with air, taking long deep breaths throughout your practice. If you need to stop at any point during the class because you are feeling nauseous or dizzy, make sure you stop and drink some water. And if you need to rest to catch your breath, just go into child's pose and take the time you need before continuing. It's better to go into child's pose and take a break, rather than push yourself to a point that could be potentially harmful. It's normal to feel a bit light-headed during class because of the extreme heat, but if you feel like you're going to faint, naturally you can excuse yourself from the room. I've heard of classes where the teachers forbid you from leaving once the class is started, but first and foremost, you need to take care of you, so if you feel unwell, don't push yourself. Feeling uncomfortable is common, being in unbearable pain is not.
- The sweat factor: Be prepared to sweat. You're going to drip sweat from places you didn't even know could produce sweat. And if you think you're sweating, just look at how much your neighbor is sweating. Feel free to wipe your face during class with your hand towel if the sweat beads rolling down your face get to be too much. And after class, remember to wipe around your mat for any sweat that escaped your towel zone.
- What to expect after class: If I ever drive to class, I take a few moments to drink some water and re-connect with reality before taking to the roads. You may feel light-headed, which is perfectly normal, so don't be afraid to extend your Savasana "the corpse pose" for a few minutes longer, or hang out in the entrance of the studio before continuing on with your day.
Hot yoga can be a bit of an adjustment (and requires doing laundry more frequently!), but overall it increases your flexibility, strength, energy, and re-connects your body to your mind. So enjoy!
Source: Flickr User gbSk