We're getting to that time of year when change is palpably in the air. Not only is Fall a great season to clear out your closet, but it's also the ideal time to try new workouts. You may have heard about the many benefits of hot yoga, because if Penélope Cruz and Sandra Bullock swear by it, there must be something worthwhile happening underneath all that sweat. There are plenty of reasons to give it a shot, but before you go in, guns blazing, there are a few things you should know. After all, yoga in a heated room is not for the faint of heart.
I've been teaching hot yoga for almost five years, so I've seen a lot of different people — and a lot of beginners — come in and out of the hot room. Those who aren't used to the heat tend to have some trouble adjusting to the new environment, and that's completely normal, so I've learned how important it is to prepare these people for what they're about to experience. Whether you're a dedicated yogi or a first-timer to the practice, here are a few things I wish everyone knew before they entered the sweat zone.
Don't Eat Right Before You Start Class
Heat can do some weird things to your body. It can make you feel light-headed, anxious, and even nauseous. That's why it's important to go into the class with a fairly empty stomach (trust me on this; I've seen people throw up). If you walk in having just finished a big ol' burrito, you're going to struggle through every minute of your hot yoga session, and you won't be able to reap many benefits.
It's a good idea to stop eating an hour or two before the start of class because you don't want the majority of your body's energy going toward digestion. You need all the help you can get to stretch and sweat.
Water Alone Isn't Enough — You Need Electrolytes, Too
I used to see a lot of students chugging bottle after bottle of water once class was over. They came back the next day reporting that they were still feeling thirsty and a little dehydrated. If you're only tossing back straight-up water, your body isn't going to absorb enough of it. You need some basic electrolytes, like sodium chloride, potassium, and magnesium. The cells in your body need these to function normally, and when you sweat intensely, you lose a lot of them, which can result in physical and mental exhaustion.
Drink some coconut water, eat a banana, or buy some electrolyte tablets. All of these will help restore your body's electrolytes to their normal level.
You Might Experience Some Bloating
When you get started on a new workout you love, you go often in the beginning. That's certainly what happened to me when I first started doing hot yoga (I went 10 days in a row at the very start), and I've seen many other people do the same. It's addicting in the best way possible. What you might not know, though, is that when you go from doing zero hot yoga to a boatload of hot yoga in a short amount of time, you may experience some bloating.
This happens because your body is a bit shocked at how much sweat it's losing and how much more water you're suddenly drinking. This causes you to go into a kind of emergency mode, and your body retains as much water as possible, just in case the apocalypse is around the corner (it isn't). Once your body realizes that it's not in any danger, though, it starts to shed all the excess water weight, and you'll look and feel better than ever.
Bring a Change of Clothes
I've found that many people don't expect to sweat as much as they do in their first class. You'll be drenched from head to toe at the end of class, and you won't want to go home in your sopping-wet yoga outfit. Nearly every hot yoga studio I've been to has showers and a locker room, so bring a change of clothes and grab a quick shower before you head out. You'll feel so much better if you don't have to sit in your wet leggings on your way home.