Going to your first hot yoga class can be daunting. With these few tips you will be prepared to begin practicing hot yoga and ready to reap the benefits and the amazing feeling of the heat on your body as you flow through the poses.
What Is Hot Yoga?
Or, maybe the question you’re asking yourself is how hot is hot yoga?
Bikram Yoga was introduced to the United States in the 1970s by Bikram Choudhury. This form of yoga, often credited as the original “hot” yoga. The flow of the class is scripted exactly the same every time at every studio – 26 postures (each held twice per side) in a room heated to 105 degrees Fahrenheit for 90 minutes.
However, not all hot yoga classes are not necessarily Bikram Yoga. You can find anything from vinyasa to slow flow and even yin yoga-like classes held in hot rooms, and in non-Bikram classes the degree of heat might vary.
A relatively new discipline of yoga is called Moksha Yoga and also falls into the hot yoga category. Moksha yoga is a form of hot yoga founded in 2004 by two Canadian yoga instructors, Ted Grand and Jessica Robertson. Hot yoga is a vigorous form of exercise yoga that is practiced in a heated studio. Although known as Moksha yoga in Canada, it is called Modo yoga in the United States and the rest of the world.
Moksha yoga includes more than 40 different poses with its foundation in traditional yoga. It offers a cardiovascular workout, yet reduces stress by calming the mind. The heated room is believed to detoxify the body through sweat and relaxes the muscles for safe stretching.
Unlike the popular form of hot yoga known as Bikram yoga, Moksha yoga is not scripted, so classes vary. The options include Moksha flow (vinyasa), silent classes, classes with music, Ashtanga foundations classes, and even meditation and movement classes.
To answer your question, in general, the standard temperature for a hot yoga class is somewhere between 92-100 degrees Fahrenheit with Bikram Yoga practiced in rooms that are heated to 105 degrees Fahrenheit.
Benefits of Hot Yoga
According to Mandy Ingber, fitness expert and author of Yogalosophy: 28 Days to the Ultimate Mind-Body Makeover, “Hot yoga is amazing for weight loss, as you sweat like a fiend. Like other yogas, it will build muscle tone [but will also] improve the lymphatic system and flush out toxins. It’s amazing for developing equanimity in the face of adversity and obstacles.
Bikram yoga has many reported benefits. It is said to expand lung capacity, improve balance, strengthen muscles, promote kidney function, balance sugar levels, develop patience and much more. Bikram says, “Give me 30 days, I’ll change your body. Give my 60 days, I’ll change your life.” That said, reported benefits of hot yoga are the same benefits you get from yoga, so why make it hot?
Hot Yoga Vs. Yoga Debate
There is no conclusive evidence that answers the which is better, Hot Yoga vs. Yoga debate. There is a lot of anecdotal testament to the benefits of hot yoga. Yogis describe leaving a hot class energized, feeling more flexible, rejuvenated and relaxed.
It all comes down to personal preference. Experiencing the benefits of any physical activity comes down to how often you do it. If it’s activity you love and you never have to force yourself to do it, you’re more likely to do it often.
Tips for Getting the Most Out of Your Hot Yoga Class
- First and foremost, as with starting any new physical activity, make sure hot yoga is safe for your current state of health. Talk to your doctor if being treated for current illness or taking prescription medications. Hot yoga may not be safe with some medical conditions and/or medications.
- If you have the option, sign up for a warm yoga class before a hot yoga class.
- Staying hydrated is crucial to any person practicing hot yoga. Drink around 20 ounces of water two to three hours prior to a hot yoga session. Drink about 10 ounces of water 20 minutes before the session and have a large bottle of water with you during class.
- Arrive early. Take advantage of this quiet time to relax and prepare yourself for the session as the room gradually heats up. Within a few minutes you’ll acclimate to the temperature. Having time on your mat before the instructor arrives will benefit you throughout your practice.
- Be prepared to sweat. You need a quality non-slip mat and/or yoga towel. I recommend Gaiam Sol. After trying many different brands Gaiam’s Sol is the only mat I use to practice and teach.
- When we’re out of our comfort zone, as is possible with hot yoga, it’s easier for our minds to wander. Reconnect and stay present. Bring awareness back to your breath and focus on each individual inhale and exhale.
- Wear form-fitting clothing. Sweat drenched baggy clothing can be distracting and uncomfortable.
- Practice on an empty stomach. Avoid eating 2-3 hours before class.
- Pace yourself and be comfortable with taking a rest whenever you need it. I encourage students to opt out of a pose or take a step outside of the studio, as needed, and return when you’re ready.
- Listen to your body and respect your limits. Relax and allow your body to ease into a pose.
- Again, listen to your body. Knowing your limits is being able to recognize the signs of your body in distress. For a hot class, the studio will be far warmer than you’re used to, it’s best to have a sense of what heat exhaustion actually looks like prior to your first class. According to Mayo Clinic, “Causes of heat exhaustion include exposure to high temperatures, particularly when combined with high humidity, and strenuous physical activity.”
- For different reasons there’s a chance you might not like your first hot class and you begin to think hot yoga might just not be for you. Before deciding, go to more than one class and trying different types of hot yoga and different teachers.
- Finish with a nice long savasana. Let your body cool down gradually, rather than immediately going into an unheated room or taking a cold shower.
If you’re curious about hot yoga, give it a try and see if it works for you.
Hot yoga is a great way to connect to yoga for anyone looking for a more high intensity workout.
The heat can be intense, however after a few classes it becomes a warm and welcoming sensation that you will come to appreciate.
Listen to your body and its cues.
If you’re in the Cincinnati or tri-state area I’ve added a new hot yoga class to my teaching schedule.
Description: Hot Vinyasa is set to invigorating music and will mindfully link breath to movement while helping you build strength, flexibility, and find focus. Movement is paced to build internal heat while you focus on alignment and breath. You will leave class feeling inspired, empowered and eager to come back for more! Open to all levels with modifications provided.
Register here, grab your mat and water and join us!
See my complete teaching schedule here. I would love to have you join us!
If there is anything else you would like to know about hot yoga (or yoga in general) leave a comment below or feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.