Thursday, June 28, 2012

Sweat: HOT Yoga

"Hot Yoga" views sweat as our body's natural healing mechanism.  The yoga practice, performed in a room kept at 95-105 degrees, opens your skin's pores, allowing the release of toxins.  This, combined with special breathing practices, makes for a powerful cleansing practice.

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According to Powerflow, some benefits of Hot Yoga (and, in my opinion, yoga in general) include reduced back pain, improved posture, increased energy, lower blood pressure, glowing skin, clearer mind, less cravings for unhealthy habits, and improved reactions to stressors.

I've been enjoying fulfilling my June Goal to do yoga 3x/week via Courtney's Challenge, and morning yoga has become part of my regular routine.  Sooo... when an online coupon showed up in my inbox, I couldn't resist the opportunity to finally try the infamous hot yoga workout.  It was a great deal ($29 for a month of unlimited classes!), so although hot yoga is probably not the kind of thing I'd do on a daily basis, it is the kind of thing I'm happy to try out over the course of a month to see if I really feel the benefits.

Before heading to my first class, some folks on Twitter gave great advice:

Thank you Laura, Lisa, Brianne, Bex, Brittany, Rachel, Melissa, Leah, and Chelsey

With these wise words in mind, off I went to the studio.  Mind you, this was my first time at a yoga studio at all, so the whole experience as new to me. I liked the studio feel, but more on that later.

The room: HOT. wood flooring and walls give it a "sauna" feel, which it kinda is.  It started out not so bad, just standing there, but with time the heat became more and more glaring, as though the sun were directly overhead.
The people: warm (ha-ha), inviting, invested.
The class: 1 hour 15 min (my longest yoga class yet!)
My Experience: 
The instructor was very blissful, kind, and diversified her instruction across all levels, and the class certainly had students of all levels.  We started out simply, with ujjayi breathing, and then an "Om" (not typical of my classes, so makes me feel a little... ommmmmsilly), but it was nice.  There was no music for the first 15-20 minutes (out of 75), which really helped me follow the breaths in and out.

Moving into even the most basic opening-up poses, I started to feel warm.  Through the Sun Salutations, we heated up. About 5 to 10 minutes in, before even moving into vinyasas or the 'fancier' poses, I was already breaking a sweat.

Drip.  Drop.  Ouch, my eyes.


"We're all counting on you."

For this reason, it helped to have those spare towels (thanks Laura and Rachel!) nearby so I could wipe my eyes, face, shoulders.  I tried not to break out of a pose until she gave us a chance (about 4 times throughout) to push back into child's pose and grab a drink or wipe-down as needed.  Only once or twice otherwise, when turning my head down caused the sweat to sting my eyes, did I reach for the towel unprompted.  (NOTE: it is ALWAYS okay to stop and have a drink or wipe your face during ANY type of workout!  You do what your body needs, if you're hot or thirsty or simply need a break, do not be embarrassed or push yourself beyond your actual limits, especially in a new/scary/HOT workout like this.)

Read more to hear how the heat impacted the workout...



From the simple poses to the more complex, some patterns became evident and I grew more comfortable with the instruction and flow of the class.  The heat made me uneasy, causing me to struggle with balance in poses that I'm otherwise comfortable with (for example: various transitions in and out of Warrior I).  Therein lies the challenge, and that's the whole point, isn't it?

On the contrary, the heat HELPED with opening up my joints, folding further, opening wider, stretching and doing more and more.  I'm interested to see how this improves over the course of the month, and how it influences my NON-hot yoga practice at my gym.  Will definitely be keeping you posted on that.

The poses and transitions became increasingly challenging as the class went on, but, as I said, I acclimated and found my way a bit better.  However, when she moved into "Today's Pose," I really struggled with something so new and foreign, and far more contortionist than anything we've done in my gym yoga class.  At that point, I tried to do the beginner's version, held it a moment, tried again, and then resigned to sitting, stretching, sipping water, and observing the advanced yogis around me. Inspiration, for sure. 

And that was it!  We then did some stretches before moving into Shavasana.  I really could have fallen asleep right then and there.  The class took everything out of me and I was blissed out and ready to zzzzzzz.

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I'll be back.  Definitely enjoyed it.  The heat provided both the "good" and the "bad" of the experience.  It was challenging for sure, and not always pleasant.  Some moments, some balances, some poses did NOT feel good in the moment, but that's room for improvement--that's where change happens.

AFTER the class...  The rest of the night, I felt great!  I noticed...

  •  I did feel "cleansed", as people say, as if anything unpure had seeped out of my wide-open pores and left only the good stuff. Don't know if it actually detoxifies or simply dehydrates (likely the latter), but either way, that's how it feels
  • My skin was actually glowing. I noticed it as soon as I stepped out of the shower and saw my face's reflection.  Is that my complexion?  How nice!
  • My breaths were longer.  I was breathing nice and slowly, calmly, rhythmically.
  • My joints were more open.  I didn't notice it until two hours later (just now!), as I got up from my computer and walked to the kitchen to refill my water (hydrate hydrate hydrate).  My stride was longer.  I literally looked down at my legs, perplexed.  Strange, but also awesome. 
  • I was, though, tired.  Granted, I hadn't slept very well at all the night before, so I was naturally already tired and heavy-headed.  Add the evening's dehydration on top of that, and I was ready for bed.  (But I stayed up, drinking my water, so that I could share the experience with you! You're welcome!) 

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Hot Yoga?  I did it, and so can you!  If you're up for the dare, go ahead and find a hot yoga studio in your area.  It might not be for everyone (like, people who don't like heat and sweating), but if you're up for the challenge...


Drink up!
Before you go:
  • Drink plenty of water the day and night BEFORE your class, and continued throughout the day.  Don't fall into the trap of chugging water the hour or two before your class, or you'll spend the whole time in the restroom.
  • Refrain from eating about two hours prior to your class, or if you must, choose something easily digestible.  You don't want an upset stomach spoiling your experience or causing discomfort.
  • Prepare to sweat. You'll see below: wear wicking clothing and bring towels. 


What to bring:
  • Mat.  Just like regular (non-'hot') yoga, hot yoga is practiced on a mat. Your studio may provide mats, but bringing your own is encouraged.
  • Towel: One large, thin towel to lay over your mat, and a hand towel to wipe your sweaty palms so you don't slip, and to wipe your face so sweat doesn't sting your eyes. Seriously. 
  • Water. Don't forget to DRINK IT. 
  • Breathable clothing... minimal clothing... But seriously.  
    • Do not wear loose T-shirts.  If you choose to wear a shirt at all, wear something thin, breathable, and fitted.  
    • I wore my fave fitness pants only because I knew they were super breathable and felt like nothing.  Next time, I'll probably try shorts and see how it goes, but wear either fitted shorts (like cycling shorts) or running shorts that are designed to stay close to your body. 
  • Hair tie!  Headband!  Keep that hair OUT of your face, because it'll all be sweaty and gross.
  • A change of clothes or extra towel for the car if you're driving home before showering.  You'll be soaked, so be prepared. 

What to do after?

  • HYDRATE. Duh. Drink water. 
  • The post-workout, I found less information on. Aside from drinking water and showering, what do YOU do after Hot Yoga?  Any certain practices you engage in, or foods you eat?  
  • My class let out at 8pm so all I wanted to do was sleep. :) 

Stay tuned!  I will continue posting my experience as I attend more classes throughout the month.  We'll see if I continue to feel benefits from it, or perhaps how it influences me outside of the studio, in other workouts, or just throughout my day.  This was an evening class; I wonder what morning will feel like!

Hot Yoga can be controversial.  It's not for everyone.  I (personally) wouldn't recommend doing it every day.  There is no doubt that it is dehydrating, but so long as you take proper precautions (above) and are in good health, I think it can be safe to do. As always, talk to your doctor if you're unsure or have questions.

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Have you tried Hot Yoga?  Do you enjoy it?  Go regularly?
For those who don't - why not? 
What tips do you have for newbies?  Do you prefer morning, midday, or night?  Any post-hot-yoga rituals you engage in?

This is a great way to keep me June "Yoga" goal going strong into July, as well.  I'm excited about this new practice and have so many questions!  Can't wait to hear your opinions and experiences. 

17 comments:

  1. This sounds brilliant. There are some studios near me but they are quite expensive, so I have been waiting to see if I can get an online coupon deal. I really want to try it now!

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    1. Yep, I was lucky to get such a good deal on this one. Check out the studios -- many have one free session a week, or will allow newcomers to get one trial before joining. Good luck!

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  2. I've never tried actual Hot Yoga. My studio does warm yoga but it's no where as intense. I think it would definitely be a test of staying in the moment for sure!

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    1. Ha ,yes, you're right. The heat definitely keeps your mind INSIDE the studio, focused on your body, your breathing, etc.

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  3. I've only tried hot yoga once. I agree, the heat does really help with opening up and getting into poses but I also found that I needed to be careful and not push myself too far, you know? so that I wouldn't hurt myself. At first, I found it challenging to concentrate and stay in the moment because I was thinking about the heat, but once I let go of that, it was great. Glad you enjoyed it and great tips too!

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    1. Yes, it's a balance (no pun intended!) between the two: opening up and going further than you otherwise could, vs knowing when it's too much. Such is always the case in any workout. Pushing hard enough to improve without risking injury to yourself.

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  4. I love hot yoga!!!! Glad you enjoyed it :)

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  5. I have GOT to try hot yoga. I've heard nothing but great things about it, and I'm glad your experience was a good one!

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  6. Nice write up. It ALMOST makes me want to try hot yoga. I get so hot and sweaty in my regular vinyasa class that I can't imagine wanting to be hotter. Maybe someday. Glad you enjoyed it.

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  7. Great review! I tried it once and did like the way I felt after... but I couldn't get over that wet sock smell in the studio.

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  8. YAY! I LOVE HOT YOGA! So glad you tried it and liked it. I love how the heat helps open up my joints.

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  9. I'm a huge fan of hot yoga. I get cranky if it's not hot in the room!! As I've been struggling with a shoulder funk lately, I've been missing my mat a lot. I need to practice some restorative poses and get my mediation in! Glad you had a great experience.

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  10. I've never done hot yoga but I would like to try!!! Especially if it gives me a glow!! :) these are awesome tips!!

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  11. I've been trying to work up the courage to go, but I'm so worried about getting dizzy and feeling guilty about taking sips of water. I've heard about amazing experiences -- people who love it, and then people who would never ever go back.
    Guess I just have to try it out for myself soon

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  12. Wow, I'm not sure I could handle hot yoga as much as I hate to be hot. My friend does it and told me I might want to avoid it knowing me! Haha. Great post about the details

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  13. hot yoga is really tough task which needs full preparation...

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