No matter what you’ve heard about hot yoga, almost everyone agrees: it’s not a boring sort of yoga. On the contrary, even classes with long-held poses get interesting once your body reacts to being. . . very warm! Damp yoga mats are the norm. If you learn what to expect in hot yoga and have great first classes, it can become a life-changing hobby. People go into the heat for the profound benefits. You may reach your toes, or the ground, for the first time in your life! You might correct your posture from 50-hour weeks at the computer. Some even say the post-hot-yoga feelings are slightly addicting. After getting used to hot yoga, most people report feeling lighter, more limber, detoxified—and even energized—upon leaving class.
What to Expect
Knowing what to expect can go a long way toward having positive experiences in your first hot classes. A hot yoga class is usually heated to between 95 and 100 degrees. No, those aren’t hot tub temperatures! However, the class will end up humid, indeed. The humidity level may be between 35% and 45%. It’s normal to experience a “getting used to the heat” curve, so you may need to stop participating and sit for a bit.
When you arrive at hot yoga, people will have towels, some placed over their mats. They’ll also have large water bottles. Once class starts, you may see some yogis who are already very flexible and strong—but that’s no reason to get intimidated. Hot classes don’t often involve props and other yoga accessories. Since everyone sweats in hot yoga, yogis tend to bring their best yoga mat that won’t slip when wet.
Hot yoga has many awesome benefits, which we’ll cover shortly. With the heat and humidity come all the risks of running on a hot, humid summer day. It’s normal to feel overwhelmed by the heat while trying to hold poses. The good news is, feelings of challenge are readily available in hot yoga!
Bikram yoga is a popular, standardized type of hot yoga. Bikram classes have 26 poses, two breathing exercises and last 90 minutes (or shorter for expedited sequences). The Bikram sequence is specific and is not great for those new to yoga. A hot yin class or just a hot deep stretch class would be better than a Bikram class if you don’t have much yoga experience.
Why So Hot? - The Benefits
The benefits of hot yoga arrive to your body and mind both during and after class. The most noted difference is the lengthening of the muscles. It also improves strength, balance, tone and bodily awareness. Your blood circulation can be improved too. Hot yoga is great for the spine. Increasing the flexibility and strength of your spine has many benefits, like improved posture and mobility.
Hot yoga can calm and clear your mind. It’s a great way to destress. Afterward, you might just feel like starting your taxes or untangling those knotted cords or necklaces lying around the house! Overall, hot yoga gently challenges your mind and body and brings them together. With increased awareness, you might detect the texture of your mat on the bottom of your toes at the end of class. Sound odd? Nope, that’s how much hot yoga can improve your mind-body connection! There are multi-faceted rewards for your efforts in the heat.
What to Wear
While there’s no uniform for hot yoga, there is a certainty about clothing: cotton kills! Once you sweat that much, cotton can get heavy and abrasive. Opt for moisture-wicking fabrics. Some people sweat so much that their legs become slippery. In that case, pants are better. Men may prefer shorter shorts than in a normal yoga class for flexibility’s sake, or opt for pants. Quick-drying swim leggings are great for both genders. Women will definitely want to opt for moisture-wicking sports bras. They can be low-impact.
If you’re going somewhere afterward, you may want to bring a change of clothes. If you won’t do laundry soon after class, rinsing your clothes out afterward is a great idea. It can avoid them getting funky before laundry day.
What to Bring to Hot Yoga
Once you’re outfitted for all the S’s of hot yoga: stretching, strengthening and sweating, it’s time to pack. You can already guess the number one recommendation: plenty of water. Just like for cardio on a hot summer day, a drink with electrolytes is a super addition to water. Watered-down sports drinks or hydration-boosting mixes like Liquid IV (no affiliation here) can be great to drink before, after or perhaps during class.
Also, bring a hand towel for excess sweat. Bringing your own mat is a good idea, hygiene-wise. The best travel yoga mat will include a carrying strap, which helps when lugging drinks and towels. It’s important that your mat grips well. If you don’t have a mat that’s good for hot yoga, bring a mat-sized towel, like a beach towel. The best hot yoga mat is made of cork, which actually grips better when wet. Platinum Sun has excellent cork mats for hot yoga. Unless you sweat profusely, you may not need to place a towel on the mat because the cork absorbs moisture, yet the mid-layer is waterproof. These mats are also long and wide, offering built-in distance from neighbors in a crowded (and sweaty) class.
If people could sample the after-effects of hot yoga, like a clear mind, limber muscles and a detoxified system, it would surge in popularity even more than it already has. When you try it out, ensure you don’t go at it with a competitive, athletic mindset. Dehydration and overheating are possible if you go too hard. Part of the experience is getting in tune with your body’s limits. The stretchy effect of heat, or social pressure, might tempt you to stretch or strain past your body’s warning signals. Always slowly back out of intense poses in yoga. It’s normal to need to take a rest in your first hot yoga classes, even if you’re the only one. The great news is, you’ll find yourself growing more flexible after just a few classes! Once your spine stretches out, you might literally grow. The most important recommendations of all are: don’t take yourself too seriously and have fun!