Hot yoga — which gets its name from the heated room in which it’s performed — is a popular and sweaty form of the practice.
Bikram, Moksha, and heated Vinyasa classes like Baptiste Power Vinyasa Yoga are just a few of the specific styles under the umbrella of "hot yoga," where temperatures can range from 90 degrees Fahrenheit to 105 degrees with 40 percent humidity (as in Bikram).
The heat helps loosen your muscles, which allows for greater flexibility and depth in the poses. Additionally, sweating may help to detoxify and cleanse the body, flushing out waste materials.
Hot yoga demands focus and concentration, which helps to clear your mind of everyday worries. It can also be intimidating — but don’t fret. Check out this guide and prepare to sizzle!
1. Bring Two Towels
The temperatures and sequences in hot yoga are designed to make you sweat — there’s a good chance you’ll be dripping by your third pose. And while your yoga mat can provide cushioning and support, it won’t soak up that amount of moisture.
Bring a beach or bath towel to place over your mat and prevent yourself from slipping and sliding. You may also want an additional small towel to wipe yourself off between exercises and after class.
2. Get Hydrated
You’ll need lots of water during and after class, but be sure to hydrate well before class as well. Keep a water bottle with you throughout the day, and favor frequent, moderate sipping over long gulps or chugging.
Drinking water throughout the day allows your body time to absorb it before class; if you don’t drink water until you reach the studio, you won’t feel its effects until your class is almost over. The sweat you release during class, then, will be emptying your body of water that it hasn’t yet stored, which can lead to electrolyte imbalances and cramping.
3. Get Electric
Speaking of electrolytes, it’s also smart to supplement your water with these electrically charged ions.
The major electrolytes are potassium, sodium, magnesium, chloride, bicarbonate, phosphate, and sulphate. You lose electrolytes when you sweat, especially potassium and sodium, and this loss can cause muscle cramps, confusion, and fatigue. Sport drinks contain electrolytes, but sporting goods stores also carry powders or tablets that instantly change your plain old water into electrically-charged power water.
Normally it’s not recommended to drink ice cold water during physical activities, because your body inefficiently processes liquids below 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit (below your core body temperature), but if you’re heading to hot yoga, you may want to bring water that’s close to freezing. The studio temperature will immediately warm your water, so unless it’s ice cold to start, it’ll become too hot by the end of class. Bringing super-chilled water will ensure you have a temperate (not tea-like) drink when you need it.
4. Dress Light
Hot yoga is no place to worry about your appearance. Dress for comfort and to minimize heat and weight on your body. The lighter and more spare, the better — ladies, try a sports bra and shorts; guys, just shorts or swim trunks may be your best option.
Don’t bother with fancy hair or makeup. You’ll probably sweat too much for it to matter. Keep your hair clean and pulled back, perhaps adding a headband to keep sweaty strands off your face.
5. Eat, But Not Right Before Class
It’s important to eat two to four hours before your class. Your body will need the energy, but try not to eat anything within an hour of hitting the mat as the combination of heat and exercise may make you nauseated.
If you must eat right before class, pick something light like fruit or nuts. Anything heavy could cause you to cramp or feel sick in the middle of the series — not the most fun or productive way to practice!
6. Get There Early
Though you know, theoretically, what 95 degrees feels like, the temperature will still be a shock to your system. Get there ten to fifteen minutes early just to sit in the studio and allow your body to adapt to the heat. Time to adjust is especially important for your first few classes.
Sitting in the studio for a few minutes will also allow you to time to decompress from the "outside" world, as you warm your muscles, relax, and prepare mentally for the upcoming practice.
7. Stop & Breathe
You may occasionally feel lightheaded or overwhelmed in hot yoga, especially if it’s your first time. It’s good to challenge yourself, but it’s also okay to take a restorative position like Child’s Pose or Corpse Pose if you feel uncomfortable or sick. Resting will give your body a chance to calm down and adjust to the heat and exercise.
Even if you never sit out during other yoga classes, remember that hot yoga is a different beast that may require a wholly different approach.
8. Bundle Up After
You’ll want to dress minimally for class, but make sure to bundle up and stay warm afterward. Unless it’s high noon on a summer day, the outdoor air will feel colder than the humid, hot yoga studio and it is easy to become chilled or tight.
Bring along a post-yoga outfit. Your workout wear will be soaked, and you’ll need clean, dry, warm clothes to protect your body from the elements.
Experts agree that 60 to 70 percent humidity is optimal lung functioning and protects against colds, the flu, and respiratory problems. So that sweltering yoga studio should make your lungs healthier than ever!
Don’t Sweat It!
Hot yoga is a pretty challenging style of yoga. But don’t let its tough nature scare you off! The benefits from practicing in a heated room are many, and those who stick with the hot stuff often find themselves stronger and more flexible than ever before.