For a self-described “fit chick” with an adventurous streak, I am almost embarrassed to admit that I only tried my first hot yoga class this past summer after a friend of mine cajoled me for over a year to give it a go. I had heard all kinds of scary stories about skeevy instructors, too-hot-to-handle studio rooms, stinky cohorts dripping on yoga mats and more that I told myself: No. Thank. You!
However, no matter what kind of scuttlebutt is in the news about scandalous yogis, hot yoga is one fitness trend that is gaining in popularity. This is most likely due to the reported benefits from heating and elongating muscles to participants getting “to die for” bodies after putting in a few sweaty hours of practice (such as actress Rebecca Romijn and singer Lady Gaga).
So if you are curious to give one of those hot yoga studios a whirl, I have gathered top tips from the experts to help you make your first hot yoga class easy as a breeze. Get ready to be a little sweaty while getting your om on!
Expert Tips for Your First Hot Yoga Class
Ashley Turner, star of Element: Yoga for Strength & Flexibility
Spend some time in an infrared sauna to start to acclimate to the time spent in a hot room. You can start with small increments and work up to longer sessions before you walk in to the room for your first class so that your body is ready to work in the heat!
Downward Facing Dog is a fundamental posture in hot yoga as it is eventually used as a resting pose and/or a transition in and out of other poses. Mastering this pose also helps build the arm strength necessary for Sun salutations and vinyasas, which make up a large portion of the class.
Sarah Levy, instructor at Y7 Yoga Studio in Williamsburg, Brooklyn
Since the room can be heated up to 90 +degrees, you will be sweating and losing a ton of water during class, so be sure to come prepared with a large bottle of water.
The heat will loosen up the muscles allowing you to feel more flexible than your body may be ready for, so try not to extend beyond your limits to avoid possible injury.
I tell all of my students to invest in a Yogi Toes Towel — it is a lifesaver! It goes on top of your mat and soaks up the sweat so that you don’t slip during practice. Let me say this again — you will be sweating during this class so be prepared!
Desirée Bartlett, celebrity personal trainer and yoga instructor
One of my favorite tips for practicing yoga in a hot room (Bikram, hot yoga or just unseasonable heat), is Sitali Pranayama. In the practice of yoga we have many different breathing techniques. Sitali is a cooling breath that can cool the body and calm the nervous system when heat starts to feel overwhelming.
The technique is practiced by folding in the sides of your tongue, which creates sort of a straw. You can then sip in cool air through the tongue, as you lift the chin to comfortably stretch the neck upward. The exhalation is slow and steady through the nose. You can breathe in this way whenever you feel that the heat is too much for you in a hot yoga class.
More often than not it is the mind that gives up before the body, or in this case the mind starts screaming “It’s too hot,” while the body is still okay. By enjoying Sitali pranayama during the most intense heat, you are sending a message to the body/mind (they are considered to be one in Sanskrit), that cool air, and a cool head, are available whenever needed.
Marrilee Wilson, yoga instructor who trained at the famed Halifax Moksha Yoga Studio
The most important advice I can give is check with your physician before taking any type of heated yoga class.
There is a big difference between Bikram Yoga and your basic hot yoga class. Bikram is a very tight, disciplined practice that everyone in the room must follow at all times (plus you need to wait for permission from your instructor to sip water!). If you are a newbie to yoga in general this might make you uncomfortable.
In Moksha (or Modo as it called in the U.S.,) the poses are executed in a heated room (not as warm as Bikram). The instruction is similar to Bikram (specific numbers of poses, done in a set pattern) however the difference is markedly different. The teacher will tell you at the beginning to take rest breaks when you need to and drink water when you need to.
Finally, the best advice I can give for taking a hot yoga class is to ask the owner/operator for a tour to get a sense of what a typical class is like.
Have you ever tried a hot yoga class? What has been your experience with them? —Margo