Five Tips for Starting Hot Yoga

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I practiced yoga for 15 years before recently starting hot yoga. I wasn’t avoiding it, but I wasn’t really looking for it either. I enjoyed the way I practiced. Why try something new? Well then, the opportunity fell in my lap, as things sometimes do, since I’m connecting with more people from nearly 14 years of military life.

A friend and mentor that I met in Germany knew the manager of a brand spankin’ new studio in Virginia that happened to be in the next town over from me. I was there on opening night, ready to try something new.

Turns out, I loved it, but it is quite different. Here are five tips for getting started with hot yoga.

  1. Know what you’re getting. Overheard after class: “Why didn’t you tell me we were using weights?” Styles of yoga vary wildly, and hot yoga is no exception. You might be in for a restorative class with a slower pace and longer holds, a power class with a wide variety of poses that change depending on the teacher, a sculpt class with weights, or a structured Bikram-style class that goes through the same 26 poses every time. And those are just a few examples. Even the heat and humidity in the room change depending on the class you’re attending. Do a little research before you show up so you know what to expect. The studio’s website is a good place to start.
  2. Hydrate. Hot yoga classes vary in temperature, typically between 90-105 degrees Fahrenheit. You sweat. A lot. I got pretty bad headaches after practicing in a heated room the first couple of times. I find that if I drink a 20-ounce bottle of water in the hours before class, take a few sips during class, and drink a bottle after class, I feel great. It’s enough to keep me hydrated but not uncomfortably fill my belly for practice.
  3. Get the right gear. You’ll need:5 Tips for Starting Hot Yoga
    • a high quality mat that doesn’t slip too much when it’s wet.
    • a towel or two (a hand towel to wipe sweat at the very least, and maybe a mat-size towel   to prevent slipping for those who really tend to drip).
    • a water bottle.
    • tight-fitting, technical fabric clothing. Wet cotton flopping around as you practice is unpleasant. I prefer wearing knee-length leggings or longer because I slip right out of my arm balances with bare legs. Many men go shirtless.
    • a headband. I’d rather concentrate on my practice without the distraction of sweaty hair in my face. I have quite long hair, so I also prefer to wear a bun so my ponytail doesn’t pick up the sweat from my back. Eew.
  4. Listen to your body. Yoga is not a competition though it sure feels like it sometimes. In a heated room, it’s particularly important to check in to see where you’re at. Are you overfed or under-hydrated? Are you well-rested or already fatigued? Is the room warmer than usual? It’s okay to change up your practice depending on how you’re feeling. Some days you might really go for it, and some days you might take less intense variations of the poses. Your teacher will probably give cues for appropriate ways to take a break, depending on the style of the class. If you’re really feeling light-headed or unwell, be sure to get the teacher’s attention.
  5. Enjoy increased flexibility and focus. The elevated heat helps you find a little more space in your body more quickly that you would in a regular room and you don’t have to work as aggressively to create your own heat. The higher temps make the practices more challenging so I find that I have to focus inward more which really helps me leave the rest of my day outside of the studio.

What questions do you have about starting hot yoga?

Special thanks to Lisa Martinez for agreeing to model for this piece after teaching a sweaty Monday morning class at CorePower Yoga in Falls Church, VA. Find her on Instagram at @lmartinezyoga.