The phrase “hot yoga” can provoke millions of different emotions. Some people swear by it, plan their days around it and do three loads of laundry per week just to make sure they have enough fresh yoga clothes. Others might only think of the viral Craigslist ad that was circulating years ago and, in response, won’t step foot into a heated room. (Okay, it was funny.)
Maybe you roll your eyes at hot yoga because all of your friends rave about it and you just don’t want to drink the kombucha. Or maybe you’ve attended a class on your own, had a terrible experience and promised to never return. If you’ve never tried hot yoga and want to give it a try (or your first and only experience still haunts your dreams and you’re willing to give it another shot), here are some tips on how to prepare, how to breathe, how to avoid a mat slip-and-slide and how to cut yourself a bit of slack.
How To Prepare
Three words: Be well hydrated! This is not an activity to try after your bachelorette weekend or night out on the town. Make sure you have hydrated well. You will be able to drink while you’re in the room, but you need a strong base because you are going to sweat faster than you can guzzle. If you’re properly hydrated, you won’t even have to worry about it while practicing. Everyone is different when it comes to what to eat, and really, you know yourself best.
If you tend to have low blood sugar or low blood pressure, eat something before you practice — maybe not a full meal, but something that will stick with you so you don’t get dizzy and weak while sweating. If heat makes you nauseous and you feel okay on a semi-empty stomach, then eating before is not necessary. It’s different for everyone. Just don’t make any new experimental food choices before trying something brand-new for your body.
What To Wear
Guys and girls: The more fitted, the better. Those drapy yoga tanks are cute, ladies. And guys, we know you like your extra baggy gym shorts. But think what those feel like once they are soaked. Yeah, not so good. Wear fabric that is or closely related to the spandex family. When your clothes feel more like a second skin, you won’t even notice when they are wet, and you can focus more of your practice. The less physical distractions, the better. Of course, sports bras for ladies and going shirtless for men is completely yoga-approved.
What To Bring
Most studios these days have everything you would need for purchase. (I’m sure you know that, ClassPassers!) However, to save a little bit of money, bring your own generous-sized water bottle to fill up at the studio. Hot yoga studios will have mats and towels for rent that are specifically designed for hot yoga. If you have a yogitoes towel, great. Bring it. If you don’t and you’ve never taken a class before, don’t buy one beforehand. They are very expensive, though worth it if you end up coming back frequently. Mats that are the least slippery are also the most expensive. Jade, Manduka and Liforme make amazing hot yoga mats; all of the others are going to get really slippery. Rent one from the studio, try it out and then buy one you like afterward. If you think about it, bring your own shower towel for afterwards and a small hand towel to wipe your face during class. Though don’t panic if you don’t remember these — all of the studios have them.
When You Arrive
Arrive at least 15 minutes early. Everyone says it, you hear it, you know it. Now do it. Settle in. Get all of your belongings stored away into the locker room so they don’t soak in moisture. Set up your mat towards the middle or back closest to the door. That will be the thinnest air in the room. The farther away from the door, the thicker the air and heat will be. Plus, it gives you easy access to just step out of the room for a few minutes if needed. Even seasoned hot yogis do this some days.
Even though you may want to stay in the air conditioned lobby as long as you possibly can, it will make things much more enjoyable if you go and lay down on your mat or sit in child’s pose to get your body acclimated to the heat. If your body is still trying to find homeostasis during the warm up, your body temperature is going to rise far more rapidly. Let your body adjust to prolong endurance. Once the teacher arrives, tell him/her it’s your first time practicing in the heat. The teacher may offer some helpful hints on how to make it through class and will most likely tell you to listen to your body, don’t get freaked out, take child’s pose when you need to, and don’t forget to breathe. It’s just yoga.
What To Expect
Yes, you’re in 90- to 105-degree “weather.” You’re going to sweat. Like, you’re probably going to have a moment when you are thinking you might perish right there on the mat or drown in someone else’s sweat. Vinyasa-style hot yoga classes always invite you to take breaks, step outside and take water as needed. You never have to wait for the teacher to call child’s pose; it’s always there for you. The most important mantra you can take with you in the room is to be kind to yourself. This is not normal, these are extreme circumstances and your body is going to react in some way — neither good, nor bad — but it will respond. Listen to that response and honor yourself for showing up. For the seasoned yogis, yoga in the heat is completely different. The poses will feel different and your breath will be more difficult to control. Patience, patience, patience!
Note: Bikram-style hot yoga is completely different. The rumors are true: The teacher will not allow anyone to leave the room and you don’t have as much freedom to “do what you need.” It’s a different style of teaching, so just keep that in mind when scheduling your first hot yoga class.
What To Do Next
So you made it to savasana! Savasana is the hardest part of the practice in a hot room; staying in the room and feeling the heat around you is incredibly challenging. Stay with it — savasana is the most important part of the practice. Come back to the breath. Once class is over, sit outside and let your body temperature cool down. Treat yourself to a cleansing shower and drink at least 32 oz. of water or, even better, coconut water with electrolytes over the next hour. You don’t have to guzzle it all at once. Just make sure to replenish your sodium levels and fluids so that you can keep your energy for the rest of the day.
You’ve done it! You made it and you probably are not thinking it wasn’t that bad. Many people will tell you, hot yoga can be very addicting. Most people think it’s more beneficial because of the detoxing element, and it would seem that you’re working harder in a hot class. However, that’s not necessarily true. Your body temperature rises higher and you will find that you can stretch deeper into some poses with the added help of the heat, but that’s not always the best thing for you. If you enjoy hot yoga, mix it in with taking non-heated yoga classes. If you sweat a lot, too-frequent hot yoga sessions can be dangerous because of all the vitamins exiting your body. Listen to yourself and keep exploring with different teachers and styles. There are many more ways to turn up the heat in your yoga practice.
See you on the mat!
Chloe Mackenzie is a Vinyasa Yoga teacher in New York City. She is a former classical ballet dancer and a certified adrenaline junkie. From bootcamp to tumbling… trapeze flying to hip-hop, there is no challenge she will not accept. Follow her on Instagram and check her website for classes.