Yoga’s latest trend, hot yoga, has studios across the country turning up the heat, literally. Hot yoga is any type of yoga—Moksha yoga, Bikram yoga, Corepower yoga, etc—performed in a heated room with temperatures somewhere between 90 and 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
For many, holding a yoga pose is hard enough without increasing the heat, so what is drawing so many to this yoga trend? Michelle Robinson, owner of YOUnique Hot Yoga of NWI, thinks it’s the sweat.
“There’s this misconception that when you sweat, you’re working harder,” Robinson says. “Hot yoga is for those people who really like that sweat.”
At YOUnique Hot Yoga of NWI, instructors offer different levels of Vinyasa Yoga, a sequence of poses synchronized with your breath, to make yoga more accessible to people of different skill levels. Students can choose a slower class, a power yoga class, or yoga with weights, among other options.
The increased external temperature actually helps warm the body up faster compared to a traditional yoga class where you warm up from the inside out. Because your body is warmed up before getting into the poses, the risk for injury is reduced.
Other benefits of hot yoga include increased flexibility, strength in large and small muscle groups, breath control, focus and healing. Hot yoga even gets your heart pumping, says Cipriano Romero, instructor and owner of Reflections Yoga Center, whose center also offers Vinyasa Yoga classes.
“Even though you stay on your mat while doing yoga postures in a heated room, your heart can work the same way as it does when you are running,” Romero explained.
Due to the high temperatures in the room, there are some risks with practicing hot yoga—including dehydration and heat exhaustion. Students are advised to stay hydrated before, during and after class. Romero recommends not eating any heavy meals before class and sitting and resting if students feel overwhelmed during class.
“We always remind the students to follow their own pace and to be connected to their inner reality rather than the reality of the other students in the class,” Romero says. “It is not a competition, so we let go of the competitive ego.”
The instructors at YOUnique Hot Yoga of NWI offer modifications, as well as props and straps to aid students. Robinson says. “Our responsibility as a teacher is to provide a safe environment with modifications and props, and to assist our students so they do not get injured.”
While anyone can do hot yoga, this form of exercise isn’t recommended for everyone, including people who are sensitive to heat and pregnant women. As with any form of exercise, you should contact your doctor before beginning a new routine, especially if you have been diagnosed with heart problems, have low or high blood pressure, are taking medication or have a medical condition.
Students new to hot yoga should bring water, a towel and a mat and wear light clothing that allows the skin to breathe. Romero recommends wearing fitted capris, as exposed skin can become slippery when sweating, and a fitted tank top. You should avoid wearing one hundred percent cotton, which absorbs sweat and can become heavy. Also, students should not apply body lotion prior to class.
Most importantly, beginning students should remember that learning and practicing any form of yoga is a journey and not a competition with themselves or other students.
“The moment that the student falls into the game of comparing herself or himself to others is setting herself or himself up for disappointment,” Romero says. “The results of yoga are based on a process that takes time rather than an overnight one.”