Fall In Love With Yoga: What To Expect at Hot Yoga Class

This is the final post in our series Fall In Love With Yoga. Find the other posts here

So perhaps you’ve gotten inspired to embrace your inner yogini, experimented and played with a home practice, and maybe even tried an inversion or two (congrats!). Are you looking for a way to take your yoga practice next level?

The beauty of yoga is one simple truth: it gets easier as you get stronger, but it’s never going to be totally effortless. There will always be a challenge inherent in the yoga poses, and there are always new poses to work towards. I love going to a hard yoga class where some of the other teachers from the studio attend, because although their form might be better and they can do difficult variations, they’re sweating and struggling with things just like everyone else. It’s so refreshing!

This is especially true in hot yoga classes. The heat, which is usually kept at around 37C, adds another layer of challenge to your practice. The heat is there to make you sweat out toxins, and to gently increase the stretch in your muscles. A hot yoga class can be very intense, especially your first few times. Here are our top tips for thriving in hot yoga!

1. Bring a towel

This is probably the easiest thing you can do to make your hot yoga class more enjoyable. When I say you’ll sweat during a hot yoga class, I mean you will sweat. Even if you’re not a sweat-er normally! In places you didn’t know could sweat! It varies from person to person, but I personally tend to get virtual rivers of sweat running into my eyes, which ain’t good for contact lenses. So a towel to wipe your face, hands and even legs (yes, your shins might sweat!) is essential. Any old hand towel will do. A good technique is to spread the towel across the top of your mat to stop your hands from slipping in your downward dogs and to be easily accessible when your face needs a good wipe.

Also popular in hot yoga classes are towels for your mat itself. The mat does tend to get drips of sweat on it/all over it, so a mat-sized towel helps to absorb the moisture and again, stop you from slipping. Some mats are more ‘sticky’ than others, but if you’re having trouble staying put, maybe consider adding a mat towel to your repertoire. Most hot yoga studios sell them, but you can also find them at yoga retailers like Gaiam and Lululemon.

2. Take off your makeup!

A text Laura sent me... #truth
A text Laura sent me… #truth

You’d think this would go without saying, but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve forgotten and then spend precious moments of my yoga practice worrying about whether the teacher is thinking that I look like a hot-mess of a raccoon. Laura has too! It’s distracting and the black smears might ruin your hand towel, not to mention that mascara/eyeliner/other gunk might end up in your eyes throughout the course of your practice which doesn’t feel good. So take it off, or get waterproof mascara. Your choice! If you don’t wear makeup, take pity on us who do, and disregard this one.

3. Take it slow

The first four times I went to hot yoga class, I felt dizzy and kind of sick afterwards. Four! The heat is intense, and it can be a shock to the system to throw yourself into that environment when it’s very physically challenging for you. I would probably recommend getting to a place in regular yoga classes and your home practice where you feel strong and the poses aren’t as much of a struggle as when you first started. This will take different amounts of time for everyone, just listen to your body.

The heat can bring up feelings of nausea (though I’ve never actually thrown up during or after a class) and light-headedness. Pay attention to those feelings! If you feel that way, throw your ego out the door and take child’s pose. Hot yoga classes are usually full of great yogis, which sometimes makes me personally feel like a n00b, but resting in child’s pose is absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. Your practice is your practice, remember? Eyes on your own mat.

And if you’ve give hot yoga a fair chance, and you don’t like the way it makes you feel, then there’s also no shame in saying you don’t like it. I say fair chance because after those first four classes that made me feel bad, every one after made me feel light and fresh and open. That being said, hot yoga isn’t for everyone, and neither is yoga for that matter! Listen to your own body.

4. Prepare properly

The general wisdom is to eat nothing or to eat lightly about two hours prior to a hot yoga class. For most people, it just feels more comfortable to have already digested. It will likely help to prevent those feelings of nausea I mentioned as well! Also, it’s important to be hydrated before class. I find that during class, I don’t actually drink much water (because I rarely remember or feel the need), but after class I am thirsty. If you do drink water during class, taking little sips is preferable to downing a whole bottle, again because it might slosh around and make you uncomfortable. So being hydrated before a class is really important. Drink your water!

5. Try different styles

My red face, post-sweat sesh
My red face, post-sweat sesh

Try out a couple different studios and see which type of hot yoga you like best. They are not all the same, each has its own flow series, style of teaching, ambience in the room, etc. You might have to try a few before you find one you like. Most studios offer between 2 weeks to a month of unlimited yoga classes for a relatively small fee, and some might even offer free classes! Laura and I both currently like Power Yoga Canada, but we’ve heard awesome things about Moksha studios as well. Do some research and see what offerings there are in your neck of the woods, and explore!

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I hope these tips, learned from a healthy dose of trial-and-error, will help you in your yoga journey!

Would you ever try a hot yoga class? If you’re a hot yogi already, what other tips do you have for someone trying it for the first time? 

We’d love to hear your answers in the comments below or on Twitter @GreenGuineaPigs!

-Steph

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