I’ve not been practicing yoga seriously for very long, but the minute I finally got myself into a studio to practice (watching videos at home weren’t cutting it), it became an intense love affair. Now, the minute I took my first hot yoga class, I found a fierceness inside of me that I’d never experienced before. There’s no other way to describe it than the fact that I felt new, renewed, every time I stepped out of the studio. I realize hot yoga isn’t for everybody but if you’re remotely curious about it (that’s why you clicked on this article, right?), then read on and listen to my 7 reasons to try hot yoga today.
1. It’s A Beginner-Friendly Class
I’m sure in your head you’re saying, “What!? How is that possible?” But, I’d wager that many basic hot yoga classes are, in fact, beginner-friendly — just in a challenging environment, being the hot room. At the yoga studio I often practice at, they define their hot yoga classes as such, thereby allowing more beginner yogis become introduced to hot yoga in a welcoming and safe environment and, subsequently, feel the benefits of hot yoga. That’s not to say you aren’t going to feel a bit of heat and intensity throughout your body (more on that later), but for a good majority of people, they are able to participate in a hot class, modifying the asanas as needed.
2. Full Body Sweat
I have never sweat so much in my life as I have in my hot yoga classes. And it feels so good. I leave the studio drenched in sweat, yes, but also with the sensation that I could conquer the world. When I was in grad school and dealing with many issues I often couldn’t handle, hot yoga felt like a swaddled blanket that supported rather than suffocated me, which is what many people think about when they think about hot yoga. At first, I was worried that the heat would make me feel claustrophic but, in fact, I have never felt so comforted. The hot room was simultaneously a release and a respite from the anxiety that burdened me on a daily basis, and provided both a physical and mental workout. I left feeling so unbelievably spent, in the best way possible. Your sequence will include everything from hip openers, twists and balancing poses, as well as a lot of core and quad engagement, all of which are guaranteed to bring on a lot of heat.
Since you’re in such a hot warm when you’re practicing hot yoga, most people become a lot more limber than they normally are; it makes sense, your muscles are warming up at a rapid rate and your typically doing poses that will stretch your muscles. For this reason, however, it’s very easy to go too far and hurt yourself, even when you don’t know it at first. In dancer’s pose, a common pose where you can injure yourself easily, I took it too far, past ‘my edge,’ and hurt a muscle in my lower back. I felt the effects of it days later and, wow, that hurt. I learned my lesson though. It’s easy to let your ego step in, especially when most hot yoga rooms are equipped with floor-to-ceiling mirrors. You say, ‘Just one more push and I’m going to look really good,’ but, in reality, you’re likely just really going to hurt afterwards. In all kinds of yoga, but especially hot yoga, my advice is to go to your edge (i.e. the spot that is the most challenging for you but not painful) and stay there. You’re still getting a great workout and gaining some serious flexibility.
4. Mental Focus and Clarity
My mental focus increased ten-fold once I started practicing hot yoga. Because the heat can be intense, especially if you’re first starting, you have to really remain conscious of how your body reacts to the heat throughout your practice. This could look like making sure you’re keeping hydrated, resting when you feel like you need to rest, and going to your edge if and when you feel a little surge of energy. Your body does adapt to the heat throughout your practice, especially if you start to practice hot yoga more frequently, but I’d argue that at least half if not more of your effort is mental during a hot yoga class. Being more conscious of everything also helps you to be more aware of your achievements everytime you make them. You are partaking in what I like to consider a full body mental workout. And you can take that in any way you’d like. For me, it looks like a workout not unlike the one I feel physically, wherein I have to be present, as well as conscious of my movements, but it also looks like a working out of my brain, finding clarity where there was none.
5. It’s A Challenge!
This is more of less self-explanatory but hot yoga is a serious challenge! It’s hard work! But that’s what makes it so worth it. Plus, wouldn’t it be so rewarding to know that you took a yoga class, especially if you didn’t think you could? The beauty of hot yoga is that once can continue to challenge yourself over and over again with new poses and breath work to never lose sight of what keeps you motivated and inspired. I, for one, feel completely spent during my classes, but my persistence to challenge myself, so as to become better, helps me find that little morsel extra of energy to help me always push forward.
6. Reminds You To Keep Hydrated
I know for sure that I don’t get enough water during the day. That’s definitely something I’m working towards, but during and after a hot yoga class, I am more conscious of the fact that I need to hydrate and nourish my body, the body that is allowing me to do these movements in the first place. Hot yoga was allowed me to shift my perception about my body. Sometimes it feels like my body is shouting at me to drink water after a hard sequence, which is good, because what’s happened since I’ve started doing yoga is that I listen. Awareness – of yourself, of the world, of your body and mind – is probably one of the most important and special gifts that hot yoga teaches you. You are the student and, well beyond the physical postures or actual class, the hot room is your teacher.
7. You Find Your Breath
I can count numerous times when I’d bring a friend to yoga class and they’d come out of it realizing that, until that class, they had no idea how to breath. When a lot of people first come to a yoga class, never mind a hot yoga class where your breath is even more so your strength, they become aware of the fact that they’ve only been breathing at half their capacity all their lives. In fact, most people breath from their chest rather than your belly. It’s hard to breath from your belly, but once you’re there, wow. You feel the difference. The breath in yoga is the life force, what is called pranayama in Sanskrit. It means to control (yama) the life force (prana), or energy, within your body. You can’t really do pranayamic breathing if you’re breathing at a shallow capacity. In a hot yoga class, I guarantee you’ll find your breath, which is the gateway to each and every other benefit a hot yoga class will gift you.