About 6 years ago, I tried hot yoga for the first time. I lived to tell my story. This is how it all went down…
Physical fitness is a staple in my life. It is my therapy, my stress release, my happy place. I am always willing to try new workouts, classes, or fitness products. When a friend of mine raved about how much she loved the new hot yoga class she had tried, I couldn’t wait to try it out!
If you are unsure what exactly hot yoga is, let me tell you:
Ok, need more than that?
It is an 80 minute class featuring a blend of the powerful elements of Bikram hot yoga and Ashtanga inspired vinyasa power flow. The room is heated up to 104 degrees with 50% humidity! See why I said it’s insane? Here are some of my takeaways from my first hot yoga adventure:
When someone suggests wearing as little clothing as possible for hot yoga, LISTEN TO THEM!
When my yogi friend suggested this to me, I literally laughed in her face. I was not about to walk into a brand new class showing off my mom bod and cottage-cheese thighs to a bunch of sweaty strangers.
Instead I chose to wear yoga capris and a tank top. About 15 minutes into the class, I realized I should have taken her advice and wished I was wearing a bikini instead! They should call it striptease yoga, because all I could think about was stripping off my clothing to avoid dying from heat stroke.
Most of the yogis in the class were apparently seasoned crazies because just about everyone was wearing very little clothing, men included.
You might be picturing a bunch of sweaty hot model types right about now, but let me save you the excitement. There were some super fit babes in the class, but most of the class was early 30-somethings and a few semi-senior citizens with average body types.
Talk about a class that promotes body confidence. I think the heat must get you to the point that you just don’t give a shit. Really.
Six years ago, I would never have been confident enough to let it all hang out, but as sweat poured off my body like a river and my body felt like it was slowly going up in flames, all I wanted to do was shed some clothing, mom body or not!
It was very comforting that so many of the people in the class seemed to not care what their bodies looked like and instead appeared to also just be trying not to die. I liked that.
Beginners are welcome
I was very apprehensive when I walked into the studio. Everyone was really nice and assured me that being there was a huge step in itself. Maybe that was foreshadowing of what was to come, but I only realize that now that I have made it out alive.
The instructor helped me get set up and even placed me closest to the door. At first, I thought she did this so that if I died mid-downward dog she could easily just drag my body out of the room.
She explained later that she liked to put newbies near the door since it is not as hot as the rest of the room. It was still HOT, but whatever. She told me my only goal for the class was to “stay in the room”. How about another goal? DON’T DIE while you are at it.
I managed to stay in the room the entire class but there were a few times I thought about running out the door as fast as possible. I also appreciate that she put me back there so that I could watch the people around me if I was unsure of what I was supposed to be doing.
I See You
I have a thing about mirrors. Wait, let me back up… I have a thing about being in a room full of half naked people staring at themselves in the mirror as sweat pools around their feet.
If you have the same issue, then this might not be the right class for you. It is a room surrounded by mirrors. You can see yourself from every angle. EVERY ANGLE. Everyone can see you.
Not to sound cocky or stuck on myself, but I felt like people were watching me, which I should not have felt if I was doing as the instructor said and stayed focused only on myself in the mirror instead of the others around me.
If they were looking at me, maybe they were thinking, “oh look at that poor new girl who wore all those clothes”. Maybe they were scoping out my flexibility (the heat helps you stretch deeper, I swear). Maybe it was all in my head and no one was looking at me.
I don’t know. I just felt weird trying to meditate as I stared at my red, sweat-soaked face in the mirror with about 14 other people sweating beside me.
Play That Funky Music
I was really surprised when I knew all the words to some of the songs the instructor played from her iPod during the class.
It was not the typical soothing yoga music I was expecting. Instead it was a hip hop and rock mix that made me not only want to sing along (which is highly discouraged), but it gave me a confidence boost of some sort that made me want to stretch deeper and hold those difficult postures longer. It helped to get the focus off the extreme heat just a little bit.
Cardio Schmardio…or not?
As you might suspect, hot yoga is not a cardio workout. It is also not a slow-paced, quiet, gentle workout either. However, I was very surprised at how quickly my heart rate went up and how out of breath I felt. I have read that you can burn anywhere from 300-1000 calories per session depending on how hard you work! The heat makes your body feel like you have to work harder. I definitely felt like I was working hard!
You are encouraged to do what you can but also to at least try all the poses. I didn’t want everyone to know I was the new girl (despite being placed near the door by the instructor) so I forced myself to do every single pose. I was exhausted when the class was over and really felt like I got a good workout.
Sweat, sweat, and sweat some more
Basically, be prepared to sweat. Hot yoga requires more than just a yoga mat. You will also want to have a towel to lie over your mat, a towel to wipe yourself down, and a lot of water. For this first class, I just took a regular bath towel. After surviving that first class and falling in love with hot yoga, I decided to invest in a non-slip towel for my mat. This is the one I use.
When I left the class, I was drenched in sweat. Duh-renched! As you might imagine, being in a 105 degree room with 50% humdity, surrounded by 14 other sweaty people, can make you sweat. And stink.
I never thought I would see the day that I could step out of a building into the warm/hot Arizona air and feel refreshed. After my hot yoga class, I saw that day. The slightest form of air movement felt amazing, even if it was the warm May breeze.
I was even more excited about all the toxins I surely rid from my body during the session. I felt energized immediately after the class and felt very accomplished as well. (Note: having a bit too much wine the night before trying your first class is not recommended.)
Ok so just in case my post has terrified you enough to discourage you from ever stepping foot in a hot yoga studio…
If you can get past the heat, sweat, mirrors, and nakedness, you are sure to love it. It is a great workout that allows you to increase flexibility, tone your muscles, and it is an excellent stress reliever.
I fell in love with hot yoga.
I loved it enough to sign up for a monthly membership and continued to go regularly until I was 3 months pregnant with my fourth child.
(Yes, I got approval from my OB beforehand to continue during my pregnancy as long as I listened to my body). I chose to stop going after month three because it was becoming more and more difficult to balance…and breathe…with a giant basketball growing inside of me.
Sadly, I have not been back since…and my fourth child is now four years old.
I desperately want to go back because it is truly a workout like no other. I am just trying to rebuild the courage to get in there again. That, and I’m still a little freaked out about the “all angle” mirrors.
Have you ever tried hot yoga or Bikram yoga? What do you love most about it?
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