by Meghan Delorey
Attending a hot yoga class for the first time can feel pretty intimidating. After all, the internet is full of stories of people’s hilarious yet embarrassing stories of their first experiences. Couple that with Instagram shots of yogi’s doing some scary looking poses and that is enough to make a person want to pass on the hot yoga classes.
As a person who started off their yoga journey hating most things about yoga (except how I felt after class) and add in the fact that I am not a fan of heat, I can understand why someone would be hesitant to go. I was skeptical of hot yoga for many reasons, including doubting its safety but I decided if I could grow to love yoga itself then I should give it a chance and now I love heated classes and teach heated classes as well as non heated classes. Here are 5 reasons why:
1. Heat increases flexibility
I am starting with this one because it also can be a risky part of practice that can’t be left out. When heat is involved in a yoga class it makes the muscles softer and easier to move and stretch more, and with that being said this is where we can run into problems. If a student does not have a sense of their bodies limits heading into class there is an increased chance of injuring yourself but if you have an idea (even just from paying attention to your body in day to day life, sitting cross legged, bending over and how high you can lift your arms) you can have a better sense of what is safe for you in a pose. It isn’t just new yogi’s that are at risk, some seasoned yogi’s and teachers have injured themselves, we become so confident in our awesomeness that we push things we shouldn’t or perhaps don’t pay as much attention to our bodies in the pose and there is always the ego, that voice when you are one the more experienced yogis in the room and you want to show off a little and again we get more reckless leading to increased chance of injury. There are various different types of hot yoga classes Bikram and Mokshato to name a couple, and they are hotter than the classes that are taught in our studio, and yes there is a chance you can hurt yourself in class, but you can hurt yourself walking down the street, so take it with a grain of salt and pay attention to yourself and you will be fine.
2. Sweat, sweat, sweat
I know that this is more of a deterrent for some people than it is a reason to go but hear me out, sweating is a great way to help get rid of toxins and impurities from your body and in today’s world we need all the help we can get. And as an added bonus if you are not a fan of heat or sweating, you get to leave the heated room and there is no better feeling than a post hot yoga shower!
3. Easy to relax
It’s no secret that we are all a little more chill in the summer, it’s almost like heat helps melt away your worries leaving you happy and loving life. Consider a hot yoga class a little taste of summer in the harshness of the winter. Don’t get me wrong, the benefits of hot yoga translate through the seasons, but it is so nice to go into a heated room and relax your body from the tension brought on from being cold. This is an often overlooked issue in the winter, we spend so much time being bunched up to try to keep ourselves warm we start to hold a lot of tension in our shoulders, pelvis and jaw (among other areas but those are the main areas). Not only that but we are also more rigid in an effort to avoid the dreaded winter fall, no one wants to risk falling and seriously injuring ourselves. This makes it very hard to fully relax in the winter, going to a mini tropical retreat regularly in the winter will help immensely in your quest for relaxation!
4. Deeper relaxation in Savasana
Savasana is the final relaxation pose at the end of a yoga practice. I was told by one of my teachers during my training that one of the great yogis (possibly BKS Iyengar but I am not sure) said that we are unable to fully relax if our feet are cold and as someone who gets cold and miserable when her feet are cold I immediately identified with that theory. But, seeing as Mr. Iyengar lived in India and didn’t have to deal much with winter I am willing to extend his theory to be you cannot fully relax if any part of you is cold, which is pretty much a non issue at the end of a class, so it is a bit easier to get to a more relaxed state.
5. Improved sleep
Between the movements, breathing and sweating done in class and with the added effects of Savasana improvements in sleep, have been a common experience. Iyengar was a firm believer in yoga being able to help aid people who struggle with sleep, whether the struggle comes from falling asleep or staying asleep once you get there, the use of different muscles, the focusing on the breath rather than the thoughts and the movement of stagnant energy helps your body and mind ease into sleep easier, and he heat added to that increases the body and mind’s willingness to relax and move toward a sleep state.
All of the points I mentioned above are true of regular classes as well and I am by no means attempting to say hot yoga is better than regular yoga, because it is going to be different for everyone. If you have physical issues that are triggered from heat then hot yoga would not be for you such as blood pressure issues, concussions, heart problems and others. Talking to your doctor if you are unsure before you go is your best choice. Use your own discretion and don’t go in there with any expectations. Whether or not you choose hot yoga or any of the regular classes, I encourage you to give it a chance and remember to be easy on yourself and don’t get caught up in what you can’t do, in stead focus on what you Can Do!
I grew up in Antigonish and live here with my six year old daughter. I also sling lattes at The Tall and Small Cafe in my spare time! I started my yoga journey (very reluctantly and painfully) about 12 years ago and have been teaching for three years Hot Yoga All Levels, Power Hot Yoga, as well as regular Yoga All Levels classes at Asana Yoga & Massage.