Feel the Heat – The Zen of Hot Yoga

Sweat drips from every pore. As the instructor guides you through the movements with a calm, gentle voice, you find yourself relaxed, yet invigorated. The warmth of the room seems to give you a heightened ability to stretch and move freely, and the dim lighting bathes the room in a soft glow.  Does this experience sound appealing? If your answer is a resounding “yes”, then hot yoga may be the workout you’ve been looking for.

Hot yoga has seen an explosion of popularity over the past decade or so, but it first came onto the fitness scene in the 70s, when Bikram Choudhury expanded his practice of traditional hatha yoga performed in a warmed studio. Known as “Bikram Yoga”, this style of hot yoga consists of 26 poses and two breathing techniques and is performed in a room heated to around 40C. Moksha Yoga, founded in Canada in 2004, is based on Bikram Yoga techniques.

“Yoga is the only exercise in the world you can do at any age. There is always some posture that will improve your health, mind and soul.”
– Bikram Choudhury

Is Hot Yoga For You?

The question to start with is: do you like humidity and feeling hot? Are you comfortable perspiring heavily in the company of others? Hot yoga classes tend to be at least one hour long, and often last for 90 minutes, so the heat (and sweat) are not really optional. 

If you’re good with the heat, there are a lot of options to choose from. Most studios offer different types of hot yoga: choose from classes with a faster or slower pace, or those with or without music. Classes can also range in size and style, from small windowless rooms that hold as few as 5 or 6 participants, to larger studios lined in mirrors that can hold 100 or more participants at a time.

One key to a good hot yoga experience is remembering that although the instructor is guiding the class, you can and should still be in control of your pace. At any point during your class, you should feel comfortable lying down in “savasana”, or corpse pose. This gives your body a break when you need it. Stay in this pose as long as you need to, or even spend the entire class like this if you prefer.

Questions To Ask:

Can I try a class for free? Many studios will let you try out a hot yoga class, so you can see if you like it before you commit to paying for a membership or class pass.

Can I rent equipment? Studios generally have mats and hot yoga towels for rent (the towels are thin, absorbent and fit perfectly with the dimensions of the yoga mat).

How early should I arrive? Some studios are very popular or have certain classes that fill up quickly, meaning you need to arrive 20 minutes or more prior to the start time to ensure you have a spot in the class.

What If I feel dizzy or overwhelmed during the class? Instructors will provide guidelines at the start of the class, but generally you can lie down on your mat at any time during the class, or raise your hand so the instructor can come over and help you feel more comfortable.

Do I need to be in good shape physically before trying a class? Studio owners can talk through your current physical ability and whether the class is a good match for your fitness level.

How to Be Prepared:

Drink a lot of water the day of, leading up to the class. Don’t worry… you’ll sweat it out and you likely won’t need to use the restroom during class

Take a large water bottle with you to class, and ensure it is full at the start of class

Dress light and very comfortably. You can always remove a layer if you feel too hot

A sweatband or headband can keep sweat from dripping into your eyes during the class

Most studios have blocks and bands in the rooms. Take them to your spot before the class starts

Get there early: some classrooms start filling up 30 minutes before the class is scheduled to start. Tip: this can be a great way to relax and unwind or to spend a few minutes meditating

Most studios rent yoga mats as well as the thin towel that you lay on your mat. This not only provides a surface to absorb all that sweat, but it is also more comfortable to sit and lie down on.

Remain in the room: instructors will recommend that you stay put during the entire duration of the class, unless of course you are not feeling well and need to leave.

Quiet is key: try to be as quiet as possible on your way into class and when you leave; during class, silence is golden.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions: post-class is a great time to ask classmates how long they have been attending the studio, whether they enjoy certain classes or instructors, or if they have any advice for someone new to hot yoga.

By Ilana Clamp

Local Links

Parivartan Mississauga Hot Yoga Studio

Hot Yoga & Pilates

NU Yoga

Power Yoga Canada

Modo Yoga Square One

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