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Hot yoga 101

Hot yoga 101

As it's International Yoga Day, our very own yogi-in-training Jo Walder brings you the lowdown on a popular yoga craze that delivers a little more than your average yoga class.

So you've heard a lot about hot yoga and you're thinking you might try it.  It can be a great all over work out, strengthener and will allows your warm muscles to release and open up.  If nothing else, you will be guaranteed to feel a sense of achievement at the end of your first class!   Read on and you will get through your hot yoga initiation looking like a pro yogi.

Chose a class: Bikram vs Hot Yoga. I could bore you with the details of this debate for ever but in short, there are notable differences, including around 10 degrees C. Bikram is hotter, 40 degrees and 44% humidity while in  hot yoga the teacher or studio choses the temperature. A hot Vinyassa class is usually around 32 degrees. Bikram classes are an unchanging 90 minitue set sequence of 26 asana and 2 breathing exercises  whereas hot yoga can be any style. 

Eat but not too much. Your will need energy to get through the physically demanding class but eat at least two hours before or risk… well it's not a nice feeling!

Be hydrated.  Drink plenty of water in the hours before the class so that you are well hydrated. However, it is never good form to interrupt the class for a loo break so be sensible.

Be early.  Good yoga classes get full.  Arrive at least fifteen minutes early so you can lay out your mat in a good spot, arrange your towels, complete any necessary paperwork and be chilled out and ready to begin your practice.

Introduce yourself to the teacher. You may not want to but do!  Teachers love introducing new student to yoga, will give you vital information like where the coolest spot is in the room and will know how to support you through the class.

Bring your mat, two towels and water.  You can usually hire mats and towels from the studio or you can bring your own. You may not believe it but you are going to sweat.  A lot.  So, have one towel to lay over your mat to stop you from sliding all over the place and a second towel to mop your brow and hands.

Don't wear much. Forget about long tights, loose t-shirts, tracksuit bottoms.  The bikram uniform is bottom hugging shorts and sports bra for the ladies and swimming shorts for the gents.  If the thought of baring that much skin fills you with dread, you will be okay in capris and an athlete vest but keep it breathable and light-weight.

Listen to your body.  This is your first bikram/hot yoga class. It will be tough and unlike any yoga you have practised before. If you are struggling, back off. Just by being in the room, remaining focussed and breathing, you are practising yoga…..

…..and the teacher who will remind you to stay in the room, to listen to your body, to rest if you need to and will give modifications to suit different levels of experience.

Stay in the room. Your mind might be telling you to leave, screaming “run!  Get out of there!” but listen to the teacher who will be reminding you to stay in the room and be in the practice. The great benefit of the heat is that it allows your body to open up and your muscles to release, even if you are not doing much. It may take some time for your body to acclimatise so stick with it, even if you spend much of the first class in child’s pose!

Embrace savasana…. and don't get up too fast!  You have worked hard, sweated more than you believed you could, overcome all sorts of negative thoughts about your ability to see out the class and here it is, delicious relaxation. Enjoy how your body feels, observe your breath and that lovely melting into the mat sensation. Don't think about anything, especially not that washing up waiting for you when you get hope. Take your time coming back to the room and in sitting up. Take your time cleaning and clearing away your mat and props. Your body will feel a little different after being worked all over and you don't want to fall over on the way to the showers!

Embrace communal showers!  A firm fixture in all yoga studios I have been to. You will need a wash.

Hydrate. Your body will need water and electrolytes so drink plenty of water and coconut water which contains naturally occurring electrolytes.

Don't judge yourself or your experience, you have taken the first step on a new journey for your mind and body, and most importantly...

Go back and try it again, and soon!  It's the best way to get your body into the hot yoga groove.  Believe, me, you will love it… Eventually!


the author

Jo Walder

I am a Yoga Alliance 200 hour trained yoga teacher, practising and teaching in SW14.
My Personal Philosophy
I practise Vinyasa flow style yoga which so appeals for its creativity and expression through movement. As my practice deepens, I am learning more about the importance of mindful movement, having an alignment focused practice and connecting body with mind and spirit through movement and breath. From that initial physical feel good factor, my practice has developed to produce an overall sense of wellness which I aim to facilitate in my students. I have learnt, through training and experience, of the recurring postural issues and injuries which can be addressed by a mindful yoga practice and my teaching is informed by that, encouraging positive habitual movement patterns, building strength and flexibility and providing my students with a quiet place in which to explore and find space for themselves. Little by little our bodies and minds become more open. This, I believe, is the transformative power of yoga..