I'm writing this because I really wish someone would have written this for me before I went to my first yoga class. But, because I went ill prepared and completely naive to the truth about how e'ffing hot a hot yoga class actually is, I just suffered through the 90 minute experience in my long sleeve shirt and winter running tights and silently wanted to die. Now, I've since then come to appreciate the value of sauna-like workouts, but it's still not my favorite thing to do as hot rooms do make me a little claustrophobic and I typically end up looking like my face just threw up 3-days worth of old make up.
BUT, hot yoga has its place in my life. Even as a long time yoga-doer, I’m still pretty tight and inflexible. I find that running really limits my leg and hip flexibility and believe it or not - a flexible open body is sign post for a flexible, open (less type-A stressed out) mind.
Since type-A and stressed out is my primary state most of the time - hot yoga = good.
I’ve made it my Sunday practice lately, so I like to call it my church.
How hot does it get?
Enough that you’re sweating pretty hard in the first 10 minutes, whether or not you’re moving much. It’s typically not the most vigorous of yoga classes, and poses are generally held longer for increased power and flexibility, so you still get some strength gains, but cardio, it is not.
What should you bring?
If you’re doing Bikram (which I’m not a fan of), you don’t need a mat. If you’re doing any other kind of heated yoga, like power or vinyasa, then you need a mat, and a non-slip towel. Don’t mistake this for a bath towel - this is a yoga specific (so of course, incredibly expensive) towel that covers your mat to support unstable poses that require a good hand grip, like downdog. You may think you can do without it, but you need this. Trust me. Otherwise, when the sweat starts dripping, you’ll be sliding all over the place which is no fun.
Image from Manduka
What should you wear?
I’ve seen everything from tiny booty shorts and a sports bra, to women wearing full-length tights, long sleeves and a sweater over top. I think this largely depends on how much you like being uncomfortably warm, and how much skin you’re okay showing. I typically go for capris or knee-length pants that are super light weight. Don’t go wearing thick winter running tights - you will be miserable.
On top, if you’re not cool with sporting the midriff look, a moisture wick tank top is best. Cotton is going to get way too sweaty and anything too lose is going to end up around your ears when you get into some of the inverted poses.
What to do if you can’t hack the heat
My best advice if you’re leery about overheating is to find a spot right near a door. Not only will you catch a breeze through the door (if you’re lucky), but it makes it easier to roll up your mat and bail if it gets to be too much for you. Don’t feel bad about leaving a class early if you’re not feeling like the heat is your thing. Better to do that, then pass out.
Side Note: Mostly, you won’t pass out, but you may feel that way in moments. You sweat a LOT so it’s critical to bring water and drink lots of it after you’re done.
So why would anyone want to do this?
It’s hard to explain how good you can feel after a hot yoga sesh, but it’s best described as blissed out. Yes, most yoga classes will get you in that state, but hot yoga opens you up more and takes you to that place a little sooner, so you can enjoy it longer.
It’s worth trying at least once, now that you’ve got the download on what to expect and what to wear.
Now, go sweat it out.
Caren is a certified yoga teacher, fitness instructor and author of The Fit Habit. Here she shares simple, low carb recipes, quick home workout ideas and practical ways to foster mind + body wellness.