When I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia, my doctor went over a long list of treatment options. After some ridiculously scary incidences in the past, I will generally try just about anything to avoid taking meds, so luckily my doctor was cool with me trying the holistic approach first. At the top of that list was hot yoga* – the idea being that the heat helps the warm up process and makes things easier on your joints, muscles, etc.
Considering I live in the desert where temps are regularly in the 110+ area, I thought this was a bit crazy at first, but I decided to tried it nonetheless. I mean I enjoy yoga, and goodness knows I’m acclimated to the heat, so I figured there couldn’t be any harm in giving it a go. Color me surprised at how well it worked! And, as it turns out, there’s an advantage to the outside heat – there’s a less drastic immediate temperature difference, which allows your body to acclimate in a much gentler manner. I still think I’m crazy every week about halfway through the class, but the overall benefits have made the insanity worth it. (smile) Those 60 minutes are both physical and mental therapy, so I see it as a double win!
*Hot yoga refers to yoga exercises performed under hot and humid conditions. One of the best known types is Bikram yoga, but there are several other forms. Thanks to Groupon I’ve been able to try a wide range of options, and I have generally found them each to be fairly comparable in terms of atmosphere and work out. The methodology is a bit different though, so find what works best for you.
Other than the temperature difference, there are a few other subtle differences between yoga and hot yoga to be prepared for. A few of these I had to learn the hard way, so I thought I’d pass along the knowledge in case anyone else may be considering a hot yoga practice.
1) Equipment is Key. As you might imagine, it gets pretty hot and sweaty during hot yoga sessions. Wear light clothing, preferably moisture wicking. You’re there for you, so try to put aside any self-image issues and dress comfortably. It may take a couple of classes to get comfortable, but less definitely becomes better. (smile)
Also invest in a good mat and non-slip towel. A regular towel works fine, but I’ve found that the non-slip yoga towels really make a difference in holding certain positions. I recommend bringing a smaller towel as well just to wipe the hands and forehead once in a while. A lot of hot yoga studios provide mat cleanser, but if not I’d suggest you make your own or buy some. Use it often, trust me you’ll be glad you do!
2) Food & Water. If you know you have a hot yoga session waiting for you after work, try to pay closer attention to what and when you eat throughout the day. Lighter, healthier foods will help prevent feeling heavy and/or nauseous during class. On that same note, try not to eat anything for 1-2 hours before class.
Possibly the most important thing to focus on is to hydration. Start in the morning and keep drinking all the way through class. And by hydrate, I mean water, tea, etc., not the sugary sodas and definitely not beer (one of those hard learned lessons). Always have a water bottle nearby in class and don’t hesitate to use it.
3) Pace Yourself. Usually a yoga studio has levels. Even if you’re a pro yogi, if you’ve never tried it in a heated room consider starting in the beginner’s class. Don’t be afraid to modify your poses so that they are most comfortable to you and don’t hurt yourself. You’ll improve over time and feel much better about the experience.
If you feel yourself getting light-headed or dizzy, don’t be afraid to take a break. Go into child’s pose (balasana) or corpse pose (savasana) until you feel better. It’s generally not recommended to leave the room, as the temperature drop can make you feel worse. If you’re in the right studio, no one will judge you. It should be a safe space where everyone is too concerned about holding their own eagle pose (garudasana) to pass judgment on anyone else. (smile)
Do you practice hot yoga? Anything other tips & tricks??