Sunday, July 31, 2011

Hot Yoga

People always seem drawn to and curious about hot yoga. There is sort of a sensationalized image of hot yoga: steamy room, sweat dripping from contorted bodies, etc. The rooms I’ve been in lacked the dramatic steam, but certainly had the sweat you would expect from this yoga practice. While not as glamourous as you may think, this yoga does have its benefits.

Hot yoga was introduced through Bikram yoga, but not all hot yoga is bikram. You can do yoga of any sort in a room with the heat turned up. Temperatures are typically 95 – 105 degrees.

The major benefit of the heat is it allows the muscles to really relax. This increases flexibility at early points in the practice — rather than the typical need to ‘warm up’ before really finding some good lengthening. I find the heat so helpful with this that I will dress in layers if I am unable to practice in a warm room.

It does take a few classes to adjust to the heat. We typically want to be ‘cooled off’ when we are doing physical activity. It can feel frustrating to be getting warmer in an already warm room. It may even make you feel nauseated or dizzy initially. Heed these warnings and take a comfortable pose until the feelings pass.

The increase in sweat also demands adapting. Sweat can tickle and itch, which is inconvenient in downward dog or any other number of poses. My instructor is so good at challenging the ego — she will suggest the need to wipe away the sweat or make other readjustments is a test of the distractions of the ego. Regardless of the test, you probably want to bring a small towel.

The number one necessity is water or an electrolyte drink. You will be dripping during this practice. You will also be very warm. It is important to continue to hydrate and cool yourself with your close supply of fluids.

Hot yoga may not be for everyone. I am certainly a convert — it makes the experience deeper for me. The heat does allow you to push your body further into poses, getting the fullest benefit from them. The heat also pushes your limits. It absolutely does trigger the ego to complain and distract. This adds to the challenge of being able to see through these thought and focus on the practice. Now, go get hot and let me know what you think…


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