With the increased popularity of hot yoga, I decided to explore the good and the bad about this growing trend. My experience with hot yoga is very limited, as I only made it through one Bikram class when I lived in New York. I couldn’t breathe, it smelled horrible and I was drenched. I also taught a hot class in Phoenix for a few months and it was equally as unpleasant. However, I know there are many of you out there who just can’t get enough of yoga in high heat.
“I get such a good workout.”
“I feel like I detox more.”
“I get so warm I can do poses I can’t do in classes without the heat.”
When Bikram Chaudry decided to replicate the heated conditions of India, he devised a pretty chill sequence free of heat-inducing postures like chaturangas and arm balances. Doing flow, vinyasa or power yoga in a room that feels like a sauna can be killer, and not in a good way. Overheating, under-breathing and overstretching can become a problem. You may feel warm on the outside but it’s an artificial heat that can take your body to places it isn’t ready to go yet. Not only that, but how well can you breathe when most hot studios don’t have the right filtration systems to promote good air quality? All this, along with inexperienced teachers who adjust deeply and merely lead standard studio sequences, can lead to injuries. I’ve heard it so many times:
“I went to hot yoga yesterday and I think I pulled something.”
“I was feeling so good and open that I think I went too far.”
That being said, hot yoga and the convenience of back-to-back 60-minute classes all day has a lot of people doing yoga and that’s a good thing. As a student, just be mindful of your breath, especially if you’re doing yoga in a space that makes it more difficult to take expansive breaths. Never stop breathing and remind yourself to move into deep stretches with caution. Don’t be afraid to tell an instructor to back off the adjustment if you feel like you’re reaching your max.
I personally believe in the power of a proper warm up and leading a class that generates a lot of internal heat, prepping the body for the more demanding stretches. My ideal temperature is 76…warm but comfortable enough to breathe. If it’s a strong, well-sequenced class you’ll still get a workout, you’ll sweat and you’ll breathe with ease.
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