man in lotus pose in hot yoga studioAlthough yoga has been around for centuries, hot yoga has only been introduced to North America in the last thirty years. Although yoga has a rich history and spiritual background, the emergence of hot yoga in North America has welcomed a new crowd to the practice … those looking for a great workout and a way to proactively improve health, wellness and overall wellbeing!

WHAT IS HOT YOGA

Made popular in North America by Bikram Choudhury, the founder of Bikram Yoga, hot yoga is practice of yoga postures and poses performed under hot and humid conditions (producing both internal and external heat). The goal is to produce increased flexibility in the postures and poses with the help of the heated environment. Regardless of the style of hot yoga, the room typically varies in temperature from 84 to 104 degrees Fahrenheit (31 to 40 degrees Celsius) with the humidity reaching between 40 and 50 percent.

Hot yoga includes both static and dynamic movements to lengthen and strengthen opposing muscle groups, increase range of motion through the joints, and increase one’s depth of breath. Because the practice produces internal and external body heat, one can expect to sweat quite a bit during the practice, losing water weight and causing dehydration. Drinking adequate amounts of water during and after practice is advised.

Common styles of yoga you will find offered in a hot yoga studio include:

Bikram: This practice follows a set series of 26 postures (each completed two times) in a 90-minute class. The room is set to a temperature of 104 degrees Fahrenheit (40 degrees Celsius) and 40 percent humidity. The postures also reinforce extension and testing the boundaries of one’s flexibility. Other set series practices include: Ashtanga, Core Power and Moksha.

Hatha: Encompassing the fuller spectrum of yoga postures and poses, this practice is slower paced, focuses on deeper breath, and includes less flow between postures. Styles include: Iyengar Yoga, Sivananda Yoga, and Yin Yoga.

Vinyasa (or Flow): Includes yoga postures synchronized with breath and is a more vigorous style of yoga versus Hatha. Styles include: Ashtanga Yoga, Power Yoga, and Jivamukti Yoga.

HOT YOGA BENEFITS

In a non-heated room, regularly practicing yoga can benefit the physical body in the following ways:

  • Increased flexibility (by lengthening muscles and moving joints through a full range of motion),
  • Increased muscle strength and tone (by challenging both large muscle groups and the smallest stabilizing muscles throughout the core and extremities),
  • Improved balance and stability (by challenging both bilateral and unilateral postures and poses),
  • And enhanced function of internal organs (using twists, inversions and extensions through various planes).

By adding heat and humidity to the practice, one can expect enhanced benefits beyond a traditional yoga practice, including:

  • Detoxification (as toxins are sweated out through the pores of the skin throughout the body),
  • Improved breathing (the moisture in the room can help to open up and expand the lungs),
  • Helping the body to relax (especially during Savasana the heated room is comforting and cozy),
  • Improving flexibility (muscles, ligaments and tendons are more supple and open to lengthening when they are warm).

PREPARING FOR YOUR FIRST HOT YOGA CLASS

If you’re new to hot yoga, here are some tips to help you ease into your first class and to ensure you are well prepared and comfortable on your mat for the duration of your class:

  • Consume plenty of water before class. It is recommended you drink your daily intake of water throughout the day so you are fully hydrated for the class. Dehydration can be uncomfortable in a hot and humid room.
  • Arrive at least 15 minutes before the start of class. This will give you enough time to check in and register for the class, get a tour of the studio, rent any equipment or towels you will need, and settle into the studio before the class begins.
  • Bring a large bottle of water into the hot room with you. As you acclimatize to the room you will most likely sweat more than you are used to and will need to rehydrate accordingly.
  • Silence = RESPECT. The hot yoga studio is a silent space for people to relax and prepare for their practice. The only voice anyone should hear in the room is from the teacher guiding the practice.
  • Stay in the room for the duration of the class. Leaving the room in the middle of the practice (when you are feeling overheated) is a shock to the body. If you need a break simply go into Child’s Pose or Savasana until you are ready to resume.
  • Listen to your body. Yoga is the connection of mind and body as one. The teacher is there to simply guide you through your practice. You do NOT have to do every posture the teacher cues. If you need a break, take one. If you need water, sit down and drink.

In addition, Hot House Yoga, with two locations in Iowa, recommends eating one to two hours before class to provide fuel and the stamina needed for the duration of the class. Hot Yoga Plus, with locations throughout Tennessee and Mississippi, recommends keeping your eyes on your own practice. Every body and every practice is different. Wandering eyes can promote comparison and competition, which is not what the yoga practice should be about. Radiant Hot Yoga, with two beautiful locations in Newport Beach and Irvine (California), recommends wearing something you are comfortable sweating in. Breathable fabric is the ideal choice.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Andrea Oh is an accomplished writer, published author, podcaster, and local blogger in Calgary, AB (Canada). She is the Editor-In-Chief of Business.fit and SixFootCanasian.ca and author of “GET MOTIVATED! Powerful Quotes and Exercise Tips to Inspire 52 Weeks of Extraordinary Workouts” and “The Business of Personal Training: Essential Guide for the Successful Personal Trainer”.

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