Beginner’s Guide to Hot Yoga

CALLING ALL HOT YOGA BEGINNERS

Hot yoga means sweating
Hot yoga means sweating

You probably wouldn’t be reading this unless you or someone you know is interested in taking your first hot yoga class. Or maybe you’ve already taken a couple of classes and that has peaked your interest to find out more about hot yoga. If you haven’t yet, you should read my post about the different types of hot yoga classes in the yoga market place these days.

If you’re looking to try a hot yoga class the most accessible way for many people is to find a studio nearby that offers hot classes. Location and convenience is an important factor when you’re starting anything new. You’re just more likely to go if it’s easy to get to with convenient class times that suit your schedule.

I started  hot yoga classes at my local studio and that was perfectly fine for me as a beginner. Now, I’m willing to travel a little further to go a studio that is dedicated to hot yoga. You will know when and if you are ready for that. For more information about two styles of dedicated hot yoga series please see my review Bikram vs Moksha.

So, dear hot yoga beginner, let’s arm you with some information to give you the best start possible in your first hot yoga class and beyond.

BEFORE YOU GO

Just kidding, please use tissues!
Just kidding, please use tissues!
  1. Make sure you arrive about 20 min ahead of class time.
  2. Pre-hydrate. No one ever told me this until much later and I wish I had known better. Drink at least a litre of water 30 min-1 hour prior to class.
  3. Eat a light snack about 1 hour before class, a piece of fruit, small sandwich, snack bar, etc.
  4. Make sure you don’t eat a large meal closer than 2 hours before class.
  5. Clean your nostrils. No, I mean it. It really helps your breathing once you’re in the class. Those of us who have been through traditional style of yoga teacher training will fondly recall the lessons on the “Neti-pot”. Beginners, if you don’t know what a neti-pot is, you won’t need to, I digress.
  6. Wash any make up, sunblock or moisturizer off your face and chest as these products can run into your eyes along with your sweat and may cause your eyes to burn.

WHAT TO WEAR & WHAT TO BRING

Ladies Yoga Wear:  Sleeveless, stretchy tank style top or sports bra, stretchy shorts with a deep crotch or yoga pants

Mens Yoga Wear:  Luckily you can go topless. Bike style shorts or Underarmour.

What NOT to wear: Loose gym shorts with or without netting. There are alot of forward folds, you may unknowingly expose people behind you to an “eyeful”. Gym shorts with a netting inside will restrict your movement in the standing series of postures. Loose tops on ladies will have the girls spilling out during forward folds, as said there are a whole lot of those.

Stuff you need: A water bottle, insulated stainless or glass, plastic is not recommended for hot yoga. A good mat, rent one from your studio if you don’t have one. Don’t buy a higher end mat until you’ve practiced for at least 30 days and determined that hot yoga is indeed up your alley. 2 towels, one to lay on your mat and one to shower with afterwards.

ONCE YOU’RE IN THE HOT ROOM

Savasana
Savasana
  1. Before the class begins take Savasana (Corpse Pose), with your feet pointing to the back of the class (lay in the direction everyone else is laying in). Breathe naturally and enjoy the heat. If the class is crowded, pull in your wings!
  2. For at least the first few classes choose a spot nearer to the back of the class so you can see what the other participants are doing.
  3. Place your mat in a position that allows you to have at least a partial view of yourself in the mirror and don’t place your mat directly smack dab in front of someone else’s mat eliminating their view!
  4. Try to do a “single entry”. That means go in and stay in, not in and out to get water, have a chat, go pee, etc. Do everything you need to do before you go in, then stay in. This helps the room retain the heat and courteous for the practitioners who arrive early just to enjoy their pre-class Savasana.
  5. Once in the hot room, silence is usually observed until the teacher enters.

DURING THE CLASS

  1. Breathe, make this your #1 focus. In and out THROUGH THE NOSE, unless otherwise instructed by the teacher.
  2. Listen to the teachers instructions and watch the people in the front row, they’re usually the more experienced participants.
  3. As a beginner don’t try too hard to keep up. Rest when you want. Take a kneeling position to rest if you’re just tired or take child’s pose, then Savasana if you really need to.
  4. Resist the urge to leave the room, even if you need to lay down for most of the class, just remaining in the hot room for the whole class is the end goal the first few times.
  5. If you start to feel dizzy, don’t try to leave the room quickly because you could fall over. Stay on your mat, take a kneeling pose first, concentrate on breathing in and out through your nose, if you feel you need to go to child’s pose, then take Savasana if your body tells you that’s what you  need. If, after the dizziness subsides you really do need to leave, then do so for a few minutes, once your heart rate calms down, GO BACK IN.
  6. If you feel nauseous, don’t be shy, let the teacher know and they will assist you.

AFTER THE CLASS

Replenish Electrolytes
Replenish Electrolytes
  1. Re-hydrate and replenish electrolytes. Lemon water (or a small chunk of himylayan salt in your water), unsweetened coconut water or kombucha are all good choices.
  2. Now you can eat a healthy meal, you’ve earned it!
  3. Book your next class right away. In order to feel the full benefits of hot yoga you should try to go to at least 3 classes the first week. Even if the first class is a challenge you may feel quite different after the 3rd class. Like anything else, you should give hot yoga a chance to produce positive effects (although I personally did feel fantastic after my very first hot yoga class).
  4. Wash your mat and use a mat spray, then hang it to dry. If you don’t it’ll get funky on you.

IS HOT YOGA GOOD FOR EVERYONE?

No, it won’t be for everyone. Nothing is good for everyone. You know you, you know your body, you know your health history. So, use your common sense. If you try it out for a couple of weeks and it doesn’t make you feel good or you don’t see the benefits, maybe it’s not for you. Just because everyone and their down dog are into hot yoga doesn’t necessary mean it’s the right thing for you. Only you can decide that. And if you decide hot yoga’s not your fancy then check out NOT HOT YOGA.

IS HOT YOGA OK DURING PREGNANCY?

Hot Yoga During Pregnancy
Hot Yoga During Pregnancy

Please talk to your doctor about this and/or discuss with the manager of the studio you’re going to. I’ve seen over the years at least a dozen different pregnant ladies practicing hot yoga right up to full term, always adjusting their postures accordingly and never seen or heard of any negative effects on those particular pregnancies (gone to a few yoga baby showers!). However, every woman and every pregnancy is unique and what one pregnant woman can do isn’t any indication that it’s ok for every other pregnant woman to follow suit. At bare minimum you will need to have proper instruction about how and when to adjust the postures to suit the various phases of your pregnancy. Some postures are absolutely not suitable for a pre-natal practice regardless of whether it is a hot class or not. Please remember that even though you are the one attending the class (which may feel good to you) your unborn baby may be affected differently and cannot exactly voice their opinion yet!

I will say that I love seeing the beauty of those glistening bellies practicing along side me, it’s a testament to the fact that women can be at their strongest, and triumphantly active during these nine special months. Both my boys were born before my “yoga revolution” but I swam 40 laps every other night during both pregnancies up until the week of delivery and there were people who thought I was crazy doing that. Both my boys today are robust specimens of perfect health, so to say I believe in staying active during pregnancy is an understatement. But just to reiterate, please seek the advice of your health care professional before participating in hot yoga during your pregnancy. If you have specific questions regarding practicing Bikram yoga or Moksha yoga during your pregnancy, I touch on this in my review Bikram vs Moksha.

Also, check out → 21 HOT YOGA Q & A.

In the meantime, if you have other questions that aren’t answered here…your comments are welcome, please leave them in the box below.

Regards, Connie.

 

 

 

About Hot Vinyasa – Flow

Chair Pose

Hot Flow – Vinyasa Yoga

What does Vinyasa mean?

Vinyasa in sanskrit has a variety of meanings. In relation to yoga it means “a gradual progression from one pose to the next pose, initiated by breath”. When a teacher says “now take a vinyasa” in most classes what they’re actually meaning is for you to perform a “sun salutation” which is the most common form of vinyasa practiced in yoga classes. In fitness jargon, the vinyasa-flow class is a dynamic class (constant movement) as opposed to a static class (maintaining stillness, such as in Hatha yoga).

Sun Salutation Flow – Vinyasa:

Sun Salutation - Vinyasa
Sun Salutation – Vinyasa

The above version of the sun salution is adapted as per the instructors lesson plan. Especially in hot flow-vinyasa classes you may see posture #4 and #9 omitted and then inserted in another part of the class. This series looks fairly easy and is suitable for most beginner but if done correctly in a properly heated room, you will work up a sweat after just 2 or 3 rounds, trust me!

The most important thing to remember in a hot vinyasa class is to:

Breathe, Breathe, Breathe!

Breathe !!!
Breathe !!!

A down dog knows that a qualified Vinyasa instructor should be preceding each posture call with either an “inhale” or “exhale” cue. This should be the case during the entire class. Without the breath, there is no yoga. The sun salutation vinyasa is the basis of most flow classes, hot or not. This basic vinyasa is combined with a standing series, usually followed by a floor series. However I’ve attended classes that combine the sun salutation with Pilates mat exercises, arm balances, and other variations. But the basics remain the same, in-hale, move, ex-hale, move. If you’re a yoga instructor looking for some cueing tips, please go to the teachers corner page.

Because a vinyasa or flow yoga class involves constant movement, there is sometimes the assumption that it must be more difficult.

Hmm, let’s have a look at this…

Vinyasa (Flow) vs Hatha yoga (non-flow)

Some studios name their flow classes Power Yoga which implies that flow classes are more strenuous than non-flow classes. So, which type of class is easier? There’s no homogenous answer to this because everyone is different. I personally find flow classes to be LESS difficult and I will attempt to argue in favour of that. When you are flowing from one posture to another at some point you will use momentum to assist you, especially if the instructor cues the flow in quick succession. You have little or no time to focus on specific muscular tension, i.e. your muscles don’t usually do the “shakey” thing in vinyasa classes.

A quick experiment might be more meaningful:

A test – Is Vinyasa or Hatha harder? 

Chair Pose
Chair Pose
  1. Take your resting heart rate.
  2. Make sure you’re warmed up before beginning the flows
  3. Set a timer
  4. Do 4 sun salutions in a row timing yourself, beginning to end
  5. Note the time.
  6. Take your heart rate.
  7. Rest (back to resting heart rate, or do #8 the next day)
  8. Set the timer for the time it took to do the 4 vinyasas
  9. Get into chair pose, go to your edge, hold it for as long as you possibly can or until the clock runs out.
  10. Take your heart rate as soon as you come out of the pose (you may not last the whole time)
  11. The higher heart rate tells give you which yoga is harder for you.

 

Hot Vinyasa for Beginners

If you’re a complete yoga beginner I would recommend you try a Hot Hatha based class to start with, just to get the hang of the postures and the effect of the heat on your body. After a couple of classes, definitely go for a Vinyasa / Flow class. I do a combination of various hot classes and I know definitely, for my body, the Hatha series is more challenging, however I favour the flow classes because, again just for me, they are more fun and dynamic. For more beginner information please read Types of Hot Yoga and Beginner’s Guide to Hot Yoga.

And, that’s a wrap. See you next post.

Comments are welcome, please leave yours in the box below. Cheerio, Connie

Types of Hot Yoga

TYPES OF HOT YOGA CLASSES

There are 2 main types of hot yoga classes. Hatha and Vinyasa. Some studios are starting to offer Hot Yin as well.

Depending on which yoga textbook you read or online reference you google you will find differing lists of “styles” of yoga. Different yoga styles include Anusara, Iyengar, Sivananda, Ashtanga, Jivamukdi, Yin, Kundalini and the aforementioned Hatha and Vinyasa styles. There are more or other variations of this list, but those are the basics. There are also niche yoga styles such as pre/post-natal, arial, couples, just to name a few more. Some lists will include Bikram as it’s own style, or Hot Yoga as a style of yoga but in reality all the postures in any hot yoga class I’ve participated in have been variations on traditional Hatha postures or Vinyasa flows already in practice for centuries.

What kind of hot yoga is a Hatha style class?

Hot Hatha Yoga Class
Dancer’s Pose in a hot yoga class

Bikram hot yoga is a set series of 26 postures based on traditional Hatha asanas. The teacher guides you into each static (still) posture and you hold the posture for anywhere from 10 seconds to a minute (depends on the instructor). Please link to my Bikram yoga post for specific and detailed information about the Bikram practice.

Moksha hot yoga, the original series is also a set series of postures based on traditional Hatha asanas. Since there are almost 200 basic Hatha yoga postures and variations of each, it is expected that some of the basic poses are found in most hot Hatha classes. Go to my Moksha yoga post for a detailed description of their practice.

Bikram and Moksha are just two types of Hatha style hot yoga classes offered by specifically branded franchised operators. There are numerous other studios that offer hot yoga classes based on hatha postures taught by both instructors who may or may not be certified specifically to teach hot yoga. These classes may be a good choice for people who would like to try hot yoga to compliment other disciplines of yoga. Additionally, there are certainly going to be other styles of yoga offered in studios that are adding hot classes to their schedules to meet the growing demand from people interested in practicing in a heated room. Please leave a comment below if you have attended or heard about new and different hot yoga classes so I can follow up and check it out maybe add the information to my posts.

About Hot Vinyasa Flow

Vinyasa yoga, also known as “Flow” or “Power” yoga in some studios is also a popular style of hot yoga. It is based again on the Hatha flow sun salutation and in most classes combined with a standing series followed by the floor series. This is a dynamic (moving) sequence of postures that in certain ways feels somewhat like a dance. My post on Hot Flow – Vinyasa Yoga has full details.

There’s also Hot Yin

Yin is another practice based on Hatha postures. A hot yin class consists of a reduced number of postures (10-15) depending on the teachers plan and duration the class. Each posture is held for a longer period of time (3-5 minutes). The philosophy is that holding the postures longer will allow a deeper release right into the fascia and tissues, producing a generally restorative effect on the body. There are many that find this to be true and still others who find Yin to be one of the more challenging practices both mentally and physically due to the longer hold of the postures. This type of hot class maybe more difficult to find as it may be considered more of a specialty class by some studios.

Are there other kinds of Hot Yoga classes?

For the purposes of providing general information to those who are interested in hot yoga I will focus here on the hot yoga classes that people will most commonly be able to find, which are Hatha, Vinyasa, and Yin. However, there are definitely going to be other offerings specific to studios anywhere in the world that are innovating the hot yoga practice or offering variations not widely offered elsewhere.

So, which type of class is best for me?

The tricky answer is: maybe all of these, or maybe just one. If you’re already a regular yoga practitioner and just want to branch into hot yoga for something different then any of the above classes might be to your liking. If you already know you like flow or yin yoga then just do the hot version to see if it suits you. If you’re brand new to yoga and want to launch straight into a hot practice (a very exciting way to start yoga) then you’ll definitely benefit from the advice in my post Beginner’s Guide to Hot Yoga. ← Also see this post if you are pregnant and interested in hot yoga.

Final words:

Just go for it. You’ll never know if it’s your THANG if you don’t give it a go!

Comments are welcome, please leave yours in the box below. Thank you, Connie.