Hot yoga is one of the world’s most popular and fastest growing fitness trends. However, it can seem quite complicated to those who’ve never tried it before. If you want to try hot yoga but don’t know where to start, we’ve put together the ultimate hot yoga guide for beginners. This answers some of the most common questions asked by novices of the sport.
What is hot yoga?
Hot yoga is a style of yoga which is performed in temperatures of between 32 and 40C at 30-50% humidity.
These temperatures are artificially generated by infrared heaters and are designed to replicate the tropical climate of India, which is where yoga originated. The idea behind hot yoga is that the heat loosens your muscles and helps cleanse your body.
Hot yoga can be traced back to 1970s Japan when Bikram Choudhury used space heaters to warm up the cold rooms in which he taught yoga. Choudhury was intrigued by the saunas his students would take during their lunch breaks and believed that the heat made it easier for them to stretch and increased feelings of euphoria after practice.
This brings us nicely to the next question…
What are the benefits of hot yoga?
The intense heat of a hot yoga workout forces the heart to beat faster, which provides a better cardiovascular workout and burns more calories than other types of yoga (a typical hot yoga workout burns between 500 and 1,000 calories).
This level of heat not only helps in relaxing the muscles, it increases the body’s core temperature, allowing you to burn fat more easily. Pushing your body to its limits also releases endorphins, which are associated with feelings of positivity.
Among the other benefits of hot yoga are increased flexibility, decreased stress and anxiety, a reduced risk of injury and lower blood pressure.
What are the drawbacks of hot yoga?
While hot yoga provides a number of physical and mental health benefits, it also has its disadvantages, particularly for first-timers.
Nausea and exhaustion are common symptoms of practising hot yoga. If you feel nauseous, keep yourself hydrated and focus on your breathing until you feel better. Experts recommend lying down in a child’s pose to restore your energy levels.
Another obvious drawback of hot yoga is that it can be very dehydrating. This is why you are advised to drink at least two litres of water on the day of a class, to replace the fluids you lose during a session.
You are also at risk of overworking certain body parts. Because the heat loosens your muscles, you could over-extend your body while practising joint-heavy poses, to the point where you could tear a ligament or tendon. Here are some top tips on how to avoid such injuries.
What styles of hot yoga are there?
Many different styles of hot yoga are taught today, but the most popular style is Bikram Yoga. Named after Bikram Choudhury, Bikram Yoga incorporates 26 different poses and two breathing exercises. Bikram Yoga sessions are typically held in a room heated at 35-42C and last 90 minutes, making it one of the most intense and regimented forms of hot yoga
There’s also Baptiste Yoga, a variation of hot yoga which is comprised of three elements. Asana, the physical practice of yoga postures; meditation, the practice of focusing the mind; and inquiry, the practice of self-transformation.
Another popular form of hot yoga is Moksha. Founded in 2004 by two yoga teachers in Toronto, Moksha involves a series of standing and resting poses and classes last between 60 and 90 minutes. It is slightly more centred around mindfulness and relaxation than other hot yoga styles.
How should I prepare for a hot yoga class?
As we’ve already briefly touched on, the most important item to bring to a hot yoga class is a bottle of water. The more hydrated you are, the easier it’ll be to dispel heat efficiently, making the room feel much more bearable. You’ll want to slow down on the fluid intake about an hour before a class (for obvious reasons), but you should regularly consume moderate amounts of water during and after your workout.
Your nutritional choices before and after a hot yoga class are also essential. You should avoid eating anything for at least two hours before, and what you eat should just be a light snack to keep you going, i.e. bananas, apples, granola bars.
Post-workout, it is advisable to consume foods which are high in protein and complex carbohydrates to restore glycogen and help your muscles recover. For instance, a chicken dish mixed with either sweet potato or brown rice.
It’s also important to dress appropriately for the conditions. Avoid wearing loose-fitting clothing, long pants or long-sleeved tops and any items which are made from cotton, as this fabric tends to absorb moisture. Tight shorts and a tank top or sports bra are ideal for women, while shorts or swim trunks and a tank top are ideal for men.
Where can I practise hot yoga?
Hot yoga classes are held all over the UK. Many of these classes are offered by the company Hotpod Yoga, Europe’s largest yoga company. If you visit their website and click on ‘Find and book classes’, it brings up a range of locations across England and Scotland where you can try their hot yoga for yourself. If you can’t find a location near you, a simple Google search like ‘hot yoga near me’ should point you in the right direction.
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