Taking care of your body has never felt better… or hotter… or sweatier. There is a reason hot yoga has grown in popularity over the past few decades across the globe: it’s because the benefits of hot yoga can transform your body and your mind.
Though nearly one-quarter of Americans have taken a yoga class before, it can be intimidating if you’re new to hot yoga or if you’ve only done it a few times. So I’m going to clue you in on what you need to know before you get there – from how to dress to what to bring along with you.
Whether you are a yoga master wanting to change up your routine or you are a total yoga newbie ready to dive right into this rejuvenating practice, you are about to learn everything you need to know about hot yoga.
What Is Hot Yoga?
Hot yoga is exactly what it sounds like: yoga in a heated room. But just how hot is hot? Depends on the studio.
Hot yoga really became en vogue through the advent of Bikram Yoga. In this style of hot yoga, you go through a special sequence of 26 poses (which are each done twice) that move your entire body. Each Bikram class lasts about 90 minutes in a steamy room of 105°.
Throughout the years, however, hot yoga has expanded into different types of experiences with new visions and varied temperatures.
Another popular option is Baptiste Power Yoga. The poses are not structured and repeated through Baptiste yoga – it’s a brand new experience every time. Kind of like the power yoga class you are used to, but heated. And the classes are not quite as hot as Bikram, often somewhere in the 90s. This is typically the type of class that we go to.
But then you can find non-affiliated, independent studios around the country – and the globe – that are now offering wide varieties of hot yoga. Some slow it down offering hot hatha or yin classes (talk about a deep stretch!). Some vary the temperatures from mid 80s to low 100s.
A quick Google search can inform you what’s available in your area. You may be able to find any of the hot yoga chains I mentioned above, but you should also be able to see if any local, independent studio turns up the heat during any of their classes too.
Benefits Of Hot Yoga
Yoga in and of itself provides countless benefits to the mind and the body, including:
- Improved flexibility, posture, balance, bone density, and mood
- Boosted strength, blood flow, immune system, and focus
- Protected joints, nervous system, and peace of mind
- Lowered blood pressure, blood sugar, tension, and anxiety
Yoga is for anyone. Young and old. Men and women. Newbies and the most experienced.
But what’s the perk of adding in the heat? Many people may be skeptical at first. After all, we normally do things to escape high heat (like fork out hundreds of dollars a month through the summer to enjoy the air conditioning. Have you ever had a summer in the South?). But there’s a real pay off when you down dog in the heat.
Some of the added benefits of hot yoga (on top of the general yoga benefits above) include:
- Detoxification: The skin’s ability to sweat is one of the many detoxification systems of the body. In our modern world, we don’t often use it enough. Your sweat can help you excrete even serious toxic chemicals like arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury from your body.
- More Muscle Flexibility: There’s a reason athletes need to “warm up” their muscles. Heat actually makes your muscle tissue more pliable. By stepping into an already hot room, you are allowing the stretch of yoga to go even deeper, thus enhancing the benefits.
- Clear Pores: All that sweating can clear clogged pores, but you must come in with a clean face and wash up after class for the full purifying effect.
- Ultimate Relaxation: It may seem counterintuitive that working hard in a hot room could calm you down, but the heat can be very soothing. Plus, the intense concentration on your body (instead of the 832 other problems you’ve been dealing with) is a mindful activity.
Convinced that you should try it out yet? Read on for what to know before you go!
What To Wear To Hot Yoga
You should show up in the right yoga gear to fully enjoy all the benefits of hot yoga. While some things are the same from yoga class to yoga class (like don’t wear socks), there are a few considerations specific to hot yoga:
Don’t Wear Loose Clothing
Everything is going to get wet. Everything. Loose, wet clothing feels like a wet blanket just trying to hold you down. It’s going to feel gross and you will not be able to move comfortably. The more form fitting, the better.
Don’t Wear 100% Cotton
Cotton will absorb all that sweat and become heavy in just about no time at all. Take advantage of the more breathable fabrics designed for heavy sweating. (Pro Tip: also look at runner’s activewear).
Do Wear A Sports Bra
You may get to the point where you’re so heated that you want to shed your shirt to cool off. If the thought of doing that completely terrifies you, just know that many yoga studios have dim lights. And more than that, in the yoga culture people are more focused on their own practice rather than looking at what everyone else is doing.
If you do wear a shirt, make sure it is form fitting enough that the instructor can see if you are doing the poses correctly or not.
Do Put Your Hair Up
Your hair will be sweaty and dripping early on. Pulling it back in a braid or putting it up in a high bun will keep it off your face and out of your eyes. You may find adding a headband is a great way to prevent sweat from dripping throughout the class too.
Don’t Wear Makeup
One of the main benefits of hot yoga that I mentioned above was the ability to clear out those pores. If you wear makeup you’ll be blocking your pores instead and preventing all that detox. Plus, you don’t want to be leaving the class with your mascara running down your face. It’s a good idea to bring some makeup remover wipes with you if you are coming after work. Then use another one after class to clear off any sweat and let your face glow.
Shorts or Pants? Up To You!
Most women find they can enjoy the benefits of hot yoga more fully when they are wearing small yoga shorts. But other women find having sweaty thighs makes moving through the poses more difficult and slippery, so they prefer yoga pants. Try it either way and you’ll find what works best for you.
What To Bring To Hot Yoga
For most yoga classes you can basically just show up with or without a mat and be ready to go. But the reality is…due to the sweat factor, there are a few extra things you should bring along with you for your comfort and safety.
Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Though the amount you will sweat during class is one of the benefits of hot yoga, that does not mean you should not re-hydrate your body. I always bring one very large bottle of water (I add a pinch of sea salt per quart of water to flush it into the cells) to make sure that I don’t get dehydrated.
Personally, I don’t guzzle water during my practice. I don’t to like feel sluggish during the class and drinking too much water can do that for me. I take sips during the session. But I bring my big bottle along so that as soon as the class is over I can drink enough on my way home to replenish my body.
Pro tip: All the natural electrolytes in non-GMO coconut water make it a great drink after your hot yoga class.
Mat & Towel OR Hot Yoga Mat
As I mentioned above, typically you can show up to a yoga class with or without a mat. You should call the studio ahead of time to find out what the policy is. Regardless, I say you should bring your own if you’re going to hot yoga.
The thought of someone dripping their sweat all over the mat that I’m going to use grosses me out. Most studios will say that they sanitize the mats in that case, but then I’m wondering what kind of chemicals they are cleaning the mats with. To bypass all of that drama, I just bring my own every time.
One thing to note is that some mats can get slippery when you’re sweaty. Some mats can get sticky when you’re sweaty. Either way is a no go. Most students of hot yoga will bring a towel to place over their yoga mat to fix the problem.
Others, like me, buy mats specifically designed for hot yoga. Until you are sure that hot yoga is your thing, feel free to stick with the mat/towel option.
You may want to wipe off the sweat mid-class (though you don’t have to; it’s perfectly fine to be in sweaty glory the whole time). I prefer to bring an extra towel to dry my face once it starts getting really sweaty.
In most hot yoga classes I’ve been to you’re moving pretty quickly through the flow so you’re not going to have tons of time to wipe yourself down. You’ll be more focused on the practice.
And of course if you’re in a place that has access to showers, you’ll want to bring an extra towel in case you want to take advantage of that.
Yoga Mat Cleaner
Your mat is going to get pretty sweaty during a hot yoga session. To keep it fresh (and not funky) it’s a good idea to wipe the mat down after class. In my gym they have Clorox wipes at the back for that purpose. No, thank you. I’ll bypass the chemicals.
Instead I make a homemade sanitizing spray of water and essential oils to keep the mat fresh. I usually use a combination of Melaleuca (Tea Tree Oil) to disinfect as well as some citrus oils like Lemon and Wild Orange to freshen.
I roll the mat out when I get home and spray with the cleaner. Then I wipe it down and let it air dry. All fresh and clean with no chemicals!
Wet Wipes Or Toiletries
Many hot yoga studios will have showers you can use for a post-class clean up. If you need to shower, make sure to bring a toiletry bag. If you opt out of the shower, bringing some sort of wet wipe or toilette can help you freshen up.
Not what you were expecting? Let me explain…
4 Energizing Essential Oils For Hot Yoga
Though by no means mandatory to enjoy a lovely hot yoga class, essential oils can definitely enhance the benefits of hot yoga.
- The aromatherapy qualities of the essential oils will infuse your practice. Where a hatha or yin yoga class may benefit from calming lavender or frankincense, energizing essential oils like those below can pump you up through the hot yoga class.
- You’re going to stink a bit. And that’s okay – everyone’s going to stink a bit. Totally normal and healthy, but why not invigorate your senses with the beautiful scents of citrus or mint?
I like to inhale one or more essential oils in my palms before practice to invigorate my senses. I also add a drop into my palm and wipe my hand palm side down along the yoga mat.
That way, when I’m in child’s pose or down dog, I’m getting the aroma of essential oils with each breath. You can add them to a spray bottle and spray your towel. It’s a wonderful way to practice.
Here are my top 4 energizing essential oils for hot yoga.
These first three essential oils are all citrus, which promotes the detoxification benefits of hot yoga. Lemongrass has a crisp, and very fresh aroma. It’s also energizing and one essential oil that I personally like very much.
On top of the enhanced detox properties of the citrus, the purifying qualities of wild orange can keep harmful microbes away. It’s sweet aroma makes it one of the most popular essential oils in the world.
Bergamot is one of my favorite essential oils for one big reason: it is both relaxing and energizing at the same time. Science has shown its ability to calm the nerves and anxiety disorders. The unique citrus scent can also boost your mood and relieve any depression. I also love to blend this oil with White Fir. It’s one of my absolute favorite blends that I absolutely LOVE.
Peppermint is going to be a bit different than the three citrus oils above. The minty fresh scent supports mental clarity as well as focus, which are both beneficial to your hot yoga practice.
Top Tips For Your First Hot Yoga Class
By now you are just about ready to experience the full benefits of hot yoga in a studio near you. Here are some final tips to make sure your first try is a positive experience.
Don’t Eat Too Much Beforehand
It’s really important to listen to your body, here. We do intermittent fasting, so I’ll usually do a hot yoga class at 9 am before I have breakfast or anything to eat. We’ve been living this lifestyle for a long time, so hormonally I don’t feel hunger cravings or nauseous when I practice on an empty stomach.
If that sounds like a recipe for disaster, have a small, digestible snack a couple of hours before you go. Whatever you do, just be sure not to eat a meal to close to practice or you might be feeling too full (i.e. sluggish) or even sick during the session.
Show Up Early
You will want to there early enough to both fill out any paperwork the studio may have for you and have a few minutes to get set up and used to the room before class starts.
I like to sit cross-legged (called Easy Pose) or lie on my mat and breathe essential oils before class starts.
The other thing is that some classes can get really full. Call the studio ahead of time to see if you need to reserve a spot and show up early so that you can lay your mat in a good place where you can easily see the instructor (especially if you’re new).
Say “I’m New Here!”
We may be years – or decades – out of school, but there’s something about being the new kid at class that makes some of us want to fly under the radar. Hot yoga is not that time.
Tell the instructor you are new so he or she can make sure to explain each pose with more clarity, help you make any necessary adjustments throughout the class, and monitor your ability to withstand the heat so you can properly reap the benefits of hot yoga.
Take Breaks As Needed
You’re going to be hot…really hot – especially when you are a newbie. You may want to sit or lie down to catch your breath – for as long as you need to take your break.
There is no winner’s medal to be won here, so do not feel like you have to do absolutely every pose for the entire time.
Stick It Out – for the most part
Most hot yoga teachers will tell you that the ultimate victory is staying the in room when the heat gets to be too much. Of course, you have to be the watcher of your own body. If you feel like you have moved from “I’m a bit uncomfortable” to “I’m actually ill” – by all means – do what you have to do.
Enjoying The Benefits Of Hot Yoga
Hopefully this article has given you the information and confidence you need to try a hot yoga class and experience the many benefits of hot yoga for yourself.
It’s time to get your detoxing sweat on!
Have you taken a hot yoga class recently? What type did you try? What did you think about it? How did you feel? Share your experience with me and our community in the comments below.