I fell in love with yoga the first time I tried it (in college). I didn’t love hot yoga the first time I tried it. In fact, I thought I was going to pass out and/or vomit (maybe both). A friend first convinced me to come and try a hot yoga class at the studio she frequented in 2013 and I did not understand the appeal of it. Yoga is great for relaxation and I always would leave classes feeling serene. The idea of exercising in a 90 degree (minimum) room while sweating profusely did not seem like it would enhance the experience for me.
The first time was terrible – I remember I had to step off my mat and go into the air conditioned bathroom to catch my breath, and then sit with my head between my knees to stop my head from spinning. I know now that I probably would have done better for my first time on a lower humidity day and in a studio with a different heating system. I told my friend that I didn’t understand how she could do this and that I didn’t think it was for me. But I was intrigued and tried again, and then a few more times. She was right when she told me that your body had to get used to it – and I grew to love it.
I love hot yoga and it’s become a part of my self care that I look forward to and find helps me regroup, especially after a long work week or a stressful day. I practiced upward of 4x per week at one point, but personally found that I did not enjoy it as much when it was used as my workout. I practice now several times a month outside of summer and I look forward to it much more now that it is a treat for my body, rather than an exercise class that I put myself through. I think that I approach it differently when I don’t think of it as a workout, but it’s okay if you choose to look it as a workout!
1. Practicing hot yoga really keeps me accountable to drinking enough water. Taking a hot yoga class when you haven’t consumed enough water is horrific – you need to be well-hydrated before and after your class so that you can sweat through the heat and replenish your system. I am usually pretty good about refilling my water bottle regularly throughout the day, but when I know I’m going to hot yoga, I’m really on top of it.
2. Hot yoga has humbled me in that I’m not always going to do well. I’m someone who struggled in school in competitive sports environments because I was just not that great at sports and felt overwhelmed in competitive environments. Yoga practice has taught me that you are only there to work on yourself and that your progress may not be the same every time you practice. It is humbling to listen to your body and to let it guide you with what you need when you step onto your mat.
3. I learned through hot yoga that I really love sweating. Yes, it is absolutely gross how sweaty you can get in a hot yoga class. But I’ve learned to love how it warms me up inside, especially living in a cold climate like Wisconsin! If you don’t wear the right attire (like cotton clothing and no headband), sweating profusely can really ruin your workout. Dressed appropriately, it is easy to learn to embrace the sweat. I feel like sweating offers some symbolism of leaving your day behind you – refreshing yourself mentally and physically.
4. Hot yoga is one of very few things that calms my brain down. Yoga (heated or no) is a practice that you would hope would allow you to relax your body and mind. For some reason (the heat maybe? Or the fact that breathing becomes more labored in heated yoga?), I find that I can actually simply focus on breath and movement in a hot yoga class. My brain is always running a million miles a minute, which naturally, leads to me feeling overwhelmed a lot of the time. Hot yoga has been a refuge that has helped me get through difficult times, refresh after trying days or weeks and always, always, always makes me feel better than I did when I first walked through the door.
5. I personally experience greater flexibility in hot yoga. I’ve found that I can reach deeper in certain poses and hold them for longer amounts of time in a heated class. I’ve read and heard that your flexibility is increased due to an increased blood flow, so this is not surprising.
A bonus 6th reason: Yoga studios can be a wonderful place to find community. I have built some beautiful friendships through yoga practice. My first yoga teacher, Ryanne Cunningham of Flow Yoga Studio, grew from teacher into a friend and I have loved watching her gain national attention through the publication of her book and her work on a national level with professional and collegiate level athletes. I have gained wonderful friendships through yoga studios and have shared yoga with my family and my friends over the years. I even hosted a yoga birthday party for my 29th birthday a few years ago – booking a studio and hosting a private class for friends and family to attend with me. I followed my current hot yoga instructor from one studio to another because I so value her teaching style and friendship.
In short, yoga and the practice of hot yoga offer so much more to me than a mere workout. It’s a chance to refocus my brain, sweat out the bad and leave it behind on my mat, and to spend time with people that I care about.
Never tried hot yoga? Read this great article on what to expect and how to not be too hard on yourself your first go around.