How to handle hot yoga

Having decided to push myself completely out of my comfort zone, the first step was taking up yoga. Hot yoga.

3 women and a man in a hot yoga classWhat is hot yoga? Officially known as Bikram yoga, it’s a series of 26 postures in a room heated to 40ºC. And it’s the ultimate detox, designed to clear out some debris.

As a complete novice, I turned up to my first class unprepared and uninitiated. At first, it felt just like any other yoga class. That is to say, I spent a lot of time trying to keep my foot under my crotch while bending forward with everything else in alignment.

My knees and buttocks were shaking. This is not a good time to pass wind. It’s all going quite well. I’m sure I’ll get the hang of the breathing soon.

Then the heat started to build up, and we were reminded to take it easy, there is no shame in sitting out if it all gets a bit tough. I start to feel very nurtured in a difficult situation. I’ve become used to my environment and accept the sweat.

As the class winds down into a horizontal position, I’m not sure I have the energy or the inclination to get up again. Coming into a crouching position to roll up my mat reminds me that I still have some life left and I can use the mat to sort of lever myself up into a standing position.

I thank the teacher and head out. There is one large communal shower on offer but I’d prefer to spend an inordinate amount of time in the comfort of my own bathroom. I float home, if that’s possible while in control of a car, and there’s a nagging thirst that is quenched by the remains of the coconut water I bought at the venue.

Drinking water is a continuing theme into the rest of the evening.

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And here’s what nobody told me. The shower you have after sweaty yoga is the ultimate prize. Never have I felt so refreshed, cleansed and mentally alert.

So I’ve tried, I’ve tested and will be going back again to see if I can perfect the knee-in-the- crotch thing. But while I enjoyed it, I could tell it definitely isn’t for the fainthearted.

If you can embrace the experience and take it at your own pace you will likely feel more focused and energised in the days to come.

Here are my top tips for getting the best out of your hot yoga session and what I wished I’d known before my first class:

  • Ditch the tea. If like me you drink more tea in a day than the whole of China, stop. Hydrate yourself with lots of water at least 24 hours before the class to give yourself half a chance of getting through the intensity of the 90-minutes.
  • Don’t eat garlic or anything socially unacceptable before the class and then expect to make friends with the people directly to your left, right, front and back.
  • Take a large bath towel to cover your yoga mat to soak up the smelly liquid escaping from every pore in your skin. Not a silly hand towel like me. That’s a bit like mopping up a flood with toilet paper.
  • Wear the correct gear. Stripping down to your underwear will be something you will fantasise about 20 minutes into the session, but I doubt it’s yoga etiquette. Lightweight, breathable yoga clothes are made for occasions like these. The running trousers and thick cotton T shirt that accompany your evening run should definitely have a day off.
  • Arrive early. Not to appear keen, but so you can position your mat in the ‘cooler’ spot in the studio – you’ll soon discover where this is.
  • Take it at your own pace. You’re likely to feel dizzy and lightheaded at some point. If you do, slow down, sit down and breathe deeply through your nose.
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Hot yoga is not for everyone, but it’s a great alternative to your regular yoga class, and is definitely a good experience if you’re looking for something new, like I was.

I’m looking forward to my next class… minus the garlic.

About Louisa Cox

I’m a self confessed alternative therapy junkie living north of Oxford and on the edge of the Cotswolds. I share my house with my teenage daughter, a deranged cat called Ellie, a 13 year old goldfish and my collection of Rod puppet dolls from Bali. I’m 45 years young and flit between the two worlds of motherhood and singledumb. An independent type and an explorer by nature I search the world and its contents for the answer to it all. I throw paint at a canvas Jackson Pollack style whilst listening to Jo Whiley, meditate the mindfulness way when I haven’t fallen asleep sitting up in bed and run the grounds of Blenheim Palace in every season. Infused with optimism and humour, I am an evolving soul currently redefining the who in I am.