I remember my first hot yoga class.
I walked in with eager anticipation, and walked out with a completely drenched t-shirt and a facial expression that said “Wow.” I remember everything from doing a series of yoga poses and stretches in a pool of my own sweat to cooling down in meditative introspection with a cool lavender cloth the instructor placed over my eyes. I not only felt like I had gotten phenomenal exercise and sweat out the collected impurities of the week, I felt much more grounded and mentally clear.
Most people never forget the first time they do hot yoga because they notice a distinct difference from not only yoga, but from any other exercise they have done.
Whether it’s Moksha, Bikram, Hatha, or an independent studio, hot yoga classes are becoming increasingly more popular in North America.
The Many Benefits of Hot Yoga
When I brought one of my best friends to a hot yoga class with me, he said it made him feel like a lizard that just shed it’s old skin, and I haven’t found a better way to describe the experience. After you get out of that hot room covered in sweat and enjoy a nice cold sip of water, you feel immediately renewed and ready to tackle the day. You feel as if you sweat out all of your physical and mental impurities are are ready to enjoy the day.
This feeling of renewal is not just a feeling. There are many tangible benefits one can see from hot yoga.
The immediate benefits of hot yoga are the purely physical joys of being stretched out and relaxed. Depending on the type of class you go to and the types of stretches you do, consistently doing yoga of any type can help improve your posture, correct muscular imbalances, and increase physical endurance. You may have heard how a few weeks of yoga can fix back issues that years of chiropractic care couldn’t, and these tales aren’t myth.
What differentiates hot yoga from traditional yoga is that it is, well, hot. The heat has multiple physical advantages.
Flexibility: One of the most noticeable is that beginners who took a hot yoga class felt much more flexible than in traditional classes. The heat warms your muscles and allows you to reach new levels of flexibility. There is a saying that goes you are only as old as your spine is, and yoga enthusiasts around the world claim that yoga makes them feel and look younger.
Strength: Most hot yoga programs are pretty low impact and encourage people to use muscles that are otherwise not as active. Many of these muscles are ones we force into dormancy through hours at a desk or otherwise sedentary lifestyles. By engaging muscles that you don’t use intensely on a daily basis, your body might even start trembling.
Breath: One of the main things I noticed doing hot yoga was using my breath to help me reach an internal place of strength to face the hot temperature and difficult poses. Hot yoga doesn’t just encourage deep breathing, it pretty much requires it. I found that I can get away with not actively breathing deeply in traditional yoga settings, but with hot yoga I had to make the most of every breath just to stay in the game.
Cardio: Did you know that a 90 minute class can burn nearly 1,000 calories? To put that into perspective, that’s about the same as a 9 mile jog. Save your joints from the harsh concrete with hot yoga; you don’t even have to leave your mat! The heat pushes your heart to work at a much higher rate than normal, and combined with stretching and compressing your muscles and internal organs, your body turns into a calorie-blasting furnace.
Detox: You’ve probably heard about the detoxifying benefits of hopping in a sauna. Hot yoga is no different. The heat alone is enough to make you sweat, but the postures you do add an additional element of detoxifying goodness. Hot yoga allows your muscles, organs, and glands to filter away any purities, and the sweat can just carry them away into the puddle on your mat. This detox makes you feel and look younger the moment you walk out of that room.
The mental benefits of any yoga are enough to convince thousands of people to do it a year, but hot yoga has an extra kick.
Oddly enough, I’ve found that people become more relaxed around each other when everyone is sweating bullets. If you are self-conscious about sweating, all you have to do is look to your left or right and see your neighbor sweating just as much as you are. This liberating feeling transcends the yoga room, and helps people be more at peace with themselves throughout the day.
One of the most exciting moments in a hot yoga class is the much anticipated end, where the instructor likely opens up the windows for a cool breeze and if you’re lucky hands you a cool lavender infused towelette. The gradual or sudden change in room temperature during a period of reflection is one of the most blissful moments you can have in yoga.
Hot Yoga Proves That Age is Just a Number
Hot yoga seems to be reminiscent of the fabled Fountain of Youth. When done consistently, people seem to stand up taller, be more grounded and relaxed, and radiate youth. When you look at all the benefits, it starts to make sense.
All the poses that focus on elongating the spine and improving posture counteract the effects of the shoulders naturally slumping with age. The weekly or bi-weekly detoxing sessions eliminate toxins from your body and keep you looking youthful. The paced cardio keeps your heart strong and pumping nourishing blood through your stretched out muscles and organs. And most of all, you get to carry that mental feeling of peace after a great workout with you all day.