Starting a Yoga Journey: Your first day at hot yoga
Congratulations! You’ve taken the leap into yoga’s hottest style. Strange as it may seem, sweating and bending in a studio heated to at least 95 degrees Fahrenheit may very well be your new jam — if you come prepared. Here are some tips that you’ll find useful your first time visiting a heated studio.
Before you arrive
Drink water in the one to two hours before arriving to the studio. You’ll want to be well hydrated, because you’ll be sweating a lot. Filling up directly before or in the studio may cause you to get sick during class.
When you arrive
The first time you go to a hot studio, arrive a good 25 minutes before class. You’ll need to create your account and sign a waiver, stating you’re aware of the intensity the heat can create during your experience. You’ll want to let the instructor know you’ve not done yoga (or hot yoga) before, so they can watch you during your practice, adjust you as necessary and be aware of how you’re acclimating to the heat.
If you don’t like to be touched, say so at this time. Many yoga teachers will correct your postures by touching your body to help you avoid injuries; it should be noted on your account and communicated to each teacher ahead of each class if you prefer not to be touched.
In the studio
Once you’ve signed yourself in, drop off your bag in the locker room and grab your mat, mat towel, brow towel and water bottle. You’ll want all of these items in your space in the studio.
When you enter the studio, observe the silence. Find your spot on the floor, lay down your mat with the mat towel completely covering it and set your brow towel and water bottle next to the top of your mat. Get in a comfortable seated position (or a relaxing pose; I like to start with Reclined Butterfly or Child’s Pose) and allow your body to get used to the heat. I like to use the few minutes before class to practice gratitude. This mindfulness helps me get into the headspace to focus on my balance and the accuracy of my poses over the next hour.
Listen intently to your instructor. He or she will be very specific in instructing you how to get your body into a pose and safely transition out of it. Try the directives the instructor gives you even if it sounds silly — you’ll be surprised that you can actually “feel your breath in your shoulder.”
Drink water when you need it. Some instructors will tell you when a good time for a water break is, and others will expect you to drink it on your own schedule. (I personally drink water while moving through standing poses, as it doesn’t sit comfortably in my stomach during floor poses or inversions.)
Remember to “stay on your mat.” This generally means to focus on your body and listen to what it can and can’t do, rather than looking around class and trying to mimic the advanced poses you may see other yogis attempting. Everybody is different, and every person brings a different level of experience and flexibility to their practice. Respect yours! Remember that the heat in the room will allow your muscles to flex more than usual, and don’t overdo it.
Above all else, breathe. A steady, slow breath will not only set the pace for moving in and out of poses, but will help you through a pose that may be uncomfortable for you in some way.
Your instructor will end the class by saying “namaste.” You will be invited to rest in Savasana for several minutes, or you may get up right away. When you do choose to leave the room, observe others’ practices by spraying down your mat, collecting your items and leaving the room quietly. Wait until after the studio door closes behind you to begin talking.
You may choose to shower after your hot class. The showers are first come, first served in the locker room. Generally, shampoo, conditioner and body wash are provided for your use. You will need to bring your own bath towel from home. Items like hair dryers, cotton swabs and trash bags for your wet clothes may also be provided, but should not be expected.
Once you are finished, whether you shower or not, remember to drink water! Hot yoga is generally believed to burn about 600 calories in an hour, as opposed to “cold” yoga’s 130 calories. You will lose water weight by sweating during that hour, and your body will want to be replenished.
You did it!
Well done. You made it through an hour of intense stretching, balancing and core work. Be gracious with yourself and honor yourself by making the choice to show up on your mat today.
Claire McGranahan is the marketing and communications director for Concept by Iowa Hearing. She also heads Stitch Switch clothing swap in Iowa City, and is an avid yogi. This article was originally published in YogaIowa’s Spring 2018 issue