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''I Tried Hot Yoga''

What to Expect in a Hot Yoga Class

-- By Liza Barnes, Health Educator
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I’m not sure when it was that I first heard about hot yoga, but I just assumed that it was one of those passing exercise fads. Only…I kept hearing about it. My friends were raving about it. Then my sister became a convert and told me that I had to try it. And then, on my morning run, I practically tripped over a sidewalk sign in front of my neighborhood yoga studio that read “hot yoga is here”. So I stopped ignoring the universe, recruited a friend for moral support, and signed up for a class.

Hot yoga is a series of yoga postures performed in a heated room (between 95 and 105 degrees Fahrenheit with 40% humidity). Most classes last 60-90 minutes. This style of yoga was developed in the 1970s by yoga master Bikram Choudhury, who developed a specific sequence of 26 postures and two breathing exercises, all guided by a specific dialogue. Classes accredited by Choudhury are called Bikram yoga, and are all formatted the same. Classes named “hot yoga” or “hot room yoga” will be similar to Bikram yoga, but vary somewhat in format and style.

Everyone that had told me about hot yoga said the same thing. That it was an amazing experience. Promoters of the practice claim that hot yoga will purify the body of toxins, improve flexibility and range of motion, enhance the immune system, and promote weight loss. Some even claim that the practice has cured them of diseases such as multiple sclerosis and hepatitis. There is no research to support many of these claims, but even though hot yoga may not be a cure-all to what ails you, the extreme heat certainly facilitates the loosening of tight muscles, allowing deeper stretching that may benefit circulatory problems and back pain.

I wasn't hoping to leave hot yoga a changed woman. All I wanted was to sweat, work vigorously, and feel energized and rejuvenated when it was over. And while I wasn’t expecting magic, I did want to stay safe and healthy. Considering that I’m in good shape and did not fall into any categories that would make me an unsuitable candidate for practicing hot yoga (i.e. pregnant, a child, over the age of 60, or suffering from medical conditions that would make it unsafe to exercise), I was off to a good start. Because of the extreme temperatures, I made sure to follow the recommended safety guidelines:
  1. Maintain a daily intake of at least eight (and preferably 10) 8-oz. cups of water for normal activity, not including exercise.
  2. Drink 16 oz. of water at least 2 hours before your practice.
  3. Weigh yourself prior to class, if possible.
  4. During class, drink early, frequently and before you feel thirsty, not to exceed 20-40 oz. per hour.
  5. If you start to feel light-headed, nauseated, or otherwise sick, stop and rest (or leave the room to cool off).
  6. Weigh yourself again after exercise, and consume enough water (or non-caffeinated beverages) to return to your pre-exercise weight.
My friend and I signed up for a class on a Sunday afternoon. After a long and over-stimulating trip to IKEA, it was what we were both craving. We waltzed into the studio, yoga mats tucked under our arms, just a few minutes before the class was to begin. The yoga instructor greeted us and immediately began preparing us for our experience. She armed us with water bottles (which we had forgotten) and towels (which we hadn’t thought to bring) and led us into the studio. It was definitely hot, though not uncomfortable (at least not for me). My friend, on the other hand, sweats when the temperature reaches 80 degrees, so I wasn’t surprised when he was already glistening as he unrolled his yoga mat.
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About The Author

Liza Barnes Liza Barnes
Liza has two bachelor's degrees: one in health promotion and education and a second in nursing. A registered nurse and mother, regular exercise and cooking are top priorities for her. See all of Liza's articles.

Member Comments

  • I went to Baron Baptiste's hot yoga class when I was in Philadelphia for a weekend training where he was hosting my teacher, Gary Kraftsow, who is at the forefront of the yoga therapy movement. I liked Baron, a very nice guy, but I hated with a passion this "hot" yoga. I immediately got a headache from the heaters located near the ceiling, aimed at our heads. Flow, or Vinyasa (step-by-step) yoga was not invented by Patabhi Jois or Bikram, and the origin of its development is not necessary for this conversation. Suffice it to say that different types of yoga will fit different types of people. You must research yoga classes to find the right one for you. Vinyasa yoga is cardiovascular and is a heck of a good workout, but you don't need to do it in an overheated room to get your muscles warm from the workout it will give you. - 5/3/2014 6:05:30 PM
    There are many more types of hot yoga. And there are potentially more risks with other types, and are often discouraged from taking breaks and drinking water: a good recipe for injury. http://www.yogatr - 4/15/2014 1:57:18 AM
  • I asked my doctor about hot yoga and his response was, "I wouldn't recommend it for anyone!" - 4/11/2014 7:38:52 AM
  • I'd love to, but it's too expensive in my neck of the woods - 4/8/2014 1:29:59 PM
  • Would you recommend taking a class in the morning or during the evening? - 1/13/2014 5:20:18 PM
  • Mother Jones magazine did an excellent article on Bikram Choudrey a few years back. This guy is a piece of work and the antithesis of everything real yoga intends! I do love yoga, just not impressed with Bikram. In fact, I am a 2nd generation yogini with about 25 years of yoga under my belt. I recommend reading the Yoga Sutras by Pantanjali if one is interested in the spiritual foundations of yoga. This book was written in the 2nd century BCE. There are earlier works, but Pantanjali is a classic. As far as the physical practice, I like to change up the styles of yoga I do. - 12/16/2013 10:29:27 AM
  • Hot yoga is amazing! I love it..the class I attended was 110 degrees with 60% humidity. I was worried about my MS flaring up but I felt amazing after class. Its worth a try! - 11/20/2013 6:37:37 AM
  • Don't like heat. But would like to try it to see. - 10/30/2013 5:07:33 PM
  • I have been doing bikram yoga for 3 years, 2 to 4 times a week. I'm sorry but I so disagree with what is written here. Also it seems from the remarks that the people here who have an opinion probably did not go to true bikram or probably did not take more than a few classes. As for the teachers, I've never experienced a militant attitude. The object of bikram is to do only what you can..,.no judgement.... Also you don't rush into a posture. You figure out "abc" before you move into "def". A bikram instructor would NEVER encourage you or try to make you go past your capability. Now about the heat. Yes you sweat. Yes it may make you more flex, I don't think it does, but what you learn from it is meditation and it be able to use your mind over your body. To be able to be in a not so easy situation yet get passed that feeling. That us what has changed my life. I work out about six days a week. I know that everything I do, I do better because I do bikram yoga. Also, my bikram practice has made me live me and my body more than I ever have in my life. To accept my body as the wondrous beautiful creation it is. No judgement at all if it is not for you, but please don't judge all that is wrong with the practice if you have only tried it a few times.


    Joy Gerardi - 8/29/2013 1:49:37 AM
  • I am so ready to leave my comfort zone and try something new. I've heard of this before but decided not to do it. Maybe I'll give it a try. - 6/22/2013 7:04:25 PM
  • CTTREE is right on. I also had a bad experience with Bikram - militant teachers, encouragement to ignore my body's "warning signals," etc., but hot vinyasa has changed my life! - 6/19/2013 10:25:39 AM
  • I agree with Maryanneflute.
    There are many more types of hot yoga than just Bikram. And there are potentially more risks with Bikram than with other types. In my experience, Bikram teachers take a militant, almost competitive attitude. Students are encouraged to force themselves beyond their limits, and are often discouraged from taking breaks and drinking water: a good recipe for injury.

    On the other hand, I've found hot flow yoga to be a challenging, but wonderful experience. Students are reminded to take breaks and drink water often, and are allowed to progress at their own pace: an approach that is much safer and more in line with the real intensions of yoga.

    A more useful and informed article would have looked at the various types of hot yoga, perhaps comparing them, and would have actually addressed the benefits and risks of hot yoga, rather than just describing a single experience. - 6/16/2013 10:15:27 AM
    I love cool temperature so that kind of heat is not for me. - 6/16/2013 10:06:51 AM
    Liza, please get your facts straight. Not all "hot yoga" is Bikram or similar to Bikram. there are other styles of yoga practiced in a hot room out there. The first one that comes to mind is the style I practice - Baptiste Power Yoga. It is completely different than Bikram. It is a vinyasa flow practiced at 90-95 degrees. The intention of this style is completely different. Both styles are certainly valid forms of yoga, but they are totally different and do not deserve to be lumped in the same category. You might want to consult local yoga teachers prior to writing any future articles on yoga. - 6/16/2013 8:34:22 AM
  • This is something I will not try.. I thought our bodies got rid of the bad toxins . Thats what our bodies do.... Why would I want to go and do certain moves or exercises in a room that is 100 degrees ? This is my opinion for ME ! - 6/16/2013 7:52:05 AM
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