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10 Tips to Stay Safe and Comfortable in a Hot Yoga Class

By , SparkPeople Blogger

Last month I subbed a couple of hot yoga classes. Confession: I am not a fan of hot yoga, as a teacher or a student. In addition to being hard on the environment, hot yoga can be downright dangerous if you're not prepared. Some studios crank the heat above 100 degrees--and increase the humidity, too. 

At the studio where I practice, the temperature frequently tops 85 degrees in summertime--that's with minimal air conditioning. If you pack a room full of people who are moving, sweating, and breathing, you'll create heat.

By the end of a practice, the windows are foggy, we're all soaked through, and our mats are dripping with sweat. That's my kind of hot yoga!

Hot yoga is a hot trend in the practice these days. Almost every studio offers a hot class of some variety, from Bikram to Moksha, vinyasa to yin. (One of the studio owners I work for confessed to me that she doesn't like or believe in hot yoga, but it's what students have requested.) And in summertime, almost every yoga practice can feel like a hot one.

Why hot yoga? Advocates say hot yoga facilitates stretching, increases range of motion, removes toxins, and promotes weight loss. It's true that it is easier to stretch warm muscles (and you should never stretch "cold" muscles), but whether hot yoga will lead to greater weight loss depends on the type of yoga you're practicing.

According to the American Council on Exercise, Hatha yoga (in the West, this has come to refer to slower-paced classes) burns about 150 calories an hour (and does not raise your heart rate enough to be considered a form of cardio), while vinyasa (faster-paced, flowing yoga) burns about twice that much. If you're losing pounds after each hot yoga class, it's likely water weight. (More on that later.)

Whether you practice naturally hot yoga as I do or practice at a studio that cranks up the heat, you'll want to be safe. Here are some tips to help:  

  1. Be safe. Decide if it's right for you. Hot yoga is unsafe for anyone who is pregnant, a child, over the age of 60 (without a regular yoga practice), or suffering from medical conditions that would make it unsafe to exercise. If you have diabetes, any issues with high or low blood pressure, or are prone to dizzy spells, choose another type of yoga class.
  2. Go au natural. Though it seems counterintuitive to shower before a workout, I often rinse off before yoga practice to remove any lotions or oils that will make my skin even more slippery once my body starts to sweat. There's nothing more frustrating than finally nailing an arm balance, only to slide right out of it because of lotioned-up skin!  (Also: skip the scents. The only thing worse than being stuck on a mat next to a stinky person is practicing on a mat next to a person who's drenched in perfume or cologne. Reapply deodorant before class if you're self-conscious, but skip the perfume, the smell of which can be overwhelming in heated, humid rooms.)
  3. Invest in a chamois or a yoga towel. All that sweat turns your usually sticky yoga mat into a slip-and-slide. While you can use a regular towel (try a beach towel for maximum coverage), if you practice regularly, consider investing in a yoga towel, which is made of microfibers that absorb moisture and become grippy when wet. (I especially like Manduka towels, which last for years and are worth every penny.)  If you tend to sweat profusely, Manduka makes yoga "rugs," too. Take a hand towel, too, if your studio doesn't provide them. In addition to mopping sweaty brows, a quick swipe of the towel up and down your limbs can make many poses more manageable.
  4. Respect your edge. In yoga, we encourage our students to relax and let their bodies ease into a pose. When our muscles are warm, it's easier to stretch them, which means that suddenly body parts find it a little easier to say "How do ya do?" Knees meet nose, fingertips touch toes, and arms clasp behind the back with more ease when you're warm. Whether you're trying to bind in twisting pose or just reach a centimeter farther in a forward fold, don't push too hard. Move slowly and mindfully to a point where your muscles feel challenged, breathing all the while! Never stretch to the point of pain--and never bounce as you stretch.
  5. Take a rest. If you feel lightheaded, dizzy or otherwise ill at any point during the practice, take a break. Sit down on your mat, go into child's pose, or step out of the room. (Note: Some teachers lock the door or refuse to let students leave the room after class has begun. While it is not good manners to saunter in and out of a yoga studio during class, when you're sick or really need to use the bathroom, it's fine to leave--just be discreet. Sure, you might let a little heat escape the room, but passing out in the middle of tree pose would surely cause a bigger interruption!)
  6. Drink up. In yoga, we traditionally drink water before and especially after a class. The traditional belief is that our yoga practice builds heat, and water extinguishes it. Some hot yoga classes have designated water breaks, and I've heard stories of yoga teachers who scold students for even looking at their water bottles during class. While you might not want to chug water after every sun salutation, a few sips of water as needed are fine. Save the water guzzling for after class, if only because you'll feel uncomfortable trying to twist and stretch with a belly of water. And trying to practice yoga with a full bladder? Uncomfortable! Drink one to two cups of water 30 to 60 minutes before practice, then…
  7. Keep drinking. You lose as much as 32 ounces of water for every 60 minutes of exercise. Immediately after exercise, drink at least twice that much--especially if you've not been drinking much water during your yoga practice. If your practice lasted more than an hour, consider consuming a sports drink in addition to regular water to replenish carbohydrates and electrolytes. NOTE: If you feel lightheaded or uncoordinated (more than usual!) or have muscle cramps, consider these to be signs of dehydration.
  8. Eat right. As with any physical activity, you'll want to make sure you're eating right to help you perform your best. While a snack or light meal an hour or so before working out is recommended, you might want to allow two hours between any snacks and four meals between any heavy meals and your yoga practice. If you thought practicing with a belly full of water was uncomfortable, try practicing with a belly full of food. Ugh! And if you can, save foods that are spicy or those that tend to give you gas or cause bloating for after class. You'll want to eat a snack or meal that contains both protein and carbohydrates within an hour of finishing your practice.   
  9. Listen to your body. Only you know how far you can comfortably push your body. Listen to those signs that your body offers you. Don't feel the need to "keep going" in a pose if the intro level is enough of a stretch and challenge for you. Your yoga practice is yours and yours alone. Quiet the ego--that little voice that tells you to push harder when you know you could risk injury--and just breathe and enjoy being where you are now.
  10. Dress for it. Hot yoga is not the time to be modest. No one is there to judge you, and no one looks his or her best when dripping in sweat. Wear tight-fitting clothes, as looser garments trap heat. Some people prefer to wear pants or capris so they absorb the sweat and keep it off your mat; I would much rather have the sweat on my mat than have sweaty clothes covering any more of my body than is necessary! Tank tops are a great choice, as they allow for better range of motion and generally stay in place better than a T-shirt. I highly advise you against wearing regular cotton clothing. Once drenched in sweat, it will feel heavy and clammy against your skin. A moisture-wicking headband (I like Bondi Bands) is a must for keeping sweat from dripping in your eyes. That's a surefire way to break your concentration!

Whether you're doing yoga in a heated studio or in the great outdoors, these tips can ensure a safe and comfortable practice.

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ELRIDDICK 3/27/2021
Thanks for sharing Report
CECELW 11/6/2020
I haven't done yoga in a long time Report
thanks Report
Not a fan of Yoga. Report
I am sure I could never handle this, the main reason is that I don’t sweat, so heat stroke would probably be the result. Report
Thanks for the great article! :) Report
Great tips! Thanks! Report
Awesome article! Thanks! Report
Thank you for the information. I won't be trying this as I am hot all the time and when doing anything, I sweat. So I kind of practice "hot" yoga many time a day! Report
I am not pregnant and still don't know if I can handle this one. Report
Great information! Report
Great info Report
I don't tolerate the heat and humidity very well, so would be hesitant to do this. I do like other forms of yoga, though. Report
Thanks Report
I started hot yoga after the age of 60 on the recommendation of my doctor... I can't believe this article says it is not for anyone over 60. There is no medical basis for this statement. Its done nothing but improve my health. Report
No but I think that there were some good points to be taken from this article. i used to train at a different dojo in the summer (when I was still a coloured belt) which was taught by a GP and he always wanted us to drink a lot of water during the day "until your urine is less concentrated". Report
Not hot yoga... Report
Thank you for the heads up Report
Yoga, yes. Hot Yoga? Not for me. I took one class, and, after 20 minutes, I was dizzy, nauseous and my heart raced like a rabbit's. I had a straight up panic attack and wanted to leave, but the instructor would not allow me to. So I sat still in the back of the room and tried not to die until the 90 minute ordeal was over. I still felt dizzy and weak for a few days afterward. If you love hot yoga, good for you. For me, it was not good. Report
I yoga 3-4 times a week and love it
Wow Stefanie. Nice intro there - trashing a workout that LOTS of people really love and depend on to keep themselves motivated. Even if you don't agree with all of the presumed benefits of hot yoga, there's no need to try and kill it for the rest of us. I LOVE hot yoga, I go every chance I get, and it has improved my health and well-being by exceptional degrees. Finally, there are hundreds...probably thousands of things out there that waste more energy that heating a yoga room.

Way to motivate. Report
Awesome post. After reading the whole post I am very serious about Hot Yoga because its harmful for pregnant women, a child, people over the age of 60 and a person suffering from medical disease. I have joined Chrysalis Yoga couple of month ago. I daily practice on Meditation, Sculpt Yoga. I think it is better than hot yoga but my few friends love that. I definitely share this post with them. Thanks for share. Keep it up (y). Report
I would like to know if I could do yoga but you see I am in a wheelchair so can I do yoga Report
A new yoga business near my house offered a great Groupon discount and I just wanted to try something new during these cold winter months. It's okay but, yes, it's hot and, I'm in decent shape. The first class I thought I was having an anxiety attack b/c of the heat but particularly, the humidity. Most days I go there's at least a 70 degree differential [at this time of year] going from the outside into these rooms. It's such a shock to the system. I don't think I'll join as a permanent member but I'm glad to have had the experience. Report
This article was so informative! I didn't even know this type of yoga existed I'll definitely look for it at my gym. Report
Nice tips, however core body temperature really is only one factor in determining safety of hot yoga. From my experience more people are injured due to overreaching/stretching due to the heat.In my opinion Heart rate has very little to do with your internal heat factor. The force of contraction in muscle tissue has the greatest effect on internal heat production. So just because you are breathing normally and your heart rate is within a normal range doesn't mean you will not build internal heat. Isometric contractions in the body, that happen whether you want them to or not, build heat which can cause issues when working in an externally heated area. is a site that provides best hot yoga classes in London. Report
I am a 58 year old woman who suffers from severe hot flashes. I went to my first hot yoga class and for the rest of that day I felt cool and did not have a hot flash until the next day. I am sitting waiting to go to my hot yoga class today and am looking forward to it. I had more energy after the class and hope to get to classes at least 3 times per week wish I could do 4 per week. I do not do well in heat and try to stay in air conditioning but I highly recommend this for menopausal women to try, provided your health allows it and give it more than one class. Report
Nice article, but not completely accurate. PROPER hot yoga is done w theraputic long wave infrared heaters; they have been used in Japan since the 1960's and are proven to cause tissue regeneration and detoxification up to 3 inches of the body. If you are participating in hot yoga at a studio that uses radiant heat or fan heaters it is NOT the same thing. With long wave infrared heat you can stay in the heat an indefinite amount of time; it therapeutically warms the body from the inside out. The other types of heat will cause the body to de-hydrate very rapidly and draw fluids out, and very minute amounts of toxins. Make sure your studio uses long wave infrared heat. Also, and much more importantly, infrared heat is environmentally friendly. Once again I will stress that you must inquire what TYPE of heat a studio uses and if the postures are alignment based. Stretching through tendons and ligaments is an aliment no no and anyone who does so will pay the very high prices of joint instability later on. The rest is fairly accurate. Hydration is key to ANY physical activity as is nutrition. Make sure you have potassium in your beverage. This draws moisture into the muscles. Hot Yoga is NOT for everyone, but done properly has tremendous healing powers. I am NOT talking about stretching through tendons and ligaments; that's just plain old dangerous. Also, it can take up to 10 classes before you really adjust to the difference of practising in the heat. But lets be realistic. Yoga in India is pratised in that heat. And people travel thousands of miles to do it. Go to a properly heated studio with good alignment principles. Hydrate well before class not during. You'll be glad you did. Report
I have just started hot yoga. I've gone to 5 classes now. Whereas I agree it isn't for everyone I actually enjoy it. My first two days were very uncomfortable in that I experienced nausea and dizziness. But I had done my research and was expecting this reaction to my first classes. By day three those symptoms were pretty much gone and day four and five I was good to go. The heat isn't really a factor, it is hot but not unbearable hot and people run in the heat so why not yoga. You do need to listen to your body however. I began this class because my weight has jumped to 233, this is the heaviest I have ever been and my body will not allow me to run and strength train so I need something that is very low impact. I am looking to make a lifestyle change and loose weight. I came to this article in search of should I eat before attending class. A light meal I see is the answer. I just wanted to add my experience to the blog so that others do not get discouraged. Report
I have heard of "hot yoga" but didn't know that it meant the room temp.
Thanks for sharing. Report
I love yoga and I detest hot yoga. I felt your article was balanced, unlike someone above who felt it was negative. The instructor was rude, patronizing, and unhelpful. I will never go back to it again. It is nice to hear the positive remarks. Maybe if I was in your neck of the woods.....but here the instructors are the worst. Report
I was very disappointed with this article in the way that it seemed to sway folks from hot yoga. It's one thing if you don't like it or if you want to just give the pros and cons, but I could definitely tell in this article your negative opinion. Obviously, many others did from several comments that said things like---"I haven't tried it and I don't think I will now" or "I hadn't heard of it, but I don't like I would like it now that you described it".

I had a friend describe it to me in a very positive and wonderful way. I got sick the first time I went and got a migraine to boot, but during and right after I felt amazing!!! The sweating was awesome and I could feel my heart working. You stretch, tone, relax, tune in to your body....all in one class. Every breath has a purpose. The temperature in our class hovers around 105-110 and we are in there 75 min.. I have been going for over a year and enjoy going 3x a week.

Some don't like to sweat and so it may not be for you, but if you sweat at the gym and don't mind a great work out or can fight through a tough one, try it. Great hydration and nutrition is definitely key. I have finally found my balance there.


rumbamel Report
I really enjoy hot yoga. It's really helped me get in touch with my body in a way I've never experienced before. I practice Yin, it's slower and the point is deep stretching. Plus, its a little bit cooler. But depending on the class that was in there before the room can be rather steamy. Which is probably what it would be like practicing at an ashram in India. My favorite part is the long shavastana, basically where you relax while laying on your back, sometimes I even fall asleep. :) Now, that's super relaxed. Report
I have heard of this, but was told it is dangerous and not really good on your body? Thanks for the info. Report
I tried yoga. It's not my thing. Hot yoga seems like it would be even more not my thing. Knowing me though, I'll have a friend that will like it and talk me into trying it. It's good to know these tips just in case. Report
I like yoga and pilates. Hot yoga though...I would never make it! Report
I never did yoga. Maybe I will try it to see if I will like it. Thanks Report
I love yoga, and find it interesting to see the various styles of each instructor. We have one currently who is an ex-dancer, so the combination of her expertise as a dancer and as a yoga teacher is breath-taking! I always learn something new from each teacher. Report
Which celeb made this kind of thing into another "fad"?? Nonsense, go to India and live there if you love this kind of thing, see how happy they are, living on the streets after doing this, lol. Report
I am new to yoga. Thanks for the tip. I would not be doing any hot yoga for a while... Report
A few years ago (I was nearly 60 yrs old) a younger friend talked me into going to a hot yoga class with her. It was my very first yoga class. I overheated and felt like I was going to pass out. I also became very nauseated. The instructor had locked the door and refused to open it so I could step out to get some fresh air. I never went back.

Edited to add: I tried just laying down, several different times. I still felt very sick and it didn't get any better. If heat bothers you, as it does me, hot yoga is probably not for you. Report
Thank you for this informative article! I have not done yoga in 20 years and this is new to me. I laughed when I first heard of hot yoga because I said to myself, all I have to do is stay in my un-aircondtioned home on a hot day and it will be just like paying for such a class! Report
I attend a Bikram studio 3-4 times per week and would go daily if I could fit it into my schedule. Rest, good nutrition, and plenty of hydration are the key to a good practice. I have experienced the benefits of the detoxing and weight loss over time (not water weight) I have built strength and flexibility and feel more energized. I also sleep better. Many people drink coconut water after class I drink mine 1-2 hours before so I can absorb the benefits. I find this helps me get through class as I only take small sips of water during. Doing a full backbend on a stomach all sloshy with water is nauseating so it is what you do the day before and the hours before that keeps you safe and hydrated. Report
I've been doing Bikram yoga for the past 4 months. I love it. LOVE IT. My first class was hard, had to sit down a lot, sweated like a pig, and generally cursed myself for trying something so hard. But afterwards, I walked out of the studio and was refreshed, energized, and suprisingly cool. I go 3 or 4 times a week. I will not go if I didn't eat well that day, or didn't stay properly hydrated, because it makes class that much harder.

I think Bikram, with the right instructor, is very forgiving. I'm still not able to do all the poses, but I stay in the room and I try. I get most of the benefits by just trying the poses.

The most important thing I've found about Bikram, is finding the right instructor. The one who doesn't make you feel like you've broken a cardinal rule by sitting down or sipping water between poses. There are instructors who tell you not to leave the room, ever, and I avoid them.

It's been great for me so far. I've been getting toned and more flexible. I love it! And the days I don't love doing it, I love how I feel afterwards. Report
This is a GREAT article about hot yoga. I know people that absolutely love to practice hot yoga, but it isn't for everyone. I really appreciate you bringing awareness to others about some of the challenges one might face in a hot yoga class. Being prepared can make a huge difference and help make the experience more enjoyable. Report