Hot yoga, for anyone who hasn't yet had the pleasure, is yoga performed in 35-40 degrees Celsius or 95-105 degrees Fahrenheit. There are various forms of hot yoga, and one which is particularly well known and popular is Bikram Yoga.
Aaron and I did 30 days of hot yoga while in Thailand, and practiced it on and off when we were living in Wellington. I practice many forms of yoga here in Bali, not official “Hot Yoga” but given it's sweltering hot and humid here, it might as well be called “Hot Yoga!”
In short, it’s freaking awesome and I’m about to tell you 10 reasons why it's worthwhile getting your butt down to the nearest hot yoga center!
1. Toned muscles
Don’t be fooled into thinking yoga is a passive exercise, just for flexibility or relaxation alone. The most intense workouts I’ve ever had have been from 90 minute hot yoga classes and I’m pleased to report that the result is amazing muscle toning!
Get ready to start sculpting your arms, legs, midriff, as well as muscles in places you didn’t even know you had them!
2. Increased flexibility
Yes this is a no brainer, yoga increases your flexibility. But hot yoga super duper increases your flexibility!
There is something magical about a ‘hot’ body that allows it to stretch in ways that aren't, in my opinion, as attainable in a normal yoga class.
3. Greater endurance
I will admit it takes a certain degree of will power and personal endurance to stay in the room for the full 60-90 minute class. Class duration depends on the particular form/brand of hot yoga class you're attending.
If you’ve never done hot yoga before, there is a certain period of acclimatizing that takes place to get used to the heat. Practicing hot yoga for me became a way of developing greater personal endurance. In those times when I felt like I couldn’t take the heat any longer or my body couldn’t go any further, I’d dig deep and find reserves of strength I didn't know I had.
4. Better mind/body connection
Breathing is one of the gifts of yoga, well… embracing, noticing and harnessing your breath is!
Hot yoga is the perfect experience for tuning into your breath and utilizing it as a way to connect your mind and body together harmoniously. You learn how to use your breath as a focus point for your yoga practice. The rhythm of your breathing helps you center yourself, keeping your energy within your body and yoga postures, versus your mind running off into random thinking. Yoga isn't about going through the motions physically while you spend the session thinking about what you did that day, or what you're having for dinner that night. It's 100% about presence in the moment.
5. Improved mental focus
Any yoga is great for focus. The balance that is required, the challenge of mastering the postures, it all hones and aids your mental focus.
6. Sense of achievement
Yoga is the one fitness activity where I’ve experienced the fastest and most noticeable results. You easily notice the extra centimeter you achieve in a back bend, or the extra seconds you hold yourself in eagle pose.
The sense of achievement when you first get into a posture you’ve never held before is so amazing! You may even find yourself wanting to break the zen silence by exclaiming your joy about the fact you now have your foot over your head.
And, the sense of achievement never stops, as you are always able to go longer, stretch further, command the posture more accurately – and as you’re in front of a mirror for the entire class, you get to see it with your own eyes. It’s incredibly rewarding.
7. Aerobic exercise
That’s right, your heart rate is going to fly baby! If you’re committed to giving a hot yoga class all you’ve got, your heart can shift into the aerobic zone even while doing the floor based exercises. The heat obviously helps this, as you're exerting more energy in the session because of the temperature.
One of the beautiful things about yoga is that it involves putting your body into amazingly contorted positions in order to constrict an area of the body (limbs/joints/organs) and then releasing that posture which causes fresh, oxygenated blood to flow back in, thus flushing that area of the body.
Drinking plenty of water after class then helps your body to expel whatever toxins have been released during the class.
Might I add, that while sweating profusely in yoga seems kinda gross, it does actually feel awesome after class and my skin was clearest and healthiest looking during times when I've been practicing hot yoga.
9. Improved sleep
I’m no expert and I can’t vouch that everyone experiences better sleep from hot yoga, but Aaron and I definitely noticed how much more restful and unbroken our sleeping patterns were during the time we were attending classes.
10. Whole body involved – whole body benefits
Your heart is pumping. You become very attuned to your breathing and the aliveness of energy coursing through your body. Your spine and joints are all moved and strengthened. Your muscles are stretched and toned. Your skin glows (from the sweat, yes!). Your mind is focused. Your vision is used to analyse and correct your postures. Your hearing is used to process the words of your instructor guiding and encouraging you onward. Your entire body is involved, and your entire body benefits.
Give it a go!
Head along to your nearest hot yoga centre and see for yourself. You might just love it, and your mind and body will surely thank you for the gift.
With love, Bernadette