How to hot yoga
January 20, 2014 12:35 PM   Subscribe

I'm interested in trying a hot yoga class, but historically I've been one of those people that occasionally passes out from heat/humidity. Can (or should) I do this?

Before anyone asks, I've recently had a physical and I'm in tip-top shape. I drink only water during the day (no soda or juice, maybe the occasional tea or coffee), and I keep myself very hydrated with said water. I've just always been very sensitive to heat especially if that heat is coupled with humidity. When I was younger (up through college) I would easily pass out in the shower (it would come on slowly so I would be able to get out and lay on the floor while my eyes went black). A dry sauna is difficult and short-lived, and a hot steam room is absolutely out of the question.

I want to try hot yoga just because people talk about how much they love it. But these are also people who love hot weather and humidity to begin with. So maybe it's just not for me? I generally enjoy yoga but I'm still just a beginner (I go very irregularly, maybe once or twice a month?), but I like to challenge myself physically from time to time. I currently do a moderately vigorous work out on the elliptical two or three times a week for 30 to 60 minutes with no problems and eat a healthy, balanced, omnivorous diet. I'm a 31 year old female, with a healthy BMI, and no health issues.

Is there a way to get over this sensitivity other than through exposure? I don't want to be the person who passes out in class the first time. Over-load on water right before-hand? Eat some certain kinds of foods? Do some warm-up exercises beforehand? Just drop the idea (which I would be fine with--this isn't some pressing need)? Whatcha think?
posted by greta simone to Health & Fitness (27 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I am in the middle of yoga teacher training for power flow yoga. We heat our rooms to around 85 degrees, so it is definitely hot and humid, but it's not some of the insane stuff that is 100+. There is no documented evidence that a room needs to be any hotter than 85ish to increase flexibility. I truly believe the entire purpose of ultra hot yoga is so that people can feel extreme.

In any event, I would make sure that you are thoroughly hydrated starting several days beforehand, and bring water with you. And I would not push things too much while practicing in that heat. The incredible heat will make you not necessarily realize you are pushing your body further than it can go. Don't injure yourself.
posted by sickinthehead at 12:50 PM on January 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

I too am super sensitive to heat and humidity. I fucking loathe hot yoga. I hate feeling faint and nauseated while I am working out, I can't see the upside of feeling that way. I don't mind "warm" yoga, like if it's 80ish degrees outside and we're in a class with open windows, but once the air in the room is uncomfortable to breathe, and even standing in tadasana makes you drip with sweat, then it does not seem to have any added benefits to me. (I have also come very close to very badly injuring myself in a hot yoga class, from nearly slipping in a pool of someone else's sweat, which is just gross.)

DEFINITELY DO NOT load up on water right before a hot class. You will cramp up and possibly barf.

If you ever feel faint and nauseated in a yoga class it is not a sign of being super healthy or super dedicated to push through these physical indicators of an unhappy body to continue.

tl;dr warm yoga is pretty good because it helps with flexibility, if flexibility is an issue for you. If you are already a very flexible person, warm/hot yoga can be a little dicey because you can overextend joints easily. Superhot yoga is unnecessary and imo offers no greater benefits than warm yoga.
posted by elizardbits at 12:58 PM on January 20, 2014 [2 favorites]

I'm one of those people who gets distressed in hot, humid weather - like a puppy that's been shut in a car. I get agitated and can't wait to get into an air-conditioned environment.

But I LOVE hot yoga. I never thought I would, and it took me 2 or 3 classes to become acclimatised to the atmosphere. But I don't find it uncomfortable, and the only time I felt nauseous was when I'd drunk too much water before a class.

For your first class, the instructor will say "just try to stay in the room". If you find it uncomfortable, stop what you're doing and lie down on your mat. Give it 5 classes before you decide if you love it or hate it.
posted by essexjan at 1:04 PM on January 20, 2014 [2 favorites]

I'm not a big fan of hot yoga, although I enjoy it sometimes on really cold days for the same reason I sometimes like a sauna. Sip water throughout the day of the class (but don't chug a bunch just before it). You'll likely be fine. If you feel faint or sick during the class, just take a rest pose (child's pose or whatever resting pose feels comfortable for you) and if you still feel off, then leave early.

If you can find a beginner's class that's heated, that would be an ideal way to try it out.
posted by Kurichina at 1:07 PM on January 20, 2014

I am very sensitive to heat and once attended a hot yoga class by accident. I was miserable throughout. I don't recommend it.
posted by alms at 1:11 PM on January 20, 2014

To be even more specific: don't do Bikram yoga. It's heated to over 100 degrees, and the room is carpeted, which makes everything smell 2,000 times worse. Instead, go to a heated vinyasa flow. Put your mat near the door so you can go outside and take breaks if you need them. Bring water to drink, and spend as much time as you need in child's pose. It might not be for you, but there' s no reason not to try it out!
posted by pretentious illiterate at 1:29 PM on January 20, 2014 [5 favorites]

In my opinion hot yoga is absurd and stupid. But, yes I know there are many people who praise certain kinds of weather that immediately make me think they just said "I find sticking my head in an oven to be pleasurable". For some people extreme heat makes them euphoric. I, like you, can have bad reactions to heat, feeling faint and weak in the summer, even walking, and in overheated interiors. I'm often very tired after my hot showers, sometimes realizing while I'm in there I better turn off the water and get out now.

I do yoga regularly, and occasionally (not very often thankfully), the yoga teacher will decide to turn the heat up to 75-80 degrees. That may not seem that hot, but when you're doing yoga your body produces a lot of heat itself. In these situations, I struggle to continue with the class, as I feel weak and horrible.

I don't think you will like hot yoga from what you describe, but there is no harm in trying as long as you pay attention to your body and leave or sit down as soon as you feel bad. Don't just force yourself through it if it feels bad. On the other hand, I think you can experience everything great about yoga just by going to a regular class.
posted by Blitz at 1:29 PM on January 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

I've been doing yoga for ~8 years, and mostly very vigorous (ashtanga) yoga. I have some experience with hot yoga. I generally don't like it - but it really varies a lot by studio, and can be OK, or can be outright dangerous.

-Bikram classes are 105 degrees. These don't have much of a vinyasa flow aspect, and thus can, in my opinion, actually be more manageable than warm vinyasa classes. The bikram sequence is definitely not known for its attention to alignment detail, safety precautions against overextending your flexibility, etc., however, so you have to know your own limits.

-Some hot yoga studios are heated with infared heat. These classrooms tend to be about 85 degrees and are not terribly humid, so vinyasa classes in these studios are manageable.

-Other hot yoga studios are heated with a bunch of space heaters and humidifiers, keeping the temperature above 90 and the humidity at over 50% (as in the Baptiste style). Going to these classes is, in my experience, excruciating at every level.

I'd recommend finding a heated class that is explicitly beginners (or possibly all levels). I'd also recommend finding out what kind of heating the studio uses and how hot the classes are. You might also want to get a microfiber mat to place over your yoga mat. Whatever you do, feel comfortable taking child's pose whenever you feel light headed!
posted by munyeca at 1:31 PM on January 20, 2014

I am sensitive to heat. Hot yoga (86 degrees) made me faint, which was embarrassing, but I tried to become acclimatized to it as per essexjan. That worked, until I got TOO acclimatized, got cocky, and pulled a hamstring hella bad because I couldn't figure out my own limits when extra flexibility was added.

I personally consider it not worth the risks. Yoga in a regular room seems just as good.
posted by AmandaA at 1:32 PM on January 20, 2014 [2 favorites]

If you feel faint in the shower, how can you logically expect to endure hot yoga?
posted by KokuRyu at 1:32 PM on January 20, 2014 [3 favorites]

Tried it once. I barfed.

Hot weather and humidity are exactly the things I try to avoid.
posted by quixotictic at 1:33 PM on January 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

I have very low blood pressure and don't feel great in hot/humid conditions. I LOVE hot yoga (done it occasionally for years; am currently finishing up a 30 day challenge), and think you should try it if you're interested. Eventually, you stop caring about the heat—it doesn't register so much as "It's so hot, wtf I want to die" and more like "Argh, my sweaty hands are making it hard to hold the grip in this pose." Whenever I take a break from it, it takes me a few classes to get comfortable with the heat again—three classes within a week, say. It takes much, much longer if I only go once a week.

Be prepared to be surprised at how your current level of fitness does or does not translate to hot yoga. Going to yoga when I'm training for marathons is not appreciably different from when I'm hardly working out at all. You're just moving and using your body in a completely different way from how you do in other exercises.


- Get used to not wiping sweat off. You will be much cooler if you leave it on your body. It will also be easier to get your mind off the heat without the distraction.

- Don't chug water before class; that way lies nausea. DO consider sipping something with electrolytes before and throughout class (a teaspoon of table salt in a quart of water is fine, or Gatorade or coconut water or whatever you like), especially if you eat a diet with very little added sodium. I started having 100% better classes when I did this.

- Ease your way into it with a hot vinyasa or flow class, where the room will be cooler than 90 degrees. Bikram yoga classes are at 105+ F for 90 minutes. Get there early for your first few classes, and explain your situation to the instructor. Particularly in Bikram practices, instructors VERY strongly discourage people leaving the room, so you'll want to explain up front.
posted by peachfuzz at 1:35 PM on January 20, 2014

I'm not too sensitive to heat and I love yoga in general, but I don't like hot yoga: being covered in sweat was too distracting for me and made it harder to do any poses that involved pressing two body parts together, and I always left class feeling soggy rather than relaxed. More moderately heated yoga classes (< 85 degrees) are okay.

Hot yoga is mostly a gimmick; if you don't enjoy it, there's not really any benefit in continuing. I'd recommend sticking with your regular class instead.
posted by Metroid Baby at 1:47 PM on January 20, 2014 [2 favorites]

I'm not a hot-weather person, but I used to do hot yoga everyday and generally liked it. However, the place where I did hot yoga did not keep the room super hot. Also, I've come to the conclusion(through experience and also what I've learned about yoga theory) that doing hot yoga everyday is not really good for your body, especially in temps over 100 degrees. (I am certified to teach yoga, if it matters).

I think it can be good in cold weather, sometimes. If you're curious, just try it. It will take a couple of classes to get used to though, and you will probably be uncomfortable during the first class. Sweating a lot does feel pretty good though.
posted by bearette at 1:51 PM on January 20, 2014

Forgot to add, you can definitely get the same benefits doing "regular" yoga, and you can definitely get a good sweaty workout through regular-temperature yoga as well. Also, the higher temperatures in hot yoga make you more flexible temporarily, which could lead to injury from over-pushing yourself if you're not careful.
posted by bearette at 1:54 PM on January 20, 2014 [4 favorites]

Skip hot yoga. It's miserable, for no good reason. I hate being hot and I don't sweat well, hot yoda takes it ALL out of me and I'm in bad shape afterwards.

If you aren't built to withstand heat, just skip it and do yoga in a regularly heated room.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 2:19 PM on January 20, 2014

I am prone to fainting, and have done both Bikram and hot yoga. I didn't have an especially hard time with the heat, but I do have to make some modifications to avoid fainting. With Bikram, be very careful with any breathing exercises. I recall there's a part where you're supposed to pant/breathe very shallow and quickly. This would have been guaranteed to cause me to faint if I had done it. Similarly, be extra careful about any poses that have you quickly move from laying down to standing up, as this is also more likely to trigger fainting. Also, as others have said, be careful of over-extending your joints. I injured myself in a hot yoga class that way.
posted by aspen1984 at 2:25 PM on January 20, 2014

If you had a VERY regular yoga practice, and especially if you didn't have a problem with heat, then sure, why not try one warm yoga class? Take a place near the door, tell yourself you will LEAVE at the first sign of feeling faint, just go to see what it's like.

I want to try hot yoga just because people talk about how much they love it.
People talk about it because it makes them feel GREAT. Can you honestly imagine it making you feel great? You have fainted from being in a shower. From standing there.

You know how you'll feel great? Do normal yoga, but very often, like twice a week instead of once a month. You'll feel great and be an evangelist without having to faint.
posted by barnone at 2:26 PM on January 20, 2014 [2 favorites]

In addition to the heat and humidity in the hot yoga rooms, be aware that they are also very sweaty smelling. That body odor stench mingles with the humid air to make something truly unique and awful to breathe.
posted by planetesimal at 3:00 PM on January 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

There's a great deal of room between a regular yoga class once or twice a month and hot/bikram yoga, especially for someone with a known sensitivity to heat and humidity. I'd find other ways to challenge myself - this one just sounds like asking for misery.
posted by Space Kitty at 3:04 PM on January 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

I don't think you should. If you pass out, you're going to disrupt the class for other people who paid good money to attend.
posted by discopolo at 3:07 PM on January 20, 2014

Sorry, I missed the part where you said you only do yoga 1-2x a month! I do it for 90min minimum every single day and I would not go straight into a Bikram class without at least 2 weeks prep in a warm class to build up to it.

don't do the thing
posted by elizardbits at 3:13 PM on January 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

I don't have nearly the sensitivity to heat that you do and I found hot yoga to be unnecessarily uncomfortable and very smelly. It took everything I had to try to stop myself from constantly thinking about all of the sweat and humid exhalations of others that I was breathing into my lungs as the air was super swampy and smelly.

Hot yoga could be dangerous for you if you have a history of passing out from heat. Stick with normal yoga, IMO, you're not missing anything.
posted by quince at 3:39 PM on January 20, 2014

People generally either love or hate hot yoga. I happen to be a person who really enjoys it. I'm also a person who struggles with very hot, humid conditions in the summer and turns into a red-faced, sweatball. I've found that psychologically I really don't mind being hot, red-faced and sweaty in hot yoga because EVERYONE is hot, red-faced and sweaty.

I think the only way you can tell if you'll like hot yoga is if you give it a try. I would follow others' advice and attend a vinyasa flow class (vs. a bikram class) because these tend to be less hot (85 degrees vs 105) and keep you moving so you're focused more on the next pose vs. how unbelievably warm it is. Don't eat for a while before the class. Stay hydrated. Dress appropriately (avoid cotton since it's going to get soaked). Bring a beach towel to throw over your mat and a hand towel to wipe your face (don't buy a special yoga towel until you know you like it). They tell us to lay down in corpse pose if we don't feel well. Give yourself permission to go easy in the poses. And like all yoga, focus on your breathe!
posted by gumtree at 4:00 PM on January 20, 2014

Alright, no hot yoga for me then!
posted by greta simone at 6:44 PM on January 20, 2014

I think bikram might be too much, but some other variant on hot yoga might be ok. Keep in mind you are not obligated to stay throughout the whole class. If you are feeling like you can't handle it at any time, you can go. Maybe give it a try but be kind to yourself, and if you can't do the 90 minutes, that is ok. You really can't know without trying.

Also, could you bring a cooling towel to class? They are widely available.
posted by gohabsgo at 7:10 AM on January 21, 2014

Many people have already suggested that you should not do hot yoga, but I'll explain why I like it. Regular yoga is for me boring to the point of tedious. Also there's no great struggle: I can either do the position or I can't. My mind wanders and it's torture.

With hot yoga (and I specifically do the Bikram style in 105* rooms) you constantly have that feeling of struggling. You have to fight to stay in each position, you have to fight to keep focused and motivated, and you have to fight sometimes to stay in the room. It's a very different experience and much more engaging for me, and it feels much more like a "workout".
posted by 2bucksplus at 12:45 PM on January 21, 2014

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