So in my continued effort to find my center, calm the heck down, etc. I got the bright idea to try hot yoga. (Okay, it wasn’t just for some heightened state of well-being, peace, and light. We’re doing a wellness program at work where we have to try three new activities in a six-week period. And since I run the wellness program, I sort of have to set the example….)
So here’s my review of Hot Yoga:
What is it? The facility’s website described the class: “Bikram yoga is a series of 26 Hatha Yoga postures and two Pranayama Breathing exercises designed to provide a challenging, invigorating, rejuvenating and effective yoga experience….(It) is performed in a room warmed to 105 degrees, 50% humidity, is 90 minutes and 26 postures that systematically work every part of the body.”
How was it? I’m a beginner as far as yoga goes. My past yoga experience is limited to what I could do with my Wii Fit, and I’m not very flexible. However, I run a few times a week, so I’m not in bad shape. Besides, I’m always cold, so I figured I’d tolerate the heat pretty well.
The facility’s web site gave a few pointers for beginners – and they were very helpful. I was instructed to bring a yoga mat and a couple of towels, and plenty of water. I was also told that the goal for the first class is to just stay in the room the entire time, and “be prepared to sweat, stretch, laugh” – that sounded to me like beginners would be welcome!
What I liked/what you might like: When I arrived, the staff – and other class members – were VERY welcoming. They want you to have a great experience, so they gave me pointers before class started and showed me a couple of the poses. They suggested I place my mat in the back of the room, so I could watch other participants, but somewhere I had a clear view of the mirror so I could check my form.
The yoga poses were varied and not overly intimidating – no headstands, no impossible contortions. Most of them could be done by most people, and there are modifications if you can’t quite stretch or bend that way. It really was a good class for beginners – it wasn’t easy, but it was easy to follow.
One thing I didn’t expect – the instructor/leader talks the entire time. Throughout the class, you’re coached as you go – they walk you through each pose, they suggest corrections if they see you’re not quite in the pose the rest of the class is doing, and they encourage you the entire time to do the best you can!
What I didn’t like/what you might not like: Let’s be honest here – if you’re in a 105-degree room, people are going to sweat, and sweat a lot. The person beside me had an admirable amount of liquid just pouring off her – I legit thought she was melting. It’s been said you can sweat off 3-5 pounds in one class session – that is a LOT OF SWEAT. Suffice it to say that it doesn’t smell like roses (at least, not roses I would send a loved one for Valentine’s Day. Maybe to my ex. But I digress.) By the time the class was over, you could have wrung out my beach towel – and I used the other one to sit on in the car on the way home. I was THAT sweaty.
The classroom isn’t very big, and you take the class barefoot. If you’re a germaphobe, this might be a little much for you – you’re sweating REALLY closely to the person next to you. (Did I mention you sweat a LOT? Like rivers? Because you do.)
Also note that it’s hot. Really hot. Like the Deep South in August. I did OK with this – I didn’t think the temperature was overwhelmingly bad, but some people really have a low tolerance for heat. If you wilt in the summer, you probably won’t love this class. You really have to be careful to know your limits, be well-hydrated, and have a snack an hour or so before class. No one in my class fainted or got sick – but I’m sure that does happen on occasion.
Note also that this is a long class – 90 minutes. It’s hard to focus on exercise for that long (well, at least for me; it’s hard to focus on ANYTHING for that long. I have the attention span of a hyperactive 4-year-old.) At the one-hour mark I was ready to be done, but the class kept going.
Would you do it again? After the class was over, and I had a chance to go home and shower – I actually felt pretty good. Relaxed, refreshed, and well-stretched. I’m not sure I LOVE hot yoga, but I did enjoy it, for the most part. It really felt like a good workout, and is a nice change-up from running. I’m planning to attend another class when I can.
Follow-up: I attended another class last weekend. This session was a little more crowded – and consequently, it was EVEN HOTTER. I arrived about 15 seconds before class started (why do I do this? I am ALWAYS LATE; it’s a sickness, I swear. I think it’s my brain’s way of reminding me that I’m not REALLY in charge, and it can distract me from the goal of getting out the door AT ANY TIME) and the only space for my mat was next to this…really, REALLY fit dude…wearing a SPEEDO. A legit Speedo. Remember, this is yoga, where you twist and contort and bend in all directions. I was worried about…things…popping out…. <averts eyes and fans delicate-flower virgin countenance>
I didn’t need to worry. After 20 minutes, SuperFit was a literal sweat volcano, and there was AN ACTUAL PUDDLE OF SWEAT 12″ ACROSS ON THE CARPET in front of his face. About five minutes later, he had to fold and tap out. I didn’t see him again until class was over.
The nice thing about being this sweaty, though – you are so hot you really don’t care too much about extra skin and fat and folds that don’t lay quite right. You have to concentrate just to remember to breathe. It was also nice that the class wasn’t full of perfect, pert little bodies – there were all shapes and sizes there. (And one particularly enviable man who was wisp-thin and as flexible as a rubber band. He finished the class by casually performing a few handstands and then turning himself into a twisted loop that I’m sure most mortals with actual bones just canNOT physically contort into.)
But both times, I’ve left class feeling like I accomplished something. That’s a big step for me. My only real goal for my first class was quite simple: Don’t die. AND I MADE IT. I was a beginner and not only did I stick out the entire class without leaving the room, I WASN’T THE WORST IN THE CLASS. (My high-school gym teacher can stuff it.) Heck, actually showing up and being willing to do poses in front of 25 other people is a big step for me. Not sucking is a triumph. I’ll take it.