Intended to offer a deeper stretch and a detoxifying effect on the body thanks to extra sweat production, ‘hot yoga’ is having a moment. As someone who usually avoids working out in the heat, I decided to give it go, to see whether it was really worth the hype.
I’m prone to fainting on the tube after skipping breakfast, and sticking to the shade as much as possible on holiday, so naturally, I’m nervous before my first-ever hot yoga class at Fierce Grace, Brixton. Not only will it be held in temperatures of around 38°C, but I’ve opted for the ‘Classic’ class, which promises to ‘develop alignment while building strength, stamina and flexibility’, so I’m not expecting an easy ride. When I enter the studio five minutes early, the temperature is instantly oppressive. I join my classmates and lie down on my mat, adjusting to the heat, which feels similar to a slightly-too-hot shower or sauna.
Just as I begin to wrap my head around the idea of doing 90 minutes of exercise in these conditions, our teacher, Krysztof, comes into the room and we all kneel. He asks if there are any newcomers and I am the only person in the room to raise my hand. ‘Don’t push yourself too hard the first time,’ he warns me, and heart starts beating faster as he guides us into the first pose.
Soon though, as I concentrate on regulating my breathing, I feel my heart slow. I relax into my body and slowly adjust to the heat, feeling the stretch of each pose and testing my own limits. We are guided into 39 poses, of varying intensities, over the 90 minutes. When I start to feel light-headed, I take a small break, sip some water and concentrate on my breathing until I’m ready to continue. When the time is up, I can’t believe I’ve made it to the end and I feel a surge of pride at what my body has achieved. I immediately book a second hot yoga class later that week, and I can’t wait to try it all over again.
Having tried a few classes now and started to learn the ropes, here are my top tips for those thinking of giving hot yoga a go:
Don’t eat a full meal right before class
It may seem counter-intuitive to exercise in the heat on an empty stomach, but eating something heavy less than two to three hours before a class can make you feel queasy as you move between poses. If you feel like you need a snack to keep you going, try an apple or banana with your favourite nut butter, or a small cereal bar.
Drink plenty of water
It’s important to stay hydrated, before and after your workout, for your body to replace all of the water you’re losing through sweat. Fierce Grace advises that you drink 1.5 litres before a class, and make sure that you bring a bottle to sip from during your workout. It may seem like a lot, but you’ll be grateful for it as soon as you step into the heat.
Be prepared to sweat
The room is kept at a temperature of just under 38°C, meaning you’ll start to sweat before the class has even started. There’s no need to be self-conscious though, as everyone’s in the same boat. Bring along an extra towel to place over your mat to protect it, or hire a towel from the studio.
Wear the right clothing
If it’s full-length or thick, don’t wear it. Women should opt for cropped bottoms or shorts with a sports bra or crop top, with a light vest over the top if you want a little extra coverage. Most men in the classes opt to go topless and just wear a pair of comfortable shorts.
Don’t feel intimidated
As soon as I let my worries subside, I began to really enjoy the class and relax into the heat. If you’re a little body conscious, try not to be – there are all shapes, sizes and ages at the classes. And don’t feel self-conscious about being more scantily-clad than usual – you’ll regret wearing high-coverage gear when you’re in full sweat mode!
Don’t forget to breathe
If, like me, you’re fairly new to yoga, getting into some of the poses takes concentration. Don’t forget to keep breathing regularly through the stretches. If you do feel light-headed at any point, pause, take a few deep breaths and sip some water – there’s no ego in yoga, so don’t feel pressured to push beyond your own limits or keep up with more advanced yogis.