8.04.2010

Thoughts on hot yoga

In the spirit of revving up my exercise routine, I tried my first hot yoga class on Monday night.  (As the teacher explained, the class is called "hot" yoga, not "Bikram" yoga, because the founder of Bikram yoga, Bikram Choudhury, has taken legal action to prevent anyone from teaching yoga in a heated room and calling it "Bikram" yoga unless they are certified in his specific method.  Yikes!)

Semantics aside...it was an intense workout.  The poses and sequencing were similar to vinyasa flow (the style of yoga I practice regularly), but the room was heated to approximately 100 degrees.  For the first 30 minutes or so (it was a 90-minute class), I was feeling great and thinking to myself (in a not very yogi-like way) that the whole thing seemed like a piece of cake.  45 minutes in, I was starting to feel the burn in a big way.  I was expecting the added heat, of course, but I wasn't prepared for how much extra effort it takes to complete the poses when your body is fighting just to maintain its core temperature, much less hold
Paripurna Navasana.  More than a few times, I had to take Child's Pose to find my breath and settle my heart rate. Needless to say, by the end of class I was totally wiped out, but in a hurts-so-good sort of way (similar to the sort of "runner's high" I feel after a long, hard run).

I
've heard that hot yoga is a really great way to detoxify impurities from your system because you sweat so profusely - as I can personally attest!  Plus, the class left me so relaxed that I slept better than I think I have in a long time - and that's saying something because I'm a pretty sound sleeper.   I'm really glad I challenged myself to try it, and I think it'll become a regular or semi-regular addition to my yoga practice.

H
ave you guys tried hot or Bikram yoga?  I'd be curious to hear about your experiences!


Image via Yoga Station.

15 comments:

shelly said...

i have not tried it yet, but have been thinking about it lately. i am kinda scared :(

Rachel @ SuburbanYogini said...

Bikram is probably one of the most unyogic yogis I've ever read about....

Shay said...

Yes, I teach yoga and actually think hot yoga is pretty dangerous. I don't practice it and I caution my students against it.

By adding that much heat, your muscles warm up faster than they are supposed to so students have a hard time telling where their edge is. What ends up happening then is that students push past their normal edge because they have a false sense that, miraculously, they have become incredibly flexible. In my opinion, this results in a lot of injuries to muscles and connective tissue in hot yoga classes because people can't tell where their normal boundaries are and so they push themselves farther than they should. Students also tend to get fatigued quickly and don't drop into child pose like you did. Instead their egos get involved and they push themselves to keep up with the rest of the class. This results in sloppy alignment due to fatigue which can also cause injury. In addition, the intense heat affects the electrolyte balance in the body, which can cause heart palpitations, dizziness, confusion, and nausea. These are not things one should "work through" as many hot yoga instructors advise. Feeling ill is a defense your body is mounting against the assault of the extreme stress hot yoga puts on it. Honoring and listening to your body is the core of yoga and should be heeded at all times, especially in a hot yoga class.

Lastly, many Bikram or Hot yoga classes tell you you're only allowed to drink water at certain points during the class. Again, I think that's dangerous as it leads to dehydration and can lead to heatstroke.

If you do choose to do hot yoga regularly be very careful, listen to your body, and don't go past your normal edges. If something doesn't feel right, don't do it. Drink lots of water before, during and after class. Consider drinking a bottle of something with added electrolytes, such as Smart Water, as well.

Meg said...

i think shay's comments should apply to everything we do, not just hot or bikram's yoga. it's always up to the student to know where their limit is, and it's their responsibility to know their bodies. i have heard that in bikram's classes the teachers can be quite strict, may dictate water consumption, and encourage students to "push past the pain" - and that it's a much more "competitive" style of yoga (which in my opinion is definitely against the yogic principles, but in all honesty many, many people do yoga simply for the physical benefits, and want a more competitive style of yoga... otherwise it wouldn't be as popular as it is), and although i think it's incredibly important that anyone who puts themselves in a position of authority (like a yoga teacher) should ensure that they are only pushing their students to do things that are safe and healthy, but it's also important that we, as students, research any new type of sport that we begin, and properly understand the risks (whether it's jogging, boxing, or a new type of yoga).

as a student, you need to be able to say "no" if you are a beginner, if you get dizzy, or if you're in pain. bikram's now has a reputation as this type of yoga... if you're a student who is intimidated easily and can't say "no," maybe it's not for you. just because the people standing at the front of the class (whether it's a yoga class, a spinning class, or a college lecture) assert themselves as "authorities" on the topics they are teaching, we students have the responsibility to ensure that we feel good absorbing what they are teaching us. I have walked out of yoga classes before because I felt the teacher was unqualified and pushing us in unhealthy ways... there is no law against standing up to an authority figure (i encourage it).

luckily, i have not heard the same criticisms of other hot yoga (non-bikram) classes, and i think that if you enjoy doing yoga in a hot room, and you are listening to your body, and you feel good, go for it! the truth is, people do all sorts of extreme sports and survive (and love them)... maybe this is just "extreme yoga" :)
xo meg

annelise said...

I did a few classes of Bikram last year and absolutely loved it. The only reason I don't do it now is because it was pretty expensive ($19 a session is a lot when you're a student!), but I loved how I felt afterwards. I, too, had the best night's sleep.

In contrast to what Shay said, I never felt like I pushed too hard, our teachers were constantly telling us to lay on our backs or go into child's pose if we felt anything untoward, and I was extremely unfit at the time. We were never, ever advised to 'push through it'.

I guess with anything, you have to find a reputable class, with teachers who know what they're talking about. I only have positive things to say about Bikram (or hot yoga) and I recommend it to anyone who is having trouble sleeping!

Analiese Marie said...

Wow, such great comments here! Shay, I'm glad you weighed in. It's nice to hear things from the perspective of a yoga teacher and someone knowledgeable about the subject. I absolutely agree with you that, to practice safely, you must know and respect your limits, and practice within a safe and supportive environment. In the class that I took, the teacher was extremely supportive and encouraged us to take child's pose and drink water plentifully throughout the class. I did not feel pushed beyond healthy limits, and I felt free to rest at any time without judgment. It is so true that honoring and listening to your body is the core of all yoga, and I feel grateful to practice at a studio that embraces that idea. And Meg, you're absolutely right that the idea of honoring your limits applies to so many areas of life. I feel a topic for a future blog post coming on!

Last, but not least, Annelise (love your name, by the way :-P), thank you for sharing a divergent perspective. It sounds like your experience was a positive one, like mine. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

AMS said...

I've been dying to try this! Awesome review.

Do you know of any good places in DC??

Heath Yoga said...

Yoga should be practiced under supervision or guidance.For that you can enroll into Yoga Teacher Training Course & become certified yoga instructor.

Analiese Marie said...

AMS, I don't have first-hand knowledge of a place in DC, since the hot yoga class that I took was at a studio in Annapolis, MD. I know there is a Bikram studio in Dupont, but I can't vouch for it personally. Let me know if you try it out!

stephanie alaine said...

i've been practicing hot yoga---bikram style---for over a year, and i have never been so connected and aware of my body and my alignment as i have been in the past year.

that being said, it is a bit of an egotistical branch of yoga, but it challenges the bully within me, which i'm willing and probably needing to do weekly. i find the challenge of the heat a surrender, i find the difficulty of the postures with ease, i hold corpse pose and ironically feel very alive.

it's been ever so life changing. but in summer time? no flipping way. i will start again in the fall :)

Suz said...

for about a year, i went to a studio that offered hot yoga, and all classes were at least 80 degrees. i went to lots of the "warm" classes, but i've only done 1 or 2 actual hot classes. i LOVED the warm classes, 80 or 85 degrees.

kristina@goodnweird said...

i love hot yoga. I do a style from Baron Baptiste which sounds similar to the class you attended. I love it - but now it's hard for me to step back and go to a regular non-heated class. I've tried bikram a few times but never really got into it.

Melita said...

hey sweet analiese! i am loooving the pic of the wedding sweetie. you are so beautiful! anywho, i wanted to tell you that i read this post and all the comments and it motivated me to write a post of my own about hot yoga... since i teach hot yoga. :) check it out here. hugs!!

Rachel said...

I love hot yoga classes. My body and soul feel "cleansed" afterward and I'm definitely on a post-yoga high. I'm glad you liked it!

yoga said...

Most of us breathe very shallowly into the lungs and don't give much thought to how we breathe. Yoga breathing exercises, called Pranayama, focus the attention on the breath and teach us how to better use our lungs, which benefits the entire body.

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