I love yoga.
However my practice took a nose-dive in the past two years and that seriously gives me a case of the sads. My yoga practice was at its height five years ago. At my previous gym, the yoga instructor was phenomenal with her soothing voice and gentle yet effective teaching. Her Friday class set the precedent for my weekend and I often emerged from her class floating.
I miss that floating feeling.
Fast-forward: We moved to a small town and there is only one gym nearby. In order to take a class like hot yoga, Soulcycle, or barre, I must travel. Imagine my delight when a girlfriend of mine, Abigail, called me inviting me to come with her to hot Vinyasa yoga at YOUnique Yoga. I had always wanted to try hot yoga because again, I love yoga and I love new, challenging workouts. Where art thou thy nearest hot yoga studio?!?! Under a half hour drive for me–sign me up! I thought if she is driving forty-five minutes to attend this class and on a Sunday morning no less, it must be seriously good! Abigail is a runner (I call her the Machine) and says hot yoga has helped her immensely to avoid injury, during recovery, and she just enjoys it!
The night before I nervously Googled what to wear, what to expect, etc. YOUnique’s website also had tips for beginners. I had heard so much about hot yoga but my workouts typically consist of personal training, spin, kickboxing, cardio DVDs, and Zumba so all that I learned about hot yoga had been shelved (read: forgotten). I laid out my clothes and set my alarm. Thanks to Daylight Savings Time and springing forward, I would have to get up early (for my body clock) and drive 25 minutes to the studio. I had read not to eat two hours before so I was going into my practice with an empty belly!
via YOUnique: Vinyasa yoga consists of any sequence of postures that are synchronized with your breath. The postures are not held in a fixed position for long and classes flow with a rythem similar to music. This is all done in a room temperature set between 98-108 degrees. Each class is 75 minutes long.
I also invited two other girlfriends Allison and Erin along because 1. they are awesome and 2. if I needed to be carried out I am sure Abigail and another friend could drag me out. I kid, I kid. It was great to spend time with these amazing women (the day after International Women’s Day!) for what I have dubbed “Ladies Morning Out” – an event that didn’t involve copious amounts of alcohol which I don’t object to but an outing that was active, challenging, and something new. Unbeknownst to me, Allison is an at-home practicing Yogi and Erin affectionately said she was “balancing on her left ear at one point”. Erin did a fabulous job as well despite it being hot…and it was!
Here are five tips I learned before, during, and after your first hot yoga class (Note: Before trying any new workout or exercise, please make sure to consult your doctor first. Also, hot yoga is not advisable for pregnant women):
1. It is not called hot yoga for nothing! Seriously, it is hot (90-105 degrees Fahrenheit) and humid but you learn to deal with it! Why the heat? A hot environment increases your heart rate, your metabolism, and your blood vessels become more flexible. I was near a heater and I felt every degree. The instructor, Jessica, told us at any time to take child’s pose if we needed to and she encouraged breaks to hydrate. It was quite a few new people in the full class but she never talked down to us. She even adjusted our form, gave suggestions, and provided encouragement and thumbs up from time to time.
2. Dress for the occasion. – There were women of ages, shapes, and sizes in the class. However no one was wearing heavy yoga pants or shirts with sleeves. Wear clothes to sweat in! Don’t wear cotton! You will near a breathable fabric. I wore a black pair of dri-fit shorts and a dri-fit tank. I don’t like showing off my arms but I knew I would be too hot even in something that was made with wicking material. Quite a few ladies were in sports bras and though this studio had a “no judgement” vibe, I don’t think I am up to the challenge…yet. Also, bring your own yoga mat though most studios provide or rent mats.
3. Get ready to put in WORK. – Just because you are in a hot and humid studio does not mean it is like a sauna/spa vacation where you are going to do just a few poses. A vigorous yoga session in a hot environment is going to make you sweat and your body is going to be warm. Expect to be challenged but also accept the modifications the instructor will provide. There was a moment half-way through where I attempted to dry off my face, which was fruitless at that point (and now I know to just let it rain down my face), and I had a “fight or flee” moment. I decided to “fight” and finish the class because I was only in discomfort and not pain. I am pretty good at playing Jedi Mind tricks on myself. Or maybe it was because I was in front of the class and the door seemed.so.far.away.
4. Stay hydrated. – Ok, I was super amped at the thought of losing pounds and pounds and walking out of hot yoga with my new supermodel bod. Then I woke up and realized that water would have to be replenished and my sweat session would not make me magically appear svelte. So drink up before, during and afterwards!
5. Be prepared to FLOAT. – Remember that floating feeling I said I missed? Well, I felt it and more after the class. Sure my body was hating me something fierce but I had a smile on my face. A big goofy grin even. I saw the same face on Abigail, Erin, and Allison. Hot yoga makes you feel accomplished and happy. Hello endorphins! I think because I came into the practice optimistic and ready for the new experience, I didn’t psych myself out too much.
I am pretty proud of myself. There were moments where I was definitely in Struggle City: Population 1. However, I completed the class without passing out, vomiting, or feeling queasy–which were my worst fears that I would pass out or fall on someone.
So did I love it? I did! I could not get enough after my first vigorous session and how great the instructor was and the ambience/feel of the studio. Who knew I had this in my backyard? I signed up for a ten session package and I hope to see my practice improve.