Out of My Comfort Zone – Hot Yoga

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Last month, I finally tried hot yoga! I was home for the weekend in Pennsylvania for my final dress fitting and my friend Christy invited me to go. She had been going for a few months and was loving it. I really wanted to try it because I had heard amazing things, but I was nervous because I knew it was intense. I also don’t really do regular yoga [or as much stretching] as I should, so I knew doing it in a hot room was going to be a challenge.

Here is a little background on Hot Yoga. In general, Hot Yoga is any form of yoga practiced in a heated room. The hot studio is kept at 105°F, with humidity levels between 30%-40%. The style of yoga we were taking was Hot Vinyasa. According to http://www.newyorkyoga.com, Hot Vinyasa is described below.

This technique is sometimes also called Vinyasa Flow, or just Flow because of the smooth way that the poses run together and become like a dance. The word Vinyasa means “breath-synchronized movement.” In a Hot Vinyasa class, the students develop skills of concentration and patience that help focus the mind as they increase physical strength, stamina, flexibility and overall health through a dynamic practice of continuous movement that helps rid and flush the body of wastes and toxins, thus cleansing and purifying it.

The benefits of hot yoga include:

  • Strengthening, cleansing, and removing toxins from your system
  • Improved performance of the heart and internal organs in hot weather [great to know for summer running]
  • Increased flexibility and range of motion
  • Weight loss
  • Developing muscle tone
  • Building up your immune system
  • Can reduce symptoms of chronic illnesses

Christy and I met at her yoga studio, Dana Hot Yoga in Bala Cynwyd, early on Saturday morning. Christy had told me to bring a lot of water, a mat, and a towel. She also said to eat very lightly before class, so I had a Honey Stinger Bar about an hour and a half before. When we got there we paid ($14 regular, $12 student drop-in rate – more expensive than I am used to, that’s for sure!), then went into the room to find a spot. It wasn’t overly hot in there yet, but it warmed up quickly. It felt good at first because it was cold and raining outside.

The room filled up and the class began. Our instructor’s voice was very calming, and it was easy to follow the poses she was leading us through. She told us how to modify them if needed and encouraged us to listen to our own body, not pay attention to others, and do our own practice. This was helpful for me, because I definitely felt like the least experienced person there, and definitely the least flexible! I just tried to focus on breathing, sweating, and moving the best I could. Since Christy had been going for a while, she knew the general sequence that the instructor was following and she got into them quickly and easily.

Some of the poses felt amazingly good, and some felt amazingly difficult. I could tell I had the strength in my legs to do some of the poses (especially the warrior poses) but I was lacking the flexibility to really do them to my full ability.

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Downward facing dog was a pose that got easier as class progressed. It was difficult to get my heels down at first because my hamstrings are tight from running and not stretching as much as I should.

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I was also lacking arm strength! I’ve been going to Body Pump so my arms are stronger than they used to be, but some poses like chatarunga were difficult for me. Especially after a LOT of sun salutation sequences in a row!

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I think my favorite poses were the hip openers. They felt SO GOOD on my tight runner’s hips, especially this frog pose.

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The hour long class went by quickly, and before I knew it we were in savasana. I almost fell asleep because I was so relaxed.

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After class, I felt light, loose, calm, relaxed, and happy. It was amazing! I had heard that some people get headaches after class if they don’t drink enough water, so I made sure to hydrate all day. I never got a headache, but I also didn’t sweat as much as I thought I would, and I didn’t ever feel overheated during class. I looked this up to see why this may be, and I found a possible answer from this website. It said that if you don’t feel overly hot during hot yoga, it means that your body’s cooling system is working properly. It also said this about the amount of sweating during hot yoga:

Just because you are not dripping sweat does not mean you are not sweating. The body’s cooling system relies on sweat turning to water vapor. If sweat remains on your body or falls onto the floor it is not being used to cool you. Efficient cooling takes place when sweat evaporates as it is produced, thereby immediately transferring heat out of your body and into the surrounding air.

I am assuming this means my body’s cooling system is working efficiently. Maybe this is from all the running? I don’t know. I will have to try another class and see how much I sweat again.

Unfortunately I haven’t been back to a hot yoga class since, but that is mainly because I haven’t really put effort into looking for a nearby studio that offers it where I live. It’s also expensive, and I already pay for a gym membership monthly so it’s hard to spend the extra money. However, most studios do offer packages or monthly rates which make it more affordable than the drop-in rates. I know that practicing yoga is GREAT for running, though, so one of my goals for 2012 is to do it more consistently during training. My gym offers a few regular yoga classes and I know there are a ton of DVDs and Youtube videos I could use as well. Actually, I think I may do a little yoga after my run today! 🙂

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