Hot Yoga Safety Tips

The weather has turned summery here, which means the studio where I teach is holding the heat a lot more than it does in the winter.  I teach a hot vinyasa class and now it is seriously HOT yoga and not simply "comfortably warm" yoga.  Hot yoga is super popular and a lot of people, frankly, appear to be addicts.  It's not for everyone, though, and depending on the class, it can be pretty extreme, so it's wise to proceed with caution.  Even if you're a hot yoga junkie, when it's hot outside, you're putting some extra stress on your body, so here's a few tips for making it through a hot yoga class happy and healthy. 

  1. This might be obvious, but you don't have to do it.   In fact, if you have high blood pressure, low blood pressure, you're pregnant, or have a condition where you're supposed to avoid getting overheated (like MS, for example), hot yoga probably isn't the best practice for you.  Maybe you were already out in the heat all day or you're planning to be out all day after class.  You can skip it, change your mind mid-class, walk out, lay down, rest, or otherwise modify your practice to suit your needs.  Even if the mean Bikram teacher is yelling at you, you don't have to do it.  
  2. Show up well hydrated.  You should be drinking plenty of water anyway.  It's good for you.  Drink plenty of water all day, and a big glass 30 minutes before class.  A small snack an hour or so before is okay, too.
  3. And stay hydrated.  Sip water.  If you gulp too fast during practice, you might want to hurl, and that is not good.  Keep drinking water after you're done.  It's good if you can drink coconut water, Emergen-C, or something else with electrolytes to help replenish all the stuff you sweated out. 
  4. The heat will trick you.  The heat will make your muscles feel more relaxed and so you might be tempted to go really deep into stretches.  If you're new to hot yoga, I recommend practicing at a lower intensity than you feel necessary so you know how you'll feel the next day.  Even if you're experienced, pay attention to your experience of your practice.  Everyone has days where it's necessary to back off, slow down, or be more gentle.  Responding intelligently to what your body is telling you IS the yoga.  Focusing on keeping a big, even ujayi breath will help immensely in this department.
  5. Don't slip.  Even if you have a good mat, when you're dripping sweat everywhere, it will probably get slippery.  It might seem excessive, but a fancy yoga mat towel really is the best (Manduka or YogiToes), but at the very least, have a hand towel to mop up puddles.

Does this sound scary?  I hope not.  Or if it does, whatever.  You don't have to do hot yoga.  Many people will acclimate to the heat over time, and some people love it immediately.  Do what feels right and enjoy your practice!