While Yoga is centuries old, the Western World brought mainstream awareness to the practice in the 1970’s. Today, Yoga is a very general word with endless variety, accommodating a variety of need. Through the practice of yoga and its many forms, people achieve immense relaxation, spiritual growth, healing and strength. There are dozens of types of yoga. Hot yoga, also called Bikram, has recently come to the forefront, becoming wildly popular. For those who have made Yoga a part of their over all fitness routine, Hot Yoga has provided a new challenge allowing those who practice to push themselves past their comfort level and exceed their expectations. And while Hot Yoga has become popular with Yoga vets, it has also brought awareness to those who have little to no yoga experience and has followers that have never done a pose in their life until entering the trenches of the 105 degree Hot Yoga room.
So what exactly is Hot Yoga? Hot Yoga is a 90 minute class held in a room that is between 95 and 105 degrees with high humidity. During a 90 minute class, attendees rotate through 26 poses that naturally flow from beginning to end. During the poses, the art of Pranayama breathing is encouraged for maximum benefits from each pose and overall relaxation.
The benefits of Hot Yoga are profound. I will be perfectly honest with you, the first couple of classes can be tough, but you can do this! During my very first class, a man in front of me plumb passed out mid pose! That was just one incident that had me contemplating my escape route. It’s challenging and demands great focus and dedication. But take head, every class you finish will leave you with a feeling of great accomplishment.
There are many benefits gained from this practice, but a few key ones should be remembered when you feel like running for the door and never coming back. INCREASED ENERGY promotes an over all feeling of rejuvenation that you will notice after one class and will continue to notice as you continue your participation in the practice.
BREATHING. While in the beginning the constant focus on breathing feels forced, you will notice how natural the art of deep and deliberate breathing becomes a part of your everyday life. When we breathe deeply and with purpose we experience natural boosts of energy leaving you feeling wide awake. Increased energy and vitality in turn yields a more youthful look and feel.
RELASING OF TOXINS IN THE BODY. If you’re not keen on profuse sweating remember that sweating is the body's natural way of cooling itself and getting rid of toxins in the body. It is said that it is possible to lose up to TEN pounds of sweat (which includes oil, salts and water) during one class. And while this is largely water weight that is lost, it is important to remember that the toxins coming with the water is the important benefit.
NATURAL SHIFT TOWARDS HEALTHIER EATING. As your body continues to release a build up of toxins you will notice a natural craving for healthier foods and most importantly water! Drinking water throughout your day (not just right before you go to a session) is a matter of safety and is key in your overall well-being. The intense heat and deep breathing can, at times, leave a seasoned Hot Yoga vet feeling dizzy and dehydrated. If you remember nothing else from this article remember the importance of consistent water intake throughout your day!
MENTAL CLARITY. What many of us tend to forget in our quest for a healthy body is the importance of a healthy mind. The two go hand in hand. I have read countless studies that discuss the link between overly stressful lifestyles with illness and injury. Hot yoga demands focus on breathing. When we are breathing properly our body naturally becomes more relaxed and in turn reduces stress and anxiety. I have gone to a class and been so exhausted that I mostly stayed flat on my mat and enjoyed the sweat and that’s ok. It can be a very cathartic experience and on occasion that is a very good thing.
Once you’ve become comfortable with the routine and your own abilities, you can set a goal to embark on the 30 day Bikram challenge. This challenge is done in every studio I have ever been too. It’s a goal that can be done individually or with others. And yes, it is as simple as it sounds. The challenge is to do 30 consecutive days of Hot Yoga. Primarily, the challenge is finding a 30 day span of time where you can fit a 90 minute session into your busy day. But, it can be done and you will not believe how incredibly agile, strong and refreshed you feel at completion.
While it is understandable that standing in a ridiculously hot room and sweating for an hour and a half does not sound appealing, I assure you that afterwards (especially after a cool shower) you will feel amazing. You will even begin to look forward to it.
For more information on Hot Yoga and where you can find a studio near you visit www.bikramyogaportland.com. This site is a renowned source of information on all things Bikram including the best places to go to do it!