It’s getting hot in here

Why add the heat to an already hard session? Jasmine Burke takes a look at the health benefits of hot yoga.

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It’s no secret yoga in any form is popular and becoming increasingly so. It seems as if everyone everywhere is amongst it.

Seeing these ‘yogis’ all over social media I decided I wanted to have a go, thinking it would be a good, easier-than-cardio alternative for someone who hates all things exercise.

My fitness-freak roommate and I registered for a month of HOT yoga. After going in with the thought that I would do a few easy sessions over a few weeks and lose a few kilos, I quickly learned there is nothing easy about it. Opening the door to the studio I was welcomed with a gush of hot air that smells of breath and sweat. The instructor began by stating that this was an intermediate class and gave the impression that newbies might be a little out of their depth. I was.

As I took position on the mat I realised the temperature was up at about 35 degrees. Regardless of this I stayed where I was. Less than five minutes into the 60 minute ‘power flow’ and I was feeling a deep burn. Fifteen minutes, my limbs were shaking. Twenty minutes through and I was dripping with sweat and had already taken recovery position several times. I thought for certain I was to perish in that room. “If I have to do one more push up, I’m done,” I thought. I was so sweaty I could have done a running dive and slid straight out the door at that point. Alas, I pressed onwards.

A little more than halfway in and I was balancing on one leg with the other leg crossed over and squatting with my arms intertwined; I’m guessing the temperature was about 40 degrees and humidity was at maximum capacity. I thought about how the position should be named ‘fetus’ as the last time I was in that position was 21 years ago in the womb.

I couldn’t remember what being cold felt like.

I threw a few scornful looks at my roommate, a slender human who was managing to keep up with the fast-changing positions with grace while also laughing at my struggling self. Numerous thoughts ran through my head for the remainder of the class, “I can’t breathe … I’m going to pass out … I’m going to be sick”. But then, just as I was adjusting it was rest time, where we were allowed to wind down and relax while the dragon that was obviously hidden somewhere in the room breathing hot air left.

For some reason I decided to go again. And again. It gets easier every time I go and now I am aware of the amazing spiritual and physical benefits that it helps me push through (and not just that, it’s a welcome change from the cold outside in winter!). So don’t be put off by your first experience.

Some major benefits of hot yoga include:

  1. Flexibility: The heat helps in increasing flexibility without straining.
  2. Strength: Use your own body weight to build strength in the body and spine.
  3. Breath: Learning to control your breath is spiritually beneficial. It keeps you calm, relaxed and focused even after class is finished. It’s all about the breathing!
  4. Cardio: The balancing aspect and using muscles builds your heart rate, stimulates metabolism and thus burns calories.
  5. Detox: The sweat works as a detox for your muscles and organs.
  6. Healing: A significant aspect of this yoga is therapy. With a regular practice, the postures can help heal old injuries and also prevent them in the future – especially back pain. It is also known to reduce the symptoms of conditions and illnesses including diabetes, asthma, high blood pressure, depression, arthritis and obesity.

By doing a quick Google search you’ll find several places in Newcastle that practise hot yoga. Classes start from around $20 per session and there are some special introductory and student concession offers. It may seem costly, but the benefits are worth it.

Be sure to bring coordination (at least a little), comfortable clothes, a towel and plenty of water! Flexibility would also help but is not necessary.

*Note: Don’t leave your wet yoga towel in the car… that’s some serious stank.

Image: Richard Wanderman