Last month I graduated from hot yoga teacher training at Haute Yogi Manhattan Beach, and am now teaching 60 minute Bikram and Hot Fusion classes—a big shift from my Vinyasa and restorative background. The owner Tiffany, who I admire greatly, casually suggested that I’d ‘like it.’ Taking two 105 degree classes a day throughout training, and now teaching, I am simply amazed at how my life is shifting in powerful ways. I was intimidated at first by the 105 degree temps and the little clothing. In hot yoga, with sweat pouring down and mirrors, there is no where to hide stretch marks or imperfection. It is remarkably honest, challenging, strengthening and humbling. And it will get you out of your head, razor focussed on the moment and on surviving, like nothing else. This training, this studio, came into my life after tragedy hit my family. Other forms of yoga that I taught and practiced wasn’t quite getting me through the stress. Without this intense focus, I may have slipped into a dark place, bad habits, and a spiraling outlook. Hot yoga forces me to stay strong, healthy and channel my passion, frustrations, stress in positive ways, like no other form of yoga. But there is so much more to it.
Here are the top five benefits of a hot yoga practice:
- Strength: If you can handle hot yoga, you can do anything! Twisting, balancing, stretching in 105 degrees, while keeping calm and breathing deeply, shows you are stronger than you know. You have the ability to handle extreme situations calmly and with determination.
- Confidence: Wearing next to nothing in a hot room full of people and mirrors is intimidating at first, and then liberating. There is no way to hide flaws. Traditional yoga clothing weighs you down. Heavy make up will run in your eyes. You may feel extremely self conscious and vulnerable in your first class (I did!), but the more you look in the mirror, noticing stretch marks or scars as you move, the more you accept them—as you feel the love and support and acceptance from others who are practicing boldly, flaws and all, in front of you. It is raw honesty, acceptance, and a path to self respect and love.
- Grace: Balancing in extreme heat is like a delicate dance. When mastered, it reflects elegance and an inner grace that you embrace within.
- Healing: Heat opens up the connective tissues and allows our muscles to stretch more easily. This aides in injury recovery. Anyone with a torn hamstring or rotator cuff, for instance, will feel immediate benefits of increased mobility and flexibility from the heat. Inner healing comes as well, as a heated flow is a moving meditation that requires fierce concentration, placing the yogi in the moment.
- Healthy Habits: To practice hot yoga regularly, one is nearly forced to reduce or quit bad nutritional habits. The body doesn’t handle the heat well when dehydrated or filled with carbs, sugar or fatty foods. It’s nearly impossible to drink a lot of caffeine, smoke or drink alcohol heavily, for instance, and work out without nausea or dizziness. (Clearly, people with high or low blood pressure, or heart conditions, should be cautious. Studios like Haute Yogi are key to maintaining optimal health as all teachers are trained well and encourage breaks and hydration.) What happens off the mat, however, is where the nutritional magic happens. Hot yogis often change their habits to perform better in the heat. It’s so beneficial when people reduce consuming fatty, fried foods, meat, sugar or alcohol because their body just feels better, performs better, without it. Another perk? Hot yogis sleep well and are more relaxed the days they practice.