February is the time of year I need hot yoga most. I’m usually tired of the cold and feeling sluggish and blah from the dark and I’ve found hot yoga is a great way to pull me out of that funk. I remember my first Bikram classes I took in Seattle back in 2007 and there were many things I wish I knew before I had gone in. I remembered that and gave my sister Leilani this advice when she went to her first class.
1. Freeze your Water Beforehand
You will be so happy when an hour in you take a sip and it’s still cool, refreshing water. I go in with a completely frozen bottle and it’s warm by the time I leave session.
2. Rent or bring a hot yoga towel
Many yogis trying hot yoga for the first time don’t know that there are special towels the exact size of a yoga mat for hot yoga. I know it’s silly, but I felt like I was practically screaming “newbie!” when I used my bath towel in that first class. Most studios rent mats and towels though so you don’t have to go out and buy your own unless you really think you’ll stick to it.
3. Don’t be afraid to strip down
It is extremely intimidating when you go into the change room and you see the regulars walking around in tiny sports bras and shorts. I started off doing my classes in shorts and a yoga tank because I was self conscious about my belly fat but trust me no one cares. You’ll see women with bellies, C section scars, stretch marks or loose skin on their bellies doing yoga in their sports bras and not caring. People don’t care or judge. So if you would rather go in just your sports bra and shorts- power to ya girl!
4. You don’t have to go in early
It’s important to arrive at the studio early to register and get a good spot but once you set up your mat you don’t have to lie in the room in Savasana like the regulars are doing. Set up your mat and go out and talk to the instructor a little about what to expect or ask questions, relax in the change room until it’s closer to class time, or if they sell merchandise peruse through it. Don’t feel pressured into looking hard core when you’re trying it for the first time.
5. The breathing exercise at the beginning can be weird
Bikram yoga and some hot yoga classes have you do Standing Breathing Exercises (Pranayama) at the beginning of class. When you are new it’s weird and confusing. Go online and find a video of it and try it out before class. You don’t need to be hard core but you’ll get a feel for the sounds that your classmates will be making and kind of know what you’re doing with your arms.
6. You’re not supposed to leave class
This was a shock to me when I first heard it and surprised most first timers. You are encouraged not to leave class if you feel dizzy or sick but rather to sit or lie on your mat until it passes. That’s a scary thing to hear but it really isn’t so bad. And if you have that ice water I told you to bring, a few sips of that and a few moments on your mat and you’ll be ready to go again.
7. It’s going to feel so good when you’re done
During class I am always thinking “Why am I doing this? I’m so hot. I’m so uncomfortable. Blah!” But the minute I walk out of that class it’s like I’m walking on air, I’m euphoric. And I feel great and happy for a day or two after class.
There you have it, a few tips I wish I had read before my first class that I hope will give you some insight into what to expect.