Since writing this post in 2015, I’ve changed my mind about hot yoga. I had one particularly bad experience of it in California, and on more than one occasion I finished hot yoga feeling physically ill and having aggravated injuries through overstretching. Instead, I now prefer to use the internal heat I can build through my own effort and breath in a strong yoga class.
However, I’m leaving the original post below for the sake of integrity. I know lots of people love hot yoga and I think it’s important you have chance to make up your own mind about these things (and you too have the right to change your mind!). I stand by my comment about taking a big towel though…
Why hot yoga could be ideal for reluctant yogis
It was with some trepidation that I arrived for my first ever hot yoga class on Tuesday evening at Hotpod Yoga in West Bridgford, Nottingham. The thing is, I’m the sort of person who gets nervous in a sauna. After 2 minutes, I feel panicky and have to check that a) I know where the door is, and b) I can open it. I’ve learnt the hard way that this can be off-putting for other sauna users, hence I tend not to inflict myself on them too often.
So it was with some relief that after a lovely welcome from Sarah, the teacher, I let myself into the heated pod, and found that it felt pleasantly warm, not unbearably hot. I could actually breathe quite easily. The pod itself I can best describe as an inflatable, deep purple tardis. It’s a sort of grown-up, enclosed bouncy castle, lit by candle lamps and heated with portable heaters. Now, I’m no snob about where I do yoga. In fact, some of the best classes I’ve attended have been in run-down community centres with biscuit crumbs from the morning’s toddlers’ group stamped into the carpet. However Hotpod Yoga Nottingham had transformed this unremarkable church hall into a space which felt almost magical. It was as if we were cocooned in our own special little yoga bubble.
However, my slightly smug “It’s not even that hot in here,” thoughts did not last long. After 10 minutes of gently-flowing vinyasa yoga, I was drenched in sweat. My nana used to tell me that ladies don’t sweat, they glow. If this is true, my experience at hot yoga proved beyond any shadow of a doubt (as if this were needed) that I am no lady. Before the class I had deliberated over my choice of towel – I could only lay my hands on either a little gym towel or a giant bath sheet. I opted for the little one, a decision I quickly came to regret. I could have done with two bath sheets. Performing parivrtta trikonasana becomes a whole lot more challenging when you are trying to stop yourself from sliding right off your mat and into your neighbour.
That said, the heat really helped my muscles to let go. Under Sarah’s encouraging guidance, I felt my body move easily into deeper lunges, twists and back bends. My upper back and shoulders, where I hold a lot of tension because I work on my laptop for most of the day, clicked and crunched satisfyingly through the whole practice. By the end they were so released I felt like my head was lighter. It was better (and cheaper!) than a deep-tissue massage. I had also tried my first Kayla Itsines workout the day before and so I was experiencing major DOMS in my quads. This class was great to ease some of that out.
I’d say in fact that this class is perfect as a counter to both sedentary office-style working and any physical training which leaves you feeling tight and sore.
Although as I’ve practised yoga, I’ve become more comfortable with exploring some of its more spiritual aspects, I know a lot of people who would benefit from yoga are resistant to trying it. They find its new-age, hippy-ish reputation too esoteric and off-putting. HotPod Yoga as its website states, pares down “thousands of years of yoga tradition…to some critical, logical and powerful elements.” This makes it ideal for anyone who wants to feel the physical benefits, as well as the relaxation of yoga, without “chanting, a cult mentality… or haughty gurus.” I think the “Namaste” from Sarah at the end of the class was about as overtly spiritual as the class got, and yet I still left it feeling physically and emotionally uplifted.
To sum up, despite all my initial reservations, I whole-heartedly recommend you give hot yoga a try. Just remember to take a decent-sized towel!