If you want your body in tip top limber shape, hot yoga is one foolproof way to get there. And if you’ve never done it before, don’t sweat it. Even though the practice may sound like a ritual of pain and suffering, it’s become one of the most popular forms of exercise for good reason (yes, even for guys). If you’ve been curious about the far-reaching benefits of this cultural phenomenon, it’s high time you gave it a shot — it’s definitely not going anywhere.
Bikram, hot, sweaty… whatever you call it, hot yoga challenges even the most seasoned of yogis with each inversion, pose, and flow. So, just how hot is hot? Well, if you’re gearing up to take your first class, it’s important to know the basics. For starters, Verywell mentions there’s a wide variety of room temperatures based on studio and class type.
The sweet spot, however, falls anywhere between 95 and 105 degrees Fahrenheit, and humidity is typically set at 40%. If you still need a frame of reference, just imagine working out in a steam room. While the CorePower franchise may have put hot yoga on the map, the long-trusted benefits of the practice are undeniable. When you’re ready to give your first class a go, here are some tips to help you prepare.
1. Make sure it’s safe for your current state of health
First and foremost, it’s imperative anyone thinking about taking a hot yoga class knows of its potential health risks. It may not be safe based on certain medical conditions, so clearing it with your doctor prior to jumping in is key. Just as certain rules apply to hot tubs and steam rooms, so too do they for hot yoga studios.
Randell Wexler, M.D., tells Yoga Journal that medical conditions, including diabetes, sleep deprivation, and respiratory disease could potentially increase your risk for a heart-related illness. Additionally, the publication warns against certain medications that could interfere with the body’s heat regulation system.
2. Get the right clothes
Having the right yoga attire doesn’t have to mean dropping some serious coin on pants that will break the bank. But it does mean doing a little thinking on the style that suits you best. As you’d imagine, hot yoga will have you dripping in sweat in no time, which is why it’s important to test the boiling waters before going to class.
Now, we know you don’t want to be the person who realizes halfway through downward dog that your leggings aren’t exactly leaving much to the imagination. Or that your top with the built-in bra isn’t so supportive after all. So, it’ll pay to do some trying on beforehand. And for men in search of the perfect yoga gear, some brands are better than others.
3. Invest in a quality mat
Investing in the gear before you’re totally sold on the method might seem like jumping the gun, but it will make your first yoga class as smooth as possible. For starters, you won’t be worried about factoring in extra time to rent a mat at the front desk. It’s also important to keep in mind that hot yoga, given how slippery you’ll be from sweating, often requires a grippy mat. So, make sure you get one that can handle all that sweat.
4. Bring the right accessories
You’ll want to bring a towel for sweat, along with one to lay over your actual mat (especially if you don’t have a grip-specific mat). Furthermore, if you’re a true germaphobe, you might want to also consider bringing your own block. They’re fairly inexpensive, and you’ll be happy when you show up to class well-equipped.
5. Hydrate before, during, and after class
Staying hydrated is totally crucial to any person practicing hot yoga. “Drink around 20 ounces of water two to three hours prior to a Bikram yoga session. Drink about 10 ounces of water 20 minutes before the session. Have a large bottle of water with you at the yoga session to get hydration during the rigorous workout and after,” suggests Lauren Taunton, R.D. “During class, try to take a drink every 20 minutes.”
Be sure you’re putting extra effort into guzzling H20 prior to class, and bring a large bottle along with you to have on hand. Trust us, you’ll need it.
6. Check your troubles at the door
Yoga, in any form, is meant to be a stress-reliever, so checking your day’s worth of baggage at the door is crucial to going into the hot yoga studio with an open mind. Don’t bring stress to your mat. There’s no room for it. Luckily, though, most studios have a peaceful atmosphere, so letting go of any unwanted emotion is pretty easy.
7. Show up early
Arriving to class with plenty of time to spare will no doubt serve you well. It’s your first time, so your nerves will probably be higher than usual. Besides needing time to adjust to the heat, most classes fill up fairly quickly, and you don’t want to be left squeezing in between two pros in the front row (unless that’s you’re thing, of course).
As PopSugar writes, “You’ll feel like you just stepped foot into the Sahara Desert! Find a place in the room to set up your mat and towel, and within a few minutes you’ll acclimate to the temperature.” Having time on your mat before the instructor arrives will benefit you throughout your practice.
8. Know the signs of heat exhaustion
The first step in knowing your limits is being able to recognize the signs of your body in distress. And seeing as the studio will probably be far warmer than you’re used to, it’s best to have a sense of what heat exhaustion actually looks like prior to your first class. According to Mayo Clinic, “Causes of heat exhaustion include exposure to high temperatures, particularly when combined with high humidity, and strenuous physical activity.”
9. Know when to take a break
There’s no shame in opting out of a tough move, or even dipping out of class for a quick breather. In fact, most yoga instructors encourage this, as they’re well aware of just how grueling hot yoga is. All yogis, no matter where they are in their practice, should take a break from the class’s flow immediately when necessary.
More specifically, the Mayo Clinic says signs you should look out for include heavy sweating (which you’ll be doing anyway), dizziness, and a weak, rapid pulse. Make sure you’re monitoring how your body and mind are feeling throughout your first class, and every class thereafter, as well.
10. Shed some layers
Even if you’re shy, stripping down will never feel as good as it does mid-hot-yoga session. While there are some fabrics that will serve you better than others, there’s one layer that really allows you to release all that sweat freely — your skin. Don’t be afraid to toss some clothes aside and flow in nothing but your sports bra and spandex shorts. You’ll be in good company.
Jacqueline Sahagian also contributed to this story