Thursday, December 26, 2013

Tips for Your First Hot Yoga Class

First off, I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday yesterday! I received quite a few questions about hot yoga so I thought it would be a good idea to do a post that covers what to expect in your first hot yoga class. Please let me know if I'm mistaken about something or if you have anything to add. I am not an expert, this is just based on my experience :)

What to expect: First, I want to say that every instructor and every studio is different. At the studio where I went class started off with in child's pose. After moving to a standing position the instructor asked us to set an intention for our practice that day and then we chanted three times. Then we moved into the flow for the majority of the class. Towards the end we did some more obscure poses as well as inversions and balancing poses. And of course savasana to close off class. [For all the newbies consists of laying on the floor on your back. You are supposed to relax and focus on your breath during this time. Often the lights are turned off and it is completely silent]. And of course, it is hot yoga so expect the room to be toasty. For bikram yoga the temperature is set to 105 degrees but for hot vinyasa yoga [which is what I went to] the room is around 95.

Do not underestimate the heat and take as many rest poses as is necessary. Don't be afraid to exit the room if it's too much, says Abby [physical therapy student and marathoner]

Acclimate by going to shorter hot classes first, hydrate well that day and during class, breathe, it's ok to rest, says Erin [ironman and yogi]

Don't be intimidated: There will be people of all experience levels in any given class. Yoga is a very personal practice and not meant to be a competition. That said, it can still be really intimidating to walk in your first day and see people with fancy mats, clad in Lululemon doing headstands. Everybody is a beginner at some point and most of the time people are so focused on their own practice that they don't even notice what you are doing. If offered, start with a beginner class and let the instructor know you are a beginner.

Suit up: Between the hot room and doing all those sun salutations you are sure to work up a sweat. Moisture wicking clothing is ideal so you stay cool and dry. One important thing is that you don't wear socks or shoes while doing yoga so footwear doesn't matter.

Girls: Most girls wear crops or tights and a fitted tank that's more tight than loose. You don't want a lot of extra fabric. While wearing something you feel confident in can only help your practice, there is no need to go out and buy anything crazy expensive, especially for your first class. Erin also advises wearing a headband to help keep the sweat out of your eyes.

Guys: I can't speak from experience here but the guys I saw in class wore basketball-type shorts with fitted shorts underneath and went shirtless. Any guys reading, feel free to jump in here!

Towel: I've said it before and I will say it again, you are going to sweat! A small hand towel is great to have to wipe your face or your hands off with. While I love a good sweat, I don't particularly like my face to be super sweaty. And when your hands are so sweaty that they are slipping on your mat it's time to dry them off.

Water bottle: You are definitely going to want a big bottle of water nearby! Swigging water is encouraged to stay hydrated. Don't worry about breaking pose to get a drink. There are no breaks in yoga so when you need some water just grab your bottle and drink up.

Mat [if you have one]: A mat is needed to practice yoga but don't fret if you don't have one! Most studios have mats you can borrow for free or rent for really cheap. Something I recently discovered is that there is more than one type of yoga mat. I have a traditional rubber mat that I really like. There is something called a towel mat that is made specifically for hot yoga that a lot of the more experienced yogis had. While my typical rubber mat worked fine for most of my hot classes, in one class that was particularly crowded I kept slipping and sliding all over the place. If you have a rubber mat you can either just use that or you can purchase a yoga towel to put over your mat to help prevent slipping.

Eats: If your class is first thing in the morning I would personally recommend skipping breakfast until after. If you want some calories in you choose something really light and if you need to eat a meal, try to eat it 2-3 hours beforehand.

Hydration: Unlike eating, I recommend drinking a good amount in the hours leading up to class. Because of the heated room you are going to be sweating a lot and the last thing you want is to be dehydrated and dizzy during class. Chugging a bunch of water immediately beforehand isn't recommended but rather drink to your thirst. If you've had a lot to drink, go to the bathroom before class so you don't have to disrupt class.

Arrive 15 minutes before class begins, especially if it's your first time. This will allow you to get your mat all set up and ask any questions you may have.

IN CLASS: Again, I've only been to one hot yoga studio so others may be different. I can't emphasize enough that each instructor has their own style so if you don't like your first class try another one with another instructor. Most instructors will do a mix of doing yoga with the students and walking around checking on everyone's form. Some only walk around. Something to be aware of is that the instructor will correct your form is you are doing something incorrectly. For example, I have trouble relaxing my shoulders so the instructor will frequently come over and press down just a little on my shoulders. If you are uncomfortable with being adjusted just let the instructor know but generally speaking it will not hurt and is very normal.

Eat: It's a good idea to eat within an hour of following class or sooner if you skipped breakfast. Try to eat a high protein meal to refill muscle stores. I've always heard that food tastes better after yoga class, so eat up!

Hydrate: Just like before and during, it's really important to drink following a hot yoga class so you stay hydrated and can keep coming back for more.

Any tips you want to add? Have you done hot yoga before? Do you want to try it?


  1. Great tips! I really like the don't be intimidated, too… everyone is on their own yoga journey, more / less flexible, been practicing shorter / longer, so there's no room for comparison. Settle into the four corners of your mat and bliss out :) And, thanks for linking to my blog :) Now I want to go to yoga!

  2. Thanks for sharing all this Shannon! I love yoga and like to take classes and have even taken a few hot yoga classes. It's definitely intimidating, but like you said we are all newbies at some point!