Hot Yoga Is No Freakin' Joke!
Updated: Aug 13, 2019
The other day, my best friend Kristin reached out to me asking if I would be down to try hot yoga with her on Sunday night. I've learned all about hot yoga (or Bikram yoga, named after it's slightly delusional creator) while training to become a registered yoga instructor, and have always wanted to give it a try. I'm actually surprised I hadn't tried it before this point. I used to live less than a mile from a hot yoga studio in Newport News and never went, so it's not like I haven't had to chance to attend a class. I told Kristin I would love to come with her and we were both a healthy combination of nervous and excited.
On the day of the class, we were texting all day trying to figure out what to wear and bring. A towel or two was a given, but I wasn't sure of what the "proper" hot yoga attire was. Kristin told me that shorts and a sports bra was the move and that she was going out to grab a pair of spandex shorts before the practice. I didn't have much time to run out before the 25 minute drive out to Reston, so I went with a thin pair of mid-calf leggings and a tight, supportive sports bra, topped off with a baggy crewneck that I'd take off before starting.
I arrived at the studio and sat in my car for a while, nervously waiting for Kristin, but decided to go in without her. I walked in and was greeted by a beautiful, generously tatted girl wearing bikini bottoms and a cami style sports bra. I don't know what I was expecting as far as attire goes, but I was not expecting so little. It makes TOTAL sense (especially now) considering the room is set to 120 degrees. Turns out she was the instructor. I let her know that my friend and I were new and she gave me a brief description of the class and ensured me that she would use more cues to help us throughout the practice.
After we chatted for a bit, I entered the room. Oh my flippin George it was hot. Definitely comparable to a sauna that's been on high for a couple of hours. It was like a slap in the face as soon as I walked through the door. I swear you could cut the heat with a knife. After the initial temperature shock, I was overwhelmed by the number of people in there, spread out from wall to wall, almost stacked on top of each other. Kristin waved to me from the center back and patted to an empty spot on the floor next to her. Luckily we were set up right behind the instructor (whose name I later learned is Carol) so we were able to easily follow every move. We looked around to find literally everyone stretching and we started to think we missed some kind of memo. When Carol closed the studio doors, the class settled down and everyone stood up, cueing us to rise and join them.
Then the practice began. We started with deep breathing using our throats, which I had learned how to do during teacher training. I am no stranger to strange breathing techniques and chanting when it comes to yoga, so I was already acclimated. I glanced over to Kristin after 4-5 rounds and saw an absolute bewildered look on her face, lest we continued for what seemed to be 10 minutes straight of this wheezy sounding breathing practice. When we finally reached the time to hit our first pose, I was already out of breath, sweat pouring down my body, heart pounding. As we continued through the practice, my face turned a deeper and deeper shade of red and my breath got shorter and shorter.
Bikram yoga itself is very repetitive and follows a strict order of postures focusing on flexibility, strength and endurance. Each asana is held for a lengthy amount of time and requires a lot of resilience and obedience. It encourages you to be very conscious of your body, every move and every breath. Water breaks are very minimal throughout and you're not supposed to leave the room for the entire 90 minute practice. Yes, we were voluntarily trapped in a heat box for an hour and a half while engaging in deep stretching, balancing poses and complex bends.
By the end of the class, Kristin and I were both breathing hard and moist from copious amounts of sweat. There were several points during the class where I thought I was going to pass out, no joke. My sports bra was so tight on my sternum, that breathing was even harder than it already was in the thick heat. It was clear that the workout kicked both of our butts. When it was over, we left to room and gathered in the front lobby where were stayed and talked to Carol for a bit longer. She was super sweet and told us that we did really well for our first time.
She encouraged us to come back within a few days, and I'm actually looking forward to returning. Though I thought I was going to die from cardiac arrest, I came out of the room feeling rejuvenated and lightweight. I hadn't sweat like that in a long time and it felt really good to be able to cleanse some toxins from my body. I also benefited from stretching in the heat when my muscles were warm and relaxed. Overall it was an intense but rewarding experience.
I will say that after my two week free class pass expires I don't anticipate buying more classes. It's a super fun experience if you are looking for a tough work-out and want to really challenge yourself by stepping out of your comfort zone, but personally, I like my yoga practices a bit more restorative and relaxing.