hot yoga

I’ve been practicing yoga for over 15 years, religiously for the last 10 years and have dabbled in a few different styles of yoga: Vinyasa, Ashtanga, Kundalini, Anusara, Restorative, and Yin Yoga. I’ve heard the buzz about Hot Yoga over the last few years and really wanted to see what all the hype was about.

My friend Heather is the owner of a Hot Yoga studio and has been telling me to come give it a try because I’d love it. I, of course, have always thought to myself, “Yeah right, there’s no way I’d like working out in a room heated to 105 degrees”.  Yoga is hard enough, why would I want to torture myself?

Everywhere I went, I saw signs advertising Hot Yoga. Then, while talking to my friend Alex, she continued to rave about how awesome Hot Yoga was and how much it was helping her practice. She was pretty enthusiastic about how great it felt to get hot and sweaty.  Of course my eyes rolled into the back of my head and I thought, “this girl is nuts”.  But something struck me that day and I wanted to see what all this raving was about.  I decided to take her up on her offer and check it out.  I reluctantly committed myself to an 8 am class – a class I HAD to show up to or end up being known as a FLAKE!

Walking into a new studio to experience something foreign was a little scary. Even though I’ve been teaching yoga for the past six years, I still get anxious taking a new class at a new studio.  I met the teacher and she told me to grab my mat and make my way into the class studio. I opened the door and immediately the temperature threw me for a loop. How was I going to practice in a sauna and not pass out?  As I made my way into the room, laid out my mat, and put myself into child’s pose, all I could thing about was running out of the class and retreating to the safety of my cool car.

The class turned out to be a mixture of yoga poses, some Pilate’s exercises, and, to top it off, we used weights too.  For the next hour I followed the instructor and tried not to think about how much I was sweating, how hard I was breathing, or how badly I wanted to run out of the room.  To be honest, I did feel like I was about to pass out a time or two.  Finally, three quarters of the way through class the teacher cracked the doors and provided a little relief.  By the end of class we were all soaked in sweat and exhausted.  As I lay there recovering, I realized how thankful I was for making it through this class without passing out. I told myself that I would not pass judgment and I’d return to class a few more times before making any kind of decision whether I liked it or not.

As I drove away I realized this class certainly threw me for a loop. I felt so great!  I was in a love/hate relationship with this Hot Yoga and I decided to continue on this quest to find out more about these classes and how they benefit people.

What I found out was this:

  • Hot Yoga is a yoga practice performed in a room heated to 105 degrees Fahrenheit with a humidity of about 40 percent
  • Hot Yoga classes are anywhere from 60-90 minutes long and consist of a variety of poses or 26 consistent postures
  • These poses deliver an intense strength and flexibility workout for all of your body’s major muscle groups, and the heated environment raises your heart rate to supply a challenging cardiovascular workout
  • Hot Yoga does share some similarities with regular yoga practices, such as increasing strength and flexibility. In Hot Yoga however, the high heat raises your heart rate and forces your body to work harder, increasing the benefits you receive

When you sweat, you breathe faster, your heart rate is up, your circulation improves, and your metabolism accelerates.  This all takes place to try and resume your body to a normal temperature.  When your circulation is increased during sweating, many of the toxins and impurities are able to exit your body by way of your open skin pores. Your skin also benefits from sweating.  When your body heats up, it generates more white blood cells. This strengthens your immune system. This is a good reason to exercise to the point of sweating or to sit in a steam room regularly.

Please make sure that you practice safety before taking a Hot Yoga class.  Drink lots of water as the high heat causes the body to sweat more, releasing salts and minerals.  Rehydrate after class with a drink high in electrolytes to replace those nutrients. You can squeeze a fresh grapefruit into water in place of any kind of sugared sports drink.  If you have a heart issues, high blood pressure or suffered from heat stroke, hot yoga may not be a great option for you.  High temperatures and elevated heart rate during exercise are also reasons that this yoga may not be the best option for pregnant women.  Please always consult a physician before starting any workout program.

If you have never done any yoga please take a beginner class. It does not matter if it is a regular yoga studio or a Hot Yoga studio but definitely get into a beginner class.

Here are a few suggestions for some amazing studios in Downtown New York City:

Pure Yoga

Yoga to the People

Earth Yoga NYC

There are benefits to any kind of yoga and benefits to any workout as long as you keep moving and breathing, getting your heart rate up, stretching your body, and building strength. There is not one right way or wrong way to work out, it is all a personal experience. I have found that along this path it is not about the final result but the work along the way.  I was told a long time ago that it is the suiting up and showing up every day to try to discipline ourselves that helps make us happy and healthy. Being able to move and breathe on a daily basis is by far one of the most important things to continue to “Live in Grace”.


– Michelle Gierst

Fitness Editor 

Downtown NYC Magazine