The summer is upon us, and you may be considering whether it makes sense to turn the heat up even more by walking into a hot yoga class.You may be asking yourself if it makes sense or if you have the energy for it; others may be giving you that funny, “Have you lost your mind?” look….
Having lived and practiced Bikram-style hot yoga through many sticky summers, I have heard this kind of reaction from many well-meaning friends and family when sharing my passion for hot yoga in the summertime. Yet through all of those summers, a few of which I was on the road with Aaron during baseball season, away from all the comforts of home, my practice remained my constant way back to center, sanity, and well-being—and I wasn’t about to let the temperature outside get in the way of that. After all, it was the heat that I had fallen in love with! It was the heat that enabled me to get into those hard to reach places in the first place—not just physically but mentally, as I was challenged to new levels of focus, determination and concentration.
Most hot yoga devotees agree that far from being too hot to handle in the summer months, hot yoga during the summertime offers specific benefits and positive results that can give you a deeper edge on your practice and complement your practice through the cooler months. Read on!
10 Great Reasons to Maintain an Active Hot Yoga Practice in the summertime:
- You’ll better acclimate to the heat outside: Practicing Hot Yoga during the summer months can help acclimate you to the season’s heat and humidity. Your body cools itself more efficiently and effectively through sweat. So when you leave the yoga room, the outside air feels cooler than inside! If you practice often enough, you may notice that outside weather doesn’t feel as hot as it used to, that you don’t need your air conditioning as much, and that you don’t mind being outside as much when it’s sweltering.
- You’ll cope more effectively with the heat: During summer yoga practice, you are reinforcing the proper coping tools for handling heat—learning to focus on the breath when things heat up, or to kneel or sit in order to lower your heart rate.
- You’ll take your practice deeper: Keeping up your practice is the key to maintaining all the headway you made during the winter. It’d be a shame to lose all that range of motion you worked so hard for! In fact, your muscles, joints and ligaments will already be nice and warm when you enter the studio, so you will likely find you’re more flexible and can go deeper into the postures during the summer. Take advantage of the summer months to increase your joint flexibility, core strength and spinal mobility and make gains in your practice.
- You’ll encourage good habits: Hot Yoga encourages you to stay well hydrated and to replenish your electrolytes regularly. This can be a great benefit during the hot summer months. Warmer weather often means you have a lighter appetite, which can take your Hot Yoga practice to a new level by relieving you of that ‘full’ feeling and letting you go much deeper into the postures.
- You’ll be in better shape for summer recreation: By adjusting to the heat in the yoga room, you’ll be in top-notch shape for any summer sports or outdoors activities you like to do. If you make time for your yoga practice, you may notice that you don’t mind the heat and have more endurance when you’re running, biking, pushing the stroller, hiking, or playing other sports outdoors. Building strength and flexibility through your practice for these activities will certainly help, too.
- You’ll energize your body and mind: Often the summer months can leave us feeling a bit “fried,” both mentally and physically. We’ve all had days when the heat makes us feel super-sleepy and we can’t be bothered exercising. Yet we know that Hot Yoga helps energize our bodies and our minds and provides us with so many health benefits. Committing to a strong summer practice will keep you from that sluggish summer feeling and give you quality time spent focused on your Self.
- You’ll surprise yourself: That relaxed ‘can’t-be-bothered’ attitude can transform into a relaxed and therefore enhanced practice. I’ll bet you can remember a class when you came in expecting very little and walked out feeling amazing, can’t you? Same sort of thing applies here.
- You’ll detoxify more: If you sweat more during class, you’ll release more toxins. This is great for your internal organs and skin, just remember that with more sweating comes a greater risk of dehydration, so don’t forget to drink lots of water and juicy fruits throughout the day.
- You’ll take advantage of your summer schedule: If you work in a profession where your summer schedule is lighter or more flexible, take advantage of the fact that you have some extra time to spend on yourself and your health. Your body and mind will thank you!
- You will tone up for the summer: You’ll look great and feel more comfortable and confident all summer long!
Exercise scientists are just discovering the benefits that you may already be experiencing. Here is one study that explores how “Exercising in the Heat May Improve Athletic Performance in Cool and Hot Conditions.”
TIPS FOR SUMMER PRACTICE:
- Hydrate Properly. Proper hydration is extremely important for every physical activity but, due to the increased sweating in Hot Yoga, hydration is even more important. Drink at least 1 to 1.5 liters of water before every class. Such preparation will also prevent you from needing or wanting to gulp lots of water during class, which can cause stomach cramps and generally act as a distraction.
- Replenish Electrolytes. Electrolytes are salts and minerals, such as sodium, potassium, and calcium that may be lost from the body during periods of heavy sweating. Symptoms of electrolyte deficiency include dizziness, headaches, cramping and fatigue. Electrolytes are contained in most sports drinks, but drinks that are low in sugar, e.g. coconut water, are preferable and healthier. A mixture of water, sea salt and lemon juice can also work to restore lost electrolytes, as well as tomato juice.
- Eat right. As with any physical activity, you’ll want to make sure you’re eating right to help you perform your best. While a snack or light meal an hour or so before working out is recommended (fruit, fruit juice, raw vegetables, a small serving of almonds or trail mix are all viable options), you might want to allow two hours between any snacks and four hours between any heavy meals and your yoga practice. The only thing worse than practicing with a belly full of water is practicing with a belly full of food! You’ll want to eat a snack or meal that contains both protein and carbohydrates within an hour of finishing your practice.
- Listen to your body and respect your edge. Only you know how far you can comfortably push your body. Listen to those signs that your body offers you. When our muscles are warm, it’s easier to stretch them, which means that suddenly body parts find it easier to reach one another—forehead to the knee, fingertips to the toes, foot behind your calf muscle. Move slowly and mindfully to a point where your muscles feel challenged, breathing all the while! Don’t feel the need to “keep going” in a pose if the intro level is enough of a stretch and challenge for you. Your yoga practice is yours and yours alone. Quiet the ego–that little voice that tells you to push harder when you know you could risk injury–and just breathe and enjoy being where you are now.
- Dress for it. Hot yoga is not the time to be modest. No one is there to judge you, and no one looks his or her best when dripping in sweat. Wear tight-fitting clothes, as looser garments trap heat. Tank tops are a great choice, as they allow for better range of motion and generally stay in place better than a T-shirt. Regular cotton clothing is not recommended—once drenched in sweat, it will feel heavy and clammy against your skin. A moisture-wicking headband is great for keeping sweat from dripping in your eyes. That’s a surefire way to break your concentration!
- Invest in a Yogitoes Towel. There’s nothing worse than trying to focus on a pose only to keep slipping because of all the sweat dripping off your body. If you decide that hot yoga is right for you, invest in a Yogitoes towel that you can lay over your mat while you practice, which is made of microfibers that absorb moisture and become grippy when wet. The Yogitoes also have silicone beads for added stickiness.
- Go au natural. Though it seems counterintuitive to shower before a workout, I often rinse off before yoga practice to remove any lotions or oils that will make my skin even more slippery once my body starts to sweat. Skip the perfume, the smell of which can be overwhelming in heated, humid rooms.
- Take rest as needed. If you feel lightheaded, dizzy or otherwise ill at any point during the practice, take a break. Take a knee, sit down on your mat (keep your head above your heart), or if on the floor, rest in Savasana.
See you in the Hot Room!!!