I first tried hot yoga in the summer of 2016. Hot yoga does exactly what it says on the tin – it’s yoga that’s hot. Well, it’s yoga that’s practised in a hot space. Bikram yoga is still considered the original form of hot yoga but there are many ways of practising hot yoga now. The height of summer isn’t exactly the best time to start practising hot yoga but I turned up anyway and was hooked from the first class. I did take a break from it for a few months but, having missed my Friday evening de-stress from the working week, I went back at the start of this year.
I’d seen Hot Pod Yoga on social media. Instagram gave me a view into what they’re all about – calming the mind, stretching the limbs, sweating away your worries and coming out of class relaxed and ready to face the world. So far, so normal for hot yoga. However, Hot Pod Yoga have a twist that I loved since I first followed them. You are shut away from the world in a giant, inflatable tent. The ‘pod’ in the title of company. I’d looked for my closest one many times hoping that they may have added a new location but Southampton was always the closest to me. So near yet so far.
Then, a few weeks ago, I saw that they had decided to launch in Portsmouth. Even better was that they were hosting a few classes for free, for those who had never tried hot yoga before to go along and try it out. During their launch weekend they would also be providing drinks and snacks from local company The Wholesome Foodie (which were really, really tasty! They have many other healthy items on their menu and even do delivery). I emailed Lisa who was going to be running the class and asked if I could pop along, have a look and take part in the class.
The pod was bigger than I expected. Heated to 37 degrees with a small heater in each corner, the pod was lit with calming purple lighting. Just enough of it to see where you were going but not so much that it stopped you from relaxing. The atmosphere was lovely with everyone happily chatting to each other while Lisa helped the last of the attendees get ready for the class. Once the doorway is zipped closed you really do feel like you’re in a cocoon and ready to relax. The class itself was brilliantly set up – enough for beginners to get to grips with the heat but also for those who had been doing hot yoga for some time to enjoy it too. I enjoyed every second! The heat doesn’t blast you in the face when you first step inside the pod. Although you’ve definitely worked up a sweat, it’s from a heat that gradually builds up which means you get used to it quicker and can actually relax into it.
So, what is hot yoga really like and why should you do it?
It helps you to de-stress. I have an intense job. A job I love but an intense job all the same. I work in sport with students at university level who are all passionate about what they do and want the best for their club. Young adults who are trying to balance their studies with looking after their club and their members while training themselves and also maintaining friendships, relationships and a social life. Much the same as me trying to work full time, train for a marathon, maintain working and personal relationships and fundraise for the Dogs Trust. I mentioned in a previous blog that I’m a chronic over thinker as well which adds to the ups and downs of life and hot yoga helps me balance all this out. It helps me see the bigger picture – the conversation that didn’t go so well will be forgotten, the meeting that I couldn’t get my point across in will come round again and the student who I couldn’t quite help in time will come back next week with a new problem that I can help them solve. Hot yoga helps me feel like me again.
The heat helps you to relax into the postures. I’ve tried ‘normal’ yoga and pilates to no real effect. That’s not to say it wouldn’t have helped if I had stuck it out long term but it takes me half the time to relax into the poses in a heated environment. I found myself getting half way through a pilates class and only just warming up and feeling flexible but hot yoga is different. I immediately feel relaxed in the heat and ready to stretch out from my week of sitting at a desk and going to the gym.
The heat can help you detox. By the end of hot yoga class I’m usually dripping with sweat (such pretty imagery for the readers!). As someone who can suffer with the odd breakout of adult acne, I feel that hot yoga helps to get rid of daily dirt and grime. Much healthier and more natural than using a face wash. Try your hardest not to wipe your face though. It’s tough not to wipe the sweat away but, when you wipe it, you close the pores and the body has to then sweat even more to cool the area back down again!
Hot yoga raises the heart rate and makes for a more intense workout. I go to the gym and I run on a regular basis so I get my workouts in during the week already. Hot yoga is just an added bonus. For those who don’t like the gym or don’t have time to workout, hot yoga could be what get’s them active. For those who just like something different from the gym or get bored by it, hot yoga could be something new to keep their routine fresh. It gives you a strength, flexibility and cardio workout all in one so it’s a perfect replacement for slogging it out on the treadmill!
It’s great cross training. As a runner I can attest to the fact that muscles get sore and tight if you don’t do anything to balance it out. Of course I stretch and I get the dreaded foam roller out on the odd occasion but hot yoga helps a lot more than these things combined. All runners and gym goers need their version of hot yoga to help with knots and niggly bits.
It can help with asthma. Hot yoga really puts your focus on your breathing. You have to be able to get into a rhythm early on in class to cope with the heat and, as an asthma sufferer, it really helps with my breathing patterns and techniques. I couldn’t get my asthma under control at the start of the year after being ill. I should have gone back to the doctor earlier and, as a result, I’m now on more medication that I ever was previously. I feel that hot yoga has really helped me to find breathing techniques and patterns that work for me – maybe one day I can come off the extra medication to control it.
So, if you’re thinking about trying a hot yoga class, be prepared. Keep hydrated before hand and replace your electrolytes after class (I drink coconut water). Take the class at your pace – yoga isn’t competitive so don’t treat it like a gym class. If someone else can put their leg behind their head it doesn’t mean you have to try it too! If the heat is too much for you, take a rest and rejoin when you feel up to it. No matter how many times I go to class there are some days where it feels extra hot so I listen to my body and rest when I need to.
Now you’ve read the low down on hot yoga – go for it! Give it a try and see what you think – you’ll be super flexible in no time! You can find Hot Pod Yoga Portsmouth class timetables here and they’re on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Pop over to one of their pages, give them a go and see if hot yoga is the next step in your fitness journey.