To "hot" or not

There is a lot of discussion around hot yoga and it’s benefits and drawbacks. I can only draw from my own experiences of it and what works for me. As always, the opinion of your personal doctor and your experience and knowledge is what counts.

Not all yoga is good for all people.
Oh…let’s repeat that.
Not all yoga is good for all people.

We all come from various backgrounds and experiences. Some of us have had health issues that prevent us from doing certain types of postures. That doesn’t mean that yoga is bad or that we may not overcome some of these issues. But what it does invite us to do is be very in-tune with our bodies and what’s going on with them.

Some of hot yoga benefits are detoxification, improving joint mobility, flexibility, increased circulation. There’s even studies going on that tout the benefits for diseases such as Hepatitis C. (Squires,

Some of the downside are potential for dehydration, heat exhaustion, heatstroke, and overstretching muscles.

My experience with hot or heated yoga came through my own teacher training. Learning vinyasa in a heated room was at first a really aggravating experience. My first experience with heat was overwhelming, the river of sweat that ran off me in down dog was embarrassing. Over time, I got used to it, and even “enjoyed” it for a while. I enjoyed the flexibility that I got when I was in a heated room versus not being in a heated room. I went to an early morning class once that wasn’t heated and I could barely go into some postures, I just wasn’t warmed up enough. When in heated rooms, my muscles were already warm and it enabled me to go into postures and hold them longer. I went into the hot style classes a few times but really became overwhelmed and experienced dehydration and heat exhaustion.

In reading more about it, and learning more about myself, this type of yoga isn’t recommended for someone like me with my dosha type, nor is it recommended for people who have experienced heat exhaustion. Hot yoga is also not recommended for people with the following conditions: Pregnancy, high or low blood pressure issues, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease, eating disorders, sleep deprivation, a history of heat-related illness, and being overweight. (Waxman,

Would I do “hot” yoga again? Yes. Under what conditions? I have found that on a very cold day, if I start the day with a heated vinyasa class, it warms me from the inside out. I actually do enjoy it. But I have to take precautions. I make sure that I am properly hydrated, not just that morning, but the entire day before. I make sure that when I’m in postures experiencing that extra stretching capability, that I am firming the other muscles to make sure I don’t go too far. And I since I don’t attend heated room classes on a regular basis, I lessen my risk for heat related conditions. And how hot is too hot for me? Anything over 80 degrees. Most heated vinyasa classes go from 93-100 and 40-60% humidity, hot style 105 with 40-60% humidity. Too hot for me. I have to stay in tune with what works for me. Not “if it’s hotter I’ll go farther” but what is the benefit of this type of yoga for me? Does this really work for me? Why do I need to do this today? Is this my ego talking or is it that I really would enjoy the warmth? Am I experiencing any muscle strain that might be aggravated if I go too deep?

A Spiritual Choice

Elizabeth Lesser from the Omega Institute:
“….Everyone one of us longs for something more than just getting up and battling our way through life. We have a sense that there is something more, something more meaningful in our journey. This longing is spirituality. Religions formed to try to answer these questions, who am I, what am I here for, what does this all mean.”

We all have that inner tug which draws us to different belief systems that help us on our journey. Those belief systems, whether it’s Christianity or Buddhism or Atheism, are our individual choices to make.

In a yoga class, we aren’t actively participating in a religious practice. A goal in class may be to unify mind, body and spirit. There are many ways we do this. First by focusing on the breath or a mantra to help quite the mind from all of the mind chatter. Second, we bring ourselves into our bodies by focusing on anatomical alignment or stretching and strengthening areas that are holding a lot of physical and psychological tension. Third, we come to yoga because something in our spirit takes us there. We want something different. We want to feel different. And if you practice on the previous two things, you will be different at the end of a class. This is where your journey comes in. It’s your unique choice and expression. It’s your spiritual choice.

Often times, students come in and are afraid or refuse to go into savasana because it might contradict their religion. There are a few things to consider. One, the physiological benefits of a savasana for your body is what is most important. By lying down, closing the eyes and simply bringing awareness to the breath, a person is slowing down the flight-or-fight response in the body with their breath. They are also taking away all of the information that the central nervous system tries to process through the eyes. These are putting the body into a relaxed state, which reduces stress, relieves tension and may lower blood pressure. Secondly, taking time to put oneself into a relaxed state, whether it’s a nap or it’s a savasana, is a great demonstration of self-care. It’s been proven that people who take naps are more effective after taking a nap than those who don’t. By taking time out for yourself, you become more effective at caring for others. You can call savasana meditation or you can call it focused relaxation, it’s your choice with those few moments on the floor.

This is why we do what we do

We got this email:

I just found out about One Love Yoga and am so excited! I think that what you are offering the community is phenomenal. I am … nonprofit employee, and while I am passionate about my work, I have to admit that I oftentimes have to make sacrifices because of my salary, and that is not always easy. I seek the simple life, and simplicity means having to go without “luxuries” — so I gave up on the idea of doing yoga in any group setting. I simply can’t afford the classes. But today I was so excited to find out about you! I cannot wait to attend my first class next week. And while I may not always be able to donate financially, I hope that I can help out in any other way… just let me know how!