Below you will find Lauren, Courtney + Halle’s experience with Hot Yoga. Each has a different lens and reason for being drawn to hot or perhaps not!
I was introduced to hot yoga in Cincinnati. It was a time in my life that I was feeling things really intensely. My lifestyle was that way too, work hard/play hard. .When a coworker brought me to a hot yoga class, I was hooked. I went everyday for 30 days to a 75 minute class taught in a 107 degree room. After that intense beginning, I remained wholly committed. Somedays I practiced twice in a day. All of the classes were hot, mostly flow classes (90% were vinyasa-based). I saw myself as strong and powerful and fit (!?!?). All of these feelings had been gone for nearly 10 years, since I quit gymnastics/dance. As my teaching and practice has evolved, so has my relationship with the hot room and yoga. I still primarily attend hot classes. I am not one to sweat easily, so warm yoga can feel like unheated to me, and unheated can feel cold. But I am a MUCH more thoughtful and humble practitioner. Since starting yoga, I’ve worked through shoulder issues (still) and IT band issues. These bodies are fascinating. I can’t remember a time that I couldn’t touch my toes or do the splits. But my upper body is very constricted. A surgery I had in my late teens resulted in very tight chest muscles and muscles along the sides of my ribs (so forearm variations are both challenging and beneficial to me). My right shoulder isn’t happy with me, due to gymnastics and now repetitive motion from yoga. So the heat is more beneficial to me in some places than others. I go to a hot class because it is a place my mind quiets, it takes that amount of intensity to pause outside thoughts. And truly, thats where the work is, in quieting the mind. When I first started teaching, I thought it was important to have perfect alignment, to get to handstand, to push myself as hard as possible. As I’ve practiced more (on & off the mat), I’ve discovered that push can be ego and not beneficial.
So if I really examine what motivates me into a hot room, its to limit distractions and encourage focus on days my energy is intense. My original draw of reconnecting with myself, working through difficult times, and building confidence is no longer is limited to a hot room, sometimes its in a yin class, or a good book, or graduate school, or a relationship. I do feel grateful that wherever the work is, that I have yoga as a support system & a community to work through it.
Being a Division I athlete, pushing my body to limits felt like home. I began my yoga practice shortly after college in 2009. I had completed my senior year season as a soccer player in southern Ohio and arrived home. While my first yoga class was an all-levels class, I regularly attended hot classes as a "beginner" ( first 6 months of practice). I liked the intensity, loudness, the challenge, I liked sweating A LOT.
And then I got back into running ( I needed a break from it after years of being told I had to!) And during my long distance training, I found other styles of yoga to suit my needs. And so this cycle goes and continues to go on and on.
Some seasons encourage me to sweat it out in a hot room and peak over my physical edge. Other times I prefer a gentle nudge and a sweet surrender.
I would encourage you to go inward and ask what you need. Ask often. We are forever adjusting.
Hot Yoga has been kind of a hot topic, pun intended, in my life since 2008. When I first fell in love with yoga, I fell in love with hot yoga. When I lived in Rocky River, I used to head to class 3-4 times per week. I liked the sweatier and more crowded classes best! I thrived on the vibe. At this time, I held the belief that hotter was better. This belief has since shifted in a big way for me.
Fast forward a few months, I signed up for teacher training at Bhumi's, where the yoga taught was mostly traditional hatha and it was AWESOME! I started to learn about all different styles of yoga, such as anusara, kripalu, yin, ashtanga, restorative, nidra, bhakti, etc. I found something to love in each style of practice. I still loved HOT but I loved other styles too. I LOVED it all!
Then, somewhere along the way, probably due to improper alignment or the repetitive movements (too many of the same postures), I started to experience pain in vinyasa class. I tweaked a shoulder first. It took about 6 weeks of backing off my practice before it felt better. Then, I had a few days of unbearable neck/back pain and Gina Schatz (an amazing body worker!) helped put me back together. Gina helped me realize that my body is hypermobile. I have joints that stretch farther than normal. So of course, I loved yoga! I felt GOOD at it because I was already bendy! Uh oh, was yoga a way to stroke my own ego? That's another blog ;) During this time, I realized that the heat was potentially allowing my already bendy joints to experience even greater range of motion and at some point, more flexibility is not better! In my time as a yoga teacher, I have observed bodies that were so stiff that flexibility would benefit them. I have also, on rare occasions, such as in my own body, observed yogis who needed to build strength rather than flexibility. Without some strength, there's no stability in these skeletons. Yoga can do both, it can build strength and flexibility. For me, at this time in my life, I need to shift my focus to building a stronger yoga practice rather than a more flexible one. I didn't feel that the heat was serving me in this time.
Once my pain was gone, my curiosity about what was best for my physical, emotional, mental body remained. I dove deeper into the practice of self awareness and brought a curious mind to each class I attended. Instead of blindly following cues, I got more comfortable following the wisdom of my own body. Now, if I experience pain, I am quick to adjust. I learned when to push and when to back off. I skip a lot of chatarunga's. I prefer a warm room. I prefer to move more slowly with more attention rather than believing that faster is better. At times, I have pondered the irony that I am a co-owner in a studio that teaches a LOT of hot yoga when I myself right now, prefer warm or unheated classes. Today, I think it's a good practice to notice my own aversions and to get uncomfortable at times to grow. I do feel that for me, heat is beneficial at times. So, once a week, I attend a class hotter than I would prefer. It's good for me, it makes me uncomfortable and that's a growth opportunity. I make sure to hydrate and replace electrolytes. I enjoy how I feel afterwards. Sometimes, if I'm lucky, I even enjoy the process of getting hot.
So, my purpose of this entire blog is that for me, hotter isn't better. If you're still reading this long drawn out note to you, I hope you will give all kinds of yoga a chance. I hope you will examine your own preferences. I hope you'll follow your intuition. I hope you'll listen to the wisdom of your own body. I hope you'll also use your mind and research the benefits of hot yoga. These bodies that we get to walk around in are pretty amazing and I for one, want to treat mine with care. Sometimes that means you'll find me in a hot room, sweating my ass off... and sometimes that means I'm at a 2 hour yin workshop moving slow like molasses. To each their own, but whatever choice you make, however you practice, my wish is that is benefits you.