Love it or hate it, sweating is a good thing when it comes to hot yoga.
"As soon as you walk in the room, you are kind of sweating immediately," says Kari Pollard, a hot yoga instructor at North Shore Yoga. "You feel like you are so overwhelmed with the heat, but after the final pose it is overwhelmingly relaxing. You know you are so much healthier than when you came in."
Hot yoga, practiced in a heated room between 85-105 degrees depending on the class, is a sure-fire way to get the heart rate up and burn calories. The workout, though not for the faint of heart, can be done by anyone at any level and incorporates strength, balance and flexibility to "restore and shape the body."
"Everything about hot yoga is goodness," says Susannah Herring, owner of Hot Yoga Nashville and the new owner of Chattanooga's North Shore Yoga. "It's life-changing. How can you not do it?"
Different postures, or asanas, work to compress and then release certain internal organs in order to remove toxins from the body, says Pollard, who is one of two yoga instructors in Chattanooga certified to teach the Barkan Method of hot yoga, a fusion of hot yoga and vinyasa flow yoga. "The way that we twist and curve is getting into our internal bodies, so we can dig deeper inside and flesh out the toxins internally," she says.
Hot yoga offers the same benefits of regular yoga classes (better flexibility, breathing, posture and strength, as well as stress-relief ) with the added bonus of losing water weight and being able to stretch more deeply as a result of the high temperature. Amanda Carmichael, co-owner of social PR agency Mace + Carmichael, has been doing hot yoga nearly every day for four years. "You just get addicted to how you feel afterwards," she says, noting that when she misses a day of hot yoga, she can tell the difference. "It's engrained in me... it makes me a better human."
Do drink plenty of water before, after and during the class to ensure you won't become dehydrated.
Don't eat anything up to three hours before the class.
Do bring a towel to cover your yoga mat as well as a smaller towel to wipe your face.
Don't hesitate to sit down and take a break if you feel a little lightheaded.
Do wear sweat-wicking, form-fitting clothing.
Don't forget to get a physician's clearance if you are between the ages of 40-60 or have family history of heart disease.
I thought I had experienced heat while driving my '99 Ford Contour - complete with manual windows and air conditioning that kicked the bucket three summers ago - through blazing lower Alabama in June. I thought wrong.
Trying my hand at a hot yoga class opened my eyes to a whole new realm of heat that I never knew existed. The workout combines 26 yoga postures performed in a precise order with heat amped up to around 105 degrees based on the principle that the heat can "detox" the body, while preventing muscle injuries and making the muscles ultra-pliable for deeper stretching.
Once I got past the Sahara-like heat and feeling embarrassed about my sweat-soaked clothing, I found myself getting one of the most mentally strenuous workouts of my life. There were moments when I was feeling a little queasy, an absolutely natural situation for a first-timer as I learned later, and I had to swallow my pride, sit down and take a break.
Susannah Herring, owner of North Shore Yoga and the class instructor, reminded me afterward of something that I failed to think of in my humbling moments resting on the mat: everyone has a first class. My classmates (who all looked like yoga gods and goddesses to me) were beginners at one point who came back to try it again.
I walked out of the yoga studio mentally uplifted and stress-free - albeit red-faced and cooked like a Thanksgiving turkey- knowing that I had made it through and done my best. Hot yoga is definitely a "mind over matter" kind of workout, but you really can't beat the feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction once you are done.