Common sense simply isn’t common until it’s common.
So let’s discuss how hot yoga can continue allowing us to be healthy through some scorching summer heat. Sweating is great, but if you’re someone who sweats pounds and pounds during a hot session, you may experience adverse effects (such as headaches, cramps, fatigue or dizziness) instead of beneficial ones (like increased energy, stress management, better respiratory function, etc.).
Hydration is crucial.
It’s necessary to plan ahead and be sure to hydrate before your class instead of pushing it off until later. For example, if the class is in the morning, make sure you have been hydrated the previous day and if your class is during the day or evening, be sure you’ve hydrated the entire day. If you’re looking for more specific instructions, drink 2 cups of water 30-60 minutes prior to class and drink two to three cups per pound lost during class (estimations work well, of course). Another way to retain your water is monitoring your salt intake. We lose sodium through sweat and urination and it must be replaced via the diet.
Communication with yourself and the instructor is also paramount for a rewarding experience.
It is important to find ways of checking in with yourself periodically. Take a rest in child’s pose and make sure you’re in control of your breathing and monitor your heart rate. The external environment will greatly affect your body, but you control your response to those affects. For example, if the humidity in the room is high, your sweat will have a harder time evaporating off of your skin making it much more difficult to cool down. If you cannot cool down, your heart rate will increase and you may become short of breath. Respecting your edge and understanding how your body reacts will keep you safe and happy.
What’s on your body will also shift your experience.
Loose fitting clothing will trap in heat, while tighter clothing will allow you to breathe easy. The type of fabric will also make a difference. Cotton will soak up the sweat while synthetic fibers will whisk away moisture. Less fabric over the skin equals more breathing room for that beautiful organ of yours (though pants may be nice to help soak up moisture to avoid slipping). We all love silky smooth skin, but did you realize that lotions can hinder your skin from breathing properly? Avoid applying heavy body lotions prior to a hot yoga class. If lotion is a must, try to find a lighter lotion that won’t stop your pores from breathing. I am personally a fan of Everyone Lotion by EO.
What’s in your body will probably not just affect you, but also the others in the room.
Food is our sustenance to life and, in my opinion, should be treated as such. You will sweat out smells of what you put in your body. Chemicals, preservatives, saturated fats and antibiotic-laced meats will not leave you smelling like roses, that’s for sure! Eating right before yoga (especially hot yoga) is not recommended. Eating two hours before is a much better time frame, but regardless of when you’re eating it, the food should be easily digestible for your system (spicy foods are definitely not a good choice). Oatmeal, lean proteins, healthy fats and liquid-rich foods that are familiar to your body will be best.
Yoga is a way for our body to truly become a temple in which a balanced mind and ebullient spirit resides.
Now is the time you begin recognizing the affects your external has on your internal.
What if I still get heat exhaustion?
Recognize the signs of heat exhaustion and know what to do if it happens. Symptoms include increased heart rate that won’t slow down, dizziness, nausea, disorientation, cramps, fatigue, blurred vision and headaches. If any of these occur, lay down on your back, elevate your legs, leave the room and hydrate.
Kristie Leahy is a young human being (not human doing) who lives a life of enthusiasm and is always involved in self-learning initiatives. Her lifestyle is full of exploration intrinsically and extrinsically, allowing her to teach a continuous practice of persistence, patience and vigilance. With a degree in education and a 200-hour Kripalu yoga teacher certification, she is a practitioner of non-judgmental and compassionate self-awareness. Shine shamelessly.
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Ed: Wendy Keslick/Kate Bartolotta