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As we approach the season of New Year’s Resolutions and tons of people go out into the world to try yoga for the very first time, I feel it’s necessary to share my thoughts on hot yoga.
Outside of the fact that hot yoga can be a gateway to discovering other styles of yoga, I am honestly not a fan.
I would like to be clear that I’m discussing hot yoga, which is a little different from Bikram yoga.
Bikram is a sequence of 26 poses in 105° heat that has been around for almost 50 years. I’m not saying I like Bikram yoga, but I can’t deny it’s now a tried-and-true practice via the guaranteed consistency of each class. Though, the cueing that Bikram teachers are required to use in their word-for-word script does not always promote safe and proper alignment.
The instruction to “throw your head back,” and “lock your knees,” will do no favors for the body in the long run.
I am also uncomfortable supporting Bikram’s founder, Bikram Choudhury, who has tried to make yoga an Olympic sport and has been brought up on several alleged sexual assault charges.
But back to my point.
I see more injuries in hot yoga than any other style. In yoga, we’re supposed to heat the body from the inside-out, not from the outside-in. If the room is so hot that students are sweating in the first pose, it’s very hard to know how far a muscle can be stretched. For folks with minimal body awareness, pulling or tearing a tight muscle is common in hot yoga. And people usually don’t know that they’ve hurt themselves until they wake up the next morning.
A lot of new teachers will opt to teach hot yoga because it’s trendy. They know they’ll get asses on mats, but inexperienced teachers might be tempted to crank up the heat super high and then teach a super challenging sequence because they think that beating their students into submission will make them well-liked.
And that’s when students faint or go to the hospital for dehydration.
In one hot yoga class that I attended, I did a modification of side plank and the teacher, whom I had never met, loudly said in the middle of class, “I’m gonna let you get away with that today, but that’s not the way we do things here.”
This teacher chose to shame me for doing what was best for my body, without knowing the first thing about my body. She didn’t even ask if her students were dealing with injuries at the beginning of class. In my experience, hot yoga places a huge emphasis on the physical benefits of yoga only, without spending any time incorporating the many other emotional/mental/spiritual aspects of the practice.
The benefits of increased strength and flexibility are inevitable with consistent practice. Body acceptance is only the first step in a long journey. When my students walk out of my yoga class, I don’t want them to just love their body, I want them to love their life. For that to happen, we have to reach way beyond the physical and get to the heart of yoga.
There are plenty of great classes out there held at room temperature that are challenging, dynamic, creative, sweaty and all-encompassing while emphasizing proper alignment, which is so important because that’s what allows a student to practice yoga safely for the rest of their life.
Finding a phenomenal teacher is not easy, but they do exist. And I don’t want to presume that your hot yoga teacher is not phenomenal. I just have yet to meet a hot yoga teacher that I could trust with my body.
And if I can’t trust a teacher with my body, how can I trust her with my soul?
Relephant Thoughts on Hot Yoga:
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Author: Megan Ridge Morris
Apprentice Editor: Renee Jahnke/Editor: Travis May
Photo: Eddie Codel/Flickr