No Hot Yoga for Me, Thanks.

hotbox yoga

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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: 

My Thoughts on Hot Yoga: the Pros & Cons.

Hot or Not? Possible Benefits & Precautions of Hot Yoga.

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Author: Megan Ridge Morris
Apprentice Editor: Renee Jahnke/Editor: Travis May
Photo: Eddie Codel/Flickr

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Joe Sparks Dec 25, 2014 7:45am

In my perspective, heat is not the issue. I teach yoga, kettlebells, running in the heat. A long time Triatlete and runner. My success was based on being efficient in every sport, not putting in lots of miles. I avoided getting injuries by learning the most efficient way to swim, bike and run. In my experience, Modern Yoga poses are not very efficient as it relates to posture and alignment.The bio- mechanics of the poses need to change. That is my opinion. With that being said, when you go to a yoga studio, try to be open and cooperative. Try a lot of different styles of yoga. Your body will let you know immeaditly if this feels right for you. Unfortunately, the no pain , no gain, Nike mentality has crept in the yoga world. Bending over with straight legs and trying to touch your knees with your nose is not a sign of flexibility. You are straining your extensor muscles. Everyone gets old by folding forward and collapsing. Why speed it up by forcing your body forward and reversing your natural curves. So far, no one has ever given me a good answer. Try rounding your back and picking up a weighted barbell. So, If you are and adult, and that is what you want to do, do not blame yoga if you get hurt in class. Do not assume that it will not hurt you. Trust your own thinking. Listening to the guru is over. Be your own best teacher.

constancekorol Dec 22, 2014 11:14am

Hi Megan,

I am going to take the opposite stance here. I am currently close to graduation of my 200 hour yoga teacher training program at a studio on Long Island that offers hot yoga classes. I have been going there for over 12 years and have been practicing all types of yoga for 25 years now. I am also an Ironman, triathlete, runner and gym rat. I have been injured and watched people get injured. Any fitness class out there can be a risk to anyone. Perhaps a person is out of shape and has medical conditions and they jump into a challenging hot class for the first time and discover it is just to intense for them. Or someone with a history of injuries continues to push the limits of their body, without really understanding the consequences of a body without rest. Anything is possible.

But trying to make smart decisions and knowing your body is key. I am also fortunate to study under two studio owners who have traveled the world, learned from the best and are happy to pass on their great knowledge and expertise. Passing on the great meaning of yoga with the asanas or poses as the last understanding of yoga.

I ask the readers to be more open minded, don't generalize and don't fear. If they just understood the meaning of the word yoga, then going to the right class with the right instructor would be right for them. This may be a journey, it may take time to find, but the possibilities of becoming a better person with the adoption of hot yoga are endless. It's not about worrying if they will overuse a muscle, it would be a self-realization like no other.

raincoaster12 Dec 22, 2014 7:37am

I've found excellent teachers who bring breathing, chanting and awareness at several levels into hot yoga. I love the heat and find I encounter my limits at each session.

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Megan Morris

Megan Ridge Morris is a yoga teacher, writer, actor, foodie and master manifester! She teaches weekly classes, monthly workshops and teacher trainings in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. She co-leads retreats worldwide. Learn more at her website, and follow Megan on your social media stream of choice: Facebook, Instagram (yogameg84) or Twitter (yogameg84).