Thursday, 27 March 2014

A Guide to Hot Yoga

A guide to Hot Yoga and an explanation of Bikram - for those teetering on the edge of becoming Yoga bunnies. 

If you're a becomingraje regular or you follow us on Twitter then you will know that I am somewhat of an avid hot-yogi. 

It all started early last year, the combination of a post-Christmas slump and a tempting £30 for 30 day offer at a local yoga studio motivated me and my flatmate to give it a go. I had never done yoga before, let along hot yoga! I didn't even have suitable workout leggings and found myself running to Sports Direct to grab some before our first class. 

Now your first Yoga class is not too dissimilar to being placed in a dance troupe, ready to perform, but without having gone to any of the rehearsals. Did I have any idea what a chataranga was? No! Warrior one? Not a clue! Regardless of the fact I spent most of my time in downward dog looking up to check I was doing it right I hugely enjoyed my first class. The room was moderately warm but I didn't really break a sweat, so maybe hot yoga wasn't so hard after all? Actually, no, this studio just scrimped on it's heating all hot yoga rooms should be heated to at least 37 °C. 

After our first 30 day trial finished both me and my flatmate were hooked but, having realised that the studio we had started with might be going a little easy on us with English summer temperatures, we signed up to a Bikram Yoga studio for another £30 for 30 days. Since doing and loving Bikram for almost six months I have switched back to a mixed discipline studio (a hotter one!) and now continue my practice with great gusto and much sweat. However, the more people I talk to people about hot yoga the more dumbfounded, put-off or downright sceptical looks I receive, so I thought I would answer some FAQs and see if I can encourage anyone to give it a go!

What's the difference between Hot Yoga and Bikram Yoga?

Bikram Yoga is the same 26 postures done in the same order, each class. You repeat every posture twice allowing you to "go deeper" on the second attempt. There are two breathing exercises and the class is divided into a warm up, standing series, spine strengthening series and floor work. Don't be fooled into thinking it's boring doing the same sequence everyday, it feels more like learning a dance. Hot Yoga is an umbrella term that includes a range of mixed discipline classes, whether it's Vinyasa or Jivumukti - the only similarity is that they'll all be very sweaty. I love practicing Hot Yoga because one class you'll be doing a static series like Bikram and the next you'll be doing sun salutations. 

How hot actually is it?

Bikram studios are strictly 40 degrees while Hot Yoga is 36 degrees and up. There's no point squabbling over a degree or two, all you need to know if that is it incredibly hot, but, your body can handle it.  

Will I be really crap?

For your first class the aim is always just to stay in the room. Getting used to the heat and disciplining yourself to breathe properly is a skill and some pick it up better than others. You will find there are elements you're good at and others you can barely try. For example, my strength has always been good and so my standing series is a high point for me. However, my flexibility is pretty limited so I struggle on the postures that involve twists and binds. You will learn your strong points and slowly sculpt your body to work on all areas.

Will it make me loose weight?

Undoubtedly. As all exercise will. The high temperature means you will sweat more than you've every sweated before which is great for flushing you out, getting rid of toxins and of course, burning calories. However, it's not the weight loses that captivates about Hot Yoga, it's the challenge and sense of fulfilment when you perfect a posture. It really is a moving meditation and I promise weight loss will be the last thing on your mind.

Do you have to be flexible?

Yes and no. It definitely helps but even if you're not super flexible there will be elements of the practice that you can do well. Yoga seems to get your body into the shape it is supposed to be. It re-aligns your spine, improves your balance and strengthens your core. It is an inevitable part of practice that your flexibility will increase. I've seen people in classes (usually protein gulping men) who when asked to bend over and place their hands on the floor can barely reach past their knees - they can and always do reach the floor, eventually. 

So, fancy giving it a go?

R x

*P.S I am obviously not a yoga teacher, expert or even that experienced a yogi - I am just a girl with a love for yoga trying to answer FAQS without the jargon! 

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