Tuesday, October 28, 2014

H is for Hot Yoga

Yesterday I talked about how I practice Hot Yoga as my "cross training" piece of training for my Half Marathon in January.  I thought that I would write a little more about it, as not everyone is familiar with the practice.

Back in July, I picked up taking hot yoga classes.  This is something that I did very sporadically a few years ago with a studio located in Lambertville, NJ, called RiverFlow Yoga.  It was about a half an hour drive from my house, but was really the only place to practice this very cool, erm hot, yoga.  I began on a Groupon, and found that I really liked it, but couldn't get over there as often as I would've liked to really get the benefits of the practice.

Sweaty to the core!
It's important to note that I've never practiced "regular" yoga and I hate sweating.  Yes, HATE.  Hot yoga, however, is a different type of sweating, so I don't mind it so much.  I joke that the best part of class is the shower afterwards. haha

In regards to just HOW hot the room is, it is meant to be kept above body temperature.  Depending on what style you practice, (ie Bikram Yoga - perhaps the most well known "brand") the height of the heat my vary, but a a range of anywhere between 90 degrees to 105 degrees is a good guess...all while practice yoga moves and breathing.  The great thing about Hot Yoga, is that every session is going to be same set of postures.  So, the more you go, the more you know what to expect!

In moving to Colorado, my running buddy began talking about cross training.  So, instead of the regular weight training, I thought going back to hot yoga might be a good mix for training since I'm not much of a stretcher.  I again looked to a Groupon and found a new studio which was a much quicker (5 minute) drive from our home so it seemed like a perfect fit.  It was a month of unlimited yoga, and given I wasn't working full time at the time of purchase, thought it would be a great thing to keep me busy.  Sumits Yoga has been a wonderful, wonderful treat over the last few months, and I love, love, love the teachers. 

Sumits Yoga - Sumits Yoga- I Like it Hot!! - Littleton, CO, United States
I love the feel of my studio - they did a great job designing it,a and it just opened in June.

Over the summer I was typically practicing four times a week, in addition to running (clearly I continued after my Groupon expired...).  At the time, since I wasn't in the thick of my running training yet, I was only running a mile or two, it was a great variation to my day.  Sumits offers either 60 or 80 minute classes, so depending on if I was running or not sometimes helped me pick which length to attend.  The ladies at Sumits are awesome and I love their studio and yoga flow!  While some of the moves are the same from my previous studio, Sumits is it's own flow, so it had some variations.  You can read more about Sumit Banerjee here, and how he created his studio flow.  The class begins with a breathing exercise, followed by a warm up, then into standing postures, the 4 flows that are the apex of class, after that comes a bit of ab work (this is the one part of class that can vary, which I appreciate), and then you're on the mat for your cool down to finish off class.

I started working full time the beginning of September, so I try my best to still get in three times a week, but sometimes I just can't get my butt out of bed.  Given my work schedule, I have to take the 5:30am class - which honestly is a great way to start the work day! - but on some mornings (ahem, yesterday) I just want to stay snuggled up in bed.

Some tips if you're new to hot yoga and decided to give it a shot:

  • Bring water!  Hydration is important, both before, during and after class.  Most studios have 1 group "water break" during class but you can always drink as you need to during.
  • Bring a smaller towel.  Luckily, Sumits has a stash of washcloths to grab before class - given my hatred of sweat, I love having the option of wiping my face during class. 
  • The floor is your friend.  If you're feeling overheated, don't leave the room - just lay down on your back or go into child's pose.  It's much better to stay within the heat, though it's much cooler on the ground.  Everyday is different, so just because you make it through one class without needing a break, doesn't mean you won't need one tomorrow!
  • Focus on you.  Trust me when I say, no one is paying attention to you but you in class (well maybe the teacher, but that's their job!)  Keep your eyes locked on you and what you're doing to stay present and don't judge yourself.  Everyone had to start out somewhere!  In the beginning you may need to look around to check your pose, and that's ok!, but once you get down the postures, it is all about you!
  • Less is more.  Seriously.  While I still wear crops and a tank top, the more your skin is exposed, the better!  Guys can ditch their shirts, and girls can come in their sports bra and short shorts.  Remember - we're talking over 100 degrees and humidity here!  Regardless, between running and hot yoga, I have added to my workout gear (and created a small obsession with lululemon, must to my husband's dismay - though I only  shop their "sale" page).
  • The standards - you'll need a yoga mat and yoga towel each class.  Many studios allow the option of renting if you're just trying it out before you make the investment, which is great since these items can be pricy depending on the brand.  The company that makes my yoga mat is no longer in business, but any yoga mat will really do.  I use a Manduka yoga towel, but my studio is a big advocate for Yogitoes yoga towels - which I'm hoping to invest in a 2nd one soon (I have to do a lot of towel laundry since I only have 1 towel...haha).
  • Music!  The class has music through out - which is especially fun during the 4 main flows of each class, and of course abs, to keep you moving and high energy.  You can expect 'zen' music at the start and end of class as well, and every class will give you something new to groove to, which is very fun.

Standing Bow Pose - while tough, it's one of my favorite poses, because I can fall out and know that I am trying my best!  (Though I do not look this put together in class lol where is their sweat!?)

I highly recommend giving hot yoga a chance, check out Groupon or LivingSocial, and see what your area has to offer.  If you can stick with it, you will certainly see the benefits, and I think it is definitely a help to my running (both stretching wise, and breathing wise).

Have you tried hot yoga?  What are your thoughts?

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