How to Survive (and Thrive!) in Your First Hot Yoga Class

I hope you had a great weekend and a lovely Easter if you celebrate the holiday!

Have you been wanting to try hot yoga but for some reason haven’t yet? I have spent the past 8 years (6 of those at my own studio) teaching brand new beginners every single day! While most studio websites offer advice to newcomers, potential clients are also sifting through Class Rates pages, Schedule Pages, and Teacher Bios. They might not even see the ‘First Class Advice’ page. That’s why I would like to dedicate this post to writing about how to not only survive, but also how to thrive in your first hot yoga class!

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1. HYDRATE HYDRATE HYDRATE!

Hydration is arguably the single most important thing that you can do to set yourself up for success before a hot yoga class. When you arrive at class well-hydrated, your body does a really efficient job of managing the heat. So you will probably feel hot and maybe even a little uncomfortable, but you’ll be in such a better position than if you had not had any water.

Now, hydrating before class doesn’t mean chugging a bottle of water two seconds before you walk into the studio. Give yourself at least 24 hours to really drink a lot of water. For example, if you plan on taking yoga on Friday afternoon, start to drink a bit more water beginning on Thursday morning.

How much is enough? Well, there’s lots of discussion on exactly how much based on your body composition, but you can’t go wrong with eight 8 ounce glasses a day.

2. TAKE IT EASY & PACE YOURSELF

Most hot yoga classes are between 60 and 90 minutes. That might feel like a long time to be stretching in a hot room when you’ve never done it before! That’s why pacing yourself can lead to feeling energized rather than burnt out. Go easy, especially in the first 15-20 minutes of class. By “easy” I mean exert only 50%-70% of your maximum effort. Just because you can push harder, doesn’t mean you necessarily should. In fact, holding back and pacing can be part of the mental challenge!

In Bikram Yoga, the style of hot yoga that I teach, we always do 26 postures and 2 breathing exercises. I like to think of the class as a marathon, but instead of running 26.2 miles, we stretch our way through 26 postures and inhale and exhale through 2 breathing exercises. A marathon is not a sprint; instead, a great deal of pacing is required to make sure the runner has energy at the end of the race. Take the same approach with your first hot yoga class (Bikram or any style). Take it easy at the beginning and save some energy. If you give it everything you’ve got in the first 10 minutes, it will be hard to keep going.

3. INFORM THE TEACHER OF ANY MEDICAL CONDITIONS BEFORE CLASS

This is an important one and will allow the teacher to give you any extra information to help you feel better in the class. Maybe there’s a modification that will help an achy back. Or maybe there’s a technique to try if you’ve recently had knee surgery. If the teacher knows your situation ahead of time, he or she can make sure that your first experience is the best it can be!

4. HAVE NO EXPECTATIONS

Say whaaat?! Yes, it’s true. Here’s why: if you show up to class thinking, ‘This is going to be a piece of cake. How hard can yoga be? I’m going to do every single posture and not rest at all.’ then you’re setting some pretty high standards for yourself on something that’s pretty challenging, on something you’ve never done before. Think about the flip side: if you arrive to class expecting to take it easy, expecting to rest, expecting that it will be challenging, then you will practice the yoga postures with more relaxation. That relaxation will lead to easier breathing and ultimately an easier time controlling your movements. If you have sky-high expectations for your first class then there’s no where to go but down. If you have little or no expectations then there’s no where to go but up. 🙂

I’ve seen every kind of new student. The ones who thrive in their first class always show up saying, “I’m just glad I got here. I’m going to take it pretty easy. I may not be able to do everything.”

We live in a world today where more is better and pushing to the max is expected. Use this yoga class as an opportunity to step back from that mentality and see what happens.

5. TRY NOT TO COMPARE

A very simple definition of the word yoga is “union.” This union refers to the union between the mind and the body or between the Self with a supreme being or ultimate principle. While it’s tempting to compare yourself to others in the room, each individual is on his or her own journey. The super bendy person next to you might actually be coming to class for the mental benefits. The guy in the corner who can’t touch his toes might be using yoga to avoid back surgery. You never know. People show up to yoga class for myriad reasons. When you focus on yourself, your postures, your breathing, your body, and your mind you start to have your own journey.

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Whew! I hope those five tips above are helpful! I speak for myself and all of the wonderful teachers I’ve been so fortunate to work with over the past eight years (and counting!) that when a new student walks through the doors, we are so genuinely happy that he or she has decided to come try out our class. Showing up to the studio is the hardest posture. 🙂

If you’re a yogi or a yoga teacher and you have other things to add, please comment!

 

Make A Date … With Yourself!

Do you ever feel that what you want to be do gets pushed aside for things that you need to do? Kids, work, chores, relationships, errands, bills (not to mention taking time to eat and sleep) devour time throughout the week leaving very little leftover for, say, a workout class a few nights a week.

One of my favorite ways to proactively avoid having a week of only “needs” is to schedule in my “wants” for the week on Sunday night. That’s right, I’ll actually add, for example, YOGA at 7PM, into my Google Calendar. Sounds simple, right? It is, but simple does not always mean easy. In the process of making dates with myself all week long, I’ll undoubtedly need to check in with my husband to make sure my plans work for the household. There may be some negotiation on his end depending on schedules, but this way we start the week on the same page.

I’ve also found that being clear with my ambitions no matter how big or small draws support from those around me. So when I make it known that I have very specific exercise goals, you’d better believe that the other people in my life are helping me make them happen. Lots of times, that helps comes in the form of coming home in time to take over with kid-duty.

When I look at my calendar and see the time blocked out for ME, I’m motivated to keep those appointments. I’m reminded that I took time on Sunday night to creatively schedule ways to recharge. And I don’t want to stand myself up!

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Here’s a look at my exercise dates for the week. Since Rather Be Sweating is basically my mantra, physical activities are the kind of things I enjoy scheduling. It’s fun for my to think about the week and work in different times and activities for exercise.

Walk It Out

This past week was all about walking. And not just any kind of walking … double-stroller walking. I used to have an “all or nothing” mentality about working out: if I couldn’t devote at least two hours to a sweat session then I may as well do nothing. So dumb, right?! Thank goodness I lowered my standards otherwise I’d never exercise again!

That being said, I often have days where my exercise intentions get de-railed, but for my mental sanity I need to find a way to get creative and squeeze in some physical activity.  That’s where walking comes in. Now, the whole double-stroller piece is new to me as of about 6 months ago when my daughter was born. Those monstrosities are HEAVY! Seriously heavy! So heavy that my arms burned a little and my core was sore from pushing it up a hill in our neighborhood. The sweat session I thought I was missing out on actually came in the form of a double stroller walk.

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I have a Chicco Double Stroller which (and they should advertise it this way) gives the best forearm and bicep workout on the market!

If you’re a mom home with young kids or you missed the last class of the day at the gym or you just don’t have the energy to power through a run, then WALK. And while you’re walking, don’t underestimate how good that movement is for you! Based on information from the Mayo Clinic, walking helps to:

  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Prevent or manage various conditions, including heart disease, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes
  • Strengthen your bones
  • Lift your mood
  • Improve your balance and coordination

The point is, giving ourselves credit for the little efforts we make to stay healthy is really important because it encourages us to continue making those little efforts. And you know what? A little effort here and a little effort there amounts to a whole lot of healthy stuff that you’re doing for yourself and your loved ones. So walk it out.