It took me a long time to decide to write this blog post, because I tend to prefer to focus on the positive and I have always believed the saying.... "If you don't have anything nice to say..."
But, frankly, hot yoga's popularity pisses me off. It pisses me off because people who have never done Yoga before see these hot yoga studios everywhere and assume that since it's so prolific, it must be a good place to start practicing. And then, in many cases, they either have a terrible experience and write off Yoga forever (which makes me so sad) or they get hurt. Or both. And I am so not okay with that.
I don't generally like to be hot.
So this is obviously a personal preference thing, but it's an excellent place to start. If you generally don't like to be super hot, or if hanging out in a steam room or sauna isn't your idea of a good time and especially if said steam room or sauna makes you feel either claustrophobic or anxious, then hot yoga is a terrible idea for you. Too much heat and humidity does that to me, personally. So if I'm looking to get my bliss on, a hot, humid room is not my idea of a good time.
Your body has natural limits - and they're meant to be respected.
The first reason that I always give for advising people to give hot yoga a pass is simply anatomical.
Heat makes your muscles stretchier. So, in the moment, you'll go deeper and further in every pose than you ever have before - and sure, that feels pretty good while you're in it. But when the heat is gone and you go back to your life, it's common to discover that you've way, WAY overdone it.
Heat makes it harder to tell where your natural limit is in a stretch or in a pose. Because the external influence of heat makes muscles more elastic, you miss those internal cues that tell you when you're too far and need to back off. The natural consequence of this is that you can overdo it - the entire class - and not know it until you're feeling it the next day.
There are a lot of reasons that's a bad idea. But let's stick with one: Yoga is supposed to teach you how to feel your body from the inside out - how to tune in. But the heat makes it easier to tune-out, defeating the purpose. Oh, and have I mentioned the nausea, dizziness, or fainting that some people report (all of which are symptoms of heat exhaustion)?
With articles like this one and this one cautioning one against exercising in hot conditions, why do we pay for the privilege of putting ourselves at risk??
If you have to have a sign up in your studio explaining that "for liability reasons", students are not allowed to take two consecutive classes, then you are in the business of pushing people way past healthy limits and let's not pretend otherwise.
Hot Yoga is turning Yoga into a superficial fitness craze.
Just do a google image search of "hot yoga" and you'll see what I mean.
Hot yoga is like that popular but superficial and mean girl from high school that no one liked but everyone wished they were. I don't know about you but I'm a grown-up now (most of the time - hah!) and I don't have the time or energy to waste on superficial anything.
I'll take a room full of people of all ages, sizes and levels of ability whose primary goal is self-care over a room full of superficial pretzel people competing for the deepest best back-bend ANY DAY.
The teaching style is more boot camp than bliss.
It never ceases to amaze me why people subject themselves to, at best, being pushed to (and beyond) their edge in a yoga class (of all places!) and at worst, verbal abuse.
I've seen and heard references to hot yoga teachers saying things like "Do you feel nauseous? Good, that means it's working!" or "It's not time for a water break, you have to wait" or "Stretch further! Further!!" Are you flippin' kidding me?!
If you want to be yelled at and made to feel like crap about yourself, date a jerk. Been there, done that? Then, skip hot yoga and join a regular yoga class with a teacher who makes you feel like a rock star in every class.
The claim that hot yoga "is a good workout."
If you're practicing yoga in a hot room, sweating profusely, you feel like you're working out way harder than you actually are (which isn't to say you're not working out at all, but since when did self-deception become such a trend?)
If you're engaging properly and focused on your body in a non-heated, even gentle hatha practice, you will build internal heat. You will get stronger. Sweating is, in no way, a barometer of how fit you are going to be when the class comes to an end. It is (and only is) one of the ways our body regulates our temperature.
Yoga is an all body wellness practice and, frankly, reducing it to no more than a way to burn off calories, carbs, or fat just pisses me off.
That Bikram guy is a jerk and women giving him their money makes me mad.
If the allegations (of which there are many) are true, Bikram Choudhury is not a good guy, especially when it comes to North American women. And yet who makes up the vast majority of his empire's demographic? North American women. *sigh* But don't take my word for it...
Need I say more?
The term "sweating out your toxins" is total bullshit.
This is one of the most often mentioned reasons people claim to like hot yoga. They like the fact that they're sweating out all their toxins. This is absolute bullshit. There's no such thing as "sweating out your toxins". What you're sweating out - is sweat (made up of 99% water and small amounts of salt, proteins, carbohydrates and urea). Need proof? Read this. FYI, you also can't sweat out fat. Sorry.
Seems like half the time, it's not even Yoga!
It seems to me, that these days, the hot yoga studios popping up aren't even offering something that resembles a classical yoga practice. What they're offering is some "fusion" of Yoga, aerobics and pilates. Since when did marching in place, doing crunches or push ups become Yoga?
Hot Yoga promotes a competitive atmosphere.
Hot Yoga propagates that a deeper pose is a better pose. It breeds a competitive atmosphere. People brag about going to Hot Yoga twice a day as if withstanding hell-inspired temperatures for 90 minutes is, in itself, an accomplishment. The culture around hot yoga encourages people to always be reaching for that more "advanced" pose.
Well I have something to say about "advanced" yogis - Being able to do a handstand in the middle of the room, put your foot behind your head, or twist yourself into binds on every pose does not make you an advanced yogi.
So let's talk about what does.
You may be an advanced Yogi if...
Let's talk about "infrared", "gently heated" and other types of "warm" yoga
Infrared heat is still heat. The body still feels hot, but the air temperature doesn't heat up. The only thing that has changed is where the heat is coming from. Would you buy this if it said "Electric Hot Yoga" or "Fireplace Hot Yoga" or "Sauna Hot Yoga"? Does it really matter why or how it's hot? It's still hot.
As for warm or gently heated - what is this all about? What is wrong with room temperature? If you get cold easily - wear layers to your yoga practice. Problem solved!
Repetition is powerful. And you don't need to go to hot yoga to find it.
My answer to the Hot Yoga craze is refusing to offer hot yoga of any variety.
But after talking to many students, both those who have tried hot yoga and those who haven't, one thing has come up that people seem to think is neat about some hot yoga studios - the sequence of poses that never changes. Repetition.
Okay. cool. I can get behind that! Repetition is powerful. With repetition, you can watch your practice grow. You can start to sink in deeper, more meditatively. You can mark your progress. And you can maybe memorize a series of poses you could do at home. I can totally see the benefits of repetition!
But repetition doesn't only exist in Hot Yoga!
My solution to students looking for repetition in their practice? Or, as I like to call it, our ANTI-HOT YOGA? Our new BPY Set Sequence. :)
I put together a beautiful and fulfilling sequence of 22 poses, designed to be a complete practice that addresses all the beneficial spinal movements, stretches and strengthens all the major muscle groups of the body - and is entirely customized to your level of ability and flexibility. To make sure you are empowered with a practice that works for you, I'm offering a free workshop every month that you can attend as often as you like so you can continuously refine your experience.
In the BPY Set Sequence class, everyone in the room will always be doing the practice a bit differently.
Which is how it should be.