At the office this morning, a couple of my coworkers were talking about "hot yoga," in an effort for one to convince the other to begin a practice. The one needing convincing raised a few valid and presumably wide-held concerns about exercising in a room pre-heated to 105-118* F. Let me help clear the air. Hot Yoga" is a type of hatha yoga [physical practice/postures] practiced in a heated room, and is usually performed in a set sequence of poses that the yogi practices in the same order in each class.
The physical benefits of a hot yoga practice are many: To start, the external heat allows your muscular body to deepen into poses with an ease that one may not find in a tempered room. With the additional heat, muscles are more supple. Likewise, a solid hot yoga practice allows for deeper breathing, which moves more oxygen through the body, which allows for the body-mind to deepen and soften.
The sequencing for these classes is generally rigorous, but even a beginner could benefit from this particular style of class without missing the experience of integration that yoga offers. Heat builds quickly inside the body due to the sauna-like conditions of the studio. My coworker was worried she might pass out from the heat. This is possible, BUT knowing that you will lose a lot of water during the course of a class, prepare by staying well hydrated a few days prior to your first class. Also, expect to take your first session easy. Even if you are a well-practiced yogi, the heated environment brings about a totally different experience.
When I held a dedicated hot yoga practice, I was soaked through-and-through. Practicing hot yoga demands that you remain well hydrated, even between sessions. Not only are you sweating profusely, you are purging toxins from your skin and internal organs. You might imagine how great your skin looks as a result...
If you decide to take a hot yoga class, take my word and plan to take 2 instead. Here's why: Your first class you will be challenged by the experience, but so will your mind. Your awareness will be all over the amount of sweat you're producing, how sweaty your classmates are, avoiding slipping, adjusting to the grip factor, etc. Plan to take the second class so you can plan ahead for these variables and focus more on the practice.
Bring a towel to wipe yourself off between poses and enjoy it!