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Hot yoga offers more than a good sweat

By Christie Melhorn, September 27 2016 —

While fast, high intensity workouts currently dominate the fitness scene, it’s worth taking a moment to slow down and sweat out your stress in a hot yoga class.

To inexperienced yoga-goers like myself, stretching in a room heated to 40 degrees celsius may seem like time better spent grinding out barbell rows or deadlifts. Even though the calorie burn in hot yoga is not drastic, the time spent grounding yourself in your body away from the tempting presence of your phone can benefit you in ways that shorter, fast-paced workouts may not.

This week, I took the “Hot Yin Yoga” class at the Deerfoot Mall GoodLife Fitness to experience it for myself.

At almost any hot yoga studio, intructors kindly remind you to remain silent upon entering a class. Silence — something that we are no longer accustomed to in the hustle and bustle of our daily lives — allows deeply anchored thoughts and emotions to float to the surface.

As I quietly settled onto my mat in the warm, dim studio, I felt that there was something pleasantly intimidating about the silence — it established a sense of intimacy. In TIME Magazine, Emily Lindsay, a PhD student at Carnegie Mellon University researching meditation, says the mindfulness of hot yoga can root you in the moment, allowing you to check in with your body and emotions. Without the buzz of your phone or the clattering of gym equipment to wrench you from this state, you can hit levels of self-nurturance that are difficult to reach in everyday settings. If you have ever tried to enjoy a solo lunch date in MacHall on a weekday, you’re probably familiar with that limbo between rest and stimulation.

Of course, the room is not completely silent during a hot yoga class. Wisps of rhythmic inhales and exhales fill the studio alongside the guiding voice of your instructor.

A common consequence of stress and anxiety is shortness of breath and muscle tension. During exam time, if you’ve ever felt like your body has switched off and you see stars when you stand up, you have quite likely experienced such symptoms.

Regulating your breathing and sweating bullets as you unravel into different poses can dissolve negative tension stored in your body. This helps you rest better not only during sleep, but also while you’re awake. Next to food, sleep is the most valuable and difficult need to satisfy as a student. But with a less strain and stiffness, you can at least make those four-to-six hours of sleep really count.

Hot yoga can also improve workouts on days where you are pounding through heavy squats or a big run. When I get stressed, I tend to tense my legs. The strain makes them feel like cement. Combined with fatigue, this prevents me from pushing myself during intense exercise.

In the hot yoga class, I could feel my legs liquify as I sunk into each stretch, which was further aided by the warmth of the room.  Even though I was dozing off at the end of class, the session gave me a solid energy boost and a more comfortable workout the next day. It was really worth taking the time to slowly work out the kinks and quirks in my body that I had neglected. 

While hot yoga is probably not the sole way to meet your fitness goals, it is a soulful way to replenish yourself. If you go, make sure that you properly fuel your body before and after. Brendon McDermott, a professor of kinesiology and athletic trainer at the University of Arkansas, recommends that you drink at least half a litre of water 30 minutes before a big, sweaty workout. Also, don’t forget to bring a full water bottle to sip on throughout and after class. As for equipment, you can take your own mat or rent one for about $2–3 at most studios — at GoodLife, I could borrow a mat for free.

Next time you’re stuck working on a stubborn assignment or feel like your brittle legs are going to snap after walking up a flight of stairs, go melt in a hot yoga class and let the stress slide. Even if you’re not stressed, you could try it out simply to be kind to yourself and enhance your mind-body connection.


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