Though hot yoga can be a great way to kick your yoga practice up a notch (as long as you like to sweat—A LOT), for most people, downward-dogging in 115-degree heat seems intimidating AF. But before you swear off this awesome workout because “you’re not a hot weather person,” there are a few things you should know.
Hot power vinyasa instructor Loren Bassett and Cedric X. Bryant, Ph.D., FACSM, American Council of Exercise chief science officer, gave us their top tips for staying safe—and slip-free—when practicing hot yoga.
1. Begin as a Basic Yoga B*tch
“If you’re new to yoga, look for a beginner workshop or start with a private session to nail down proper form,” recommends Bassett. Since practicing in the heat is an extra challenge in itself, you don’t want to walk into class unsure of whether you need to modify a pose or use props, she says.
When you’re ready to try a hot class, look for a bikram or beginner vinyasa class—even if you’re in great shape, says Bassett. Bikram involves more standing poses and is less intense than vinyasa, so it will be easier to deal with the heat.
2. Give Your Doc a Heads-up
Since yoga studios considered “hot” might be anywhere from 85 to 113 degrees, they’re not ideal if you have certain health issues. “If you havediabetes or a cardiac condition, you should check in with your doc before trying a class,” says Bryant.
The hot environment puts extra stress on your cardiovascular system, he explains. You’ll notice your heart rate is higher than in a regular-temp class and you lose fluid and electrolytes via your pools of sweat pretty quickly.
3. Mind Your Pee
Since you’ll be sweating before your first chaturanga, you need to take in extra water leading up to class. How much is enough? “Monitor your pee all day,” says Bryant. If it’s apple cider colored, starting chugging. If it’s looking light lemonade, you’re good to go.
Class might last anywhere from an hour to 90 minutes, says Bassett. So you’ll definitely want to bring some H2O to class, but avoid the temptation to swig gallons—even though it seems like you’re sweating that much. Getting bendy with a sloshy stomach is no fun.
4. Don’t Eat and Flow
As much as you don’t want excess water swirling in your belly as you get your sun salutation on, you definitely don’t want to feel those fish tacos from dinner during a hot yoga class either, says Bassett.
“Give yourself at least two hours between eating a full meal and practicing hot yoga,” she says. “When you’re hot and full of undigested food, it will affect your practice in a bad way.” If you need something before class, stick with a very light snack, like half a banana, says Bassett.
5. Suit Up for Sweat
When you think about the ideal hot yoga ensemble, you probably figure the less clothing the better, right? Just leave the booty shorts behind. “A lot of women wear long yoga pants or capris that cover the knee to prevent slipping,” says Bassett. When you’re super-sweaty, certain poses will feel harder to hold if you’re wearing shorts, she says.
Above the waist, a t-shirt or tank will do just fine, but Bassett recommends using a special yoga towel on top of your mat that grips on the bottom and keeps you from face-planting when you’re dripping everywhere.
6. Check Yo’self Before You Wreck Yo’self
Since exercising in hot environments increases your risk for heat exhaustion, look out for excess thirst, headache, nausea, muscle cramps, and dizziness. “If you experience any of these symptoms, you need to get out of the heat, cool down, and hydrate,” says Bryant.
He also suggests newbies start out with a class on the cooler side (like 85 degrees instead of 100), and one that’s shorter (30 minutes versus 90). “It takes most healthy people 10 to 14 days to acclimate to heat stress,” he says. Take breaks throughout class and modify poses when you need to.
“It’s important to remember that there’s no finish line in yoga,” says Bassett. “Honor your body, its strengths, its limitations, and injuries. Have patience with your practice.” In other words, keep those handstands on lockdown until you’re ready.