A Sweaty Guy’s Guide to Hot Yoga

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I got the text on Thursday: “Any interest in hot yoga on Saturday? 8 a.m. I’ve got an extra pass.”

I had heard of this steamy art but always passed for two reasons:

1. Hot

Heat isn’t my favorite. I like to keep my apartment at a cool 65°F every day of the year. And there’s no need to accelerate my sweat; I’m sweating right now. Yes, right now, whenever you read this, I am sweating.

2. Yoga

I’ve tried yoga, but it never stuck. There was too much of a barrier to entry from my core strength (bad) to the nuanced language (Siri, translate: One-Legged King Pigeon Pose II).

But then I remembered the two most important words of her text:

3. Extra Pass

Basically, I can’t turn down anything free.

I responded to the text later on Thursday: “Sounds good, see you there.”

From my experience with heat and yoga, I knew a little bit of prep was in order. I canceled my plans for Friday night (FYI: alcohol dehydrates) and did some meaningless stretching at my apartment.

I woke up early, threw on my standard gym clothes and put the studio into Google Maps. It was only a few blocks away! I headed out and skipped my normal coffee (FYI: coffee dehydrates). Instead, I picked up the cheapest coconut water from the nearest store, which promised to get me “full of water.”

Feeling good, I strode over to the studio and spotted my yoga friend Julie Ann, of 5 Basic Stress-Busters fame.

We entered the studio, a three-story shrine to yoga, where you can do any kind, including:*

  • Vinyasa
  • Hot
  • Ashtanga
  • Odwalla
  • Iyengar

*Bonus points: Guess which one is not an actual practice.

We were, of course, there for hot yoga and made our way to the designated room. Julie Ann stopped me before entering, “Um, you probably want to take your shoes and socks off.”

Shoes and socks were placed gently in a cubby, after a nervous look around for cubby kleptos, and we entered the room.

It was pitch black and incredibly hot. My entire body immediately burst into sweat as I stumbled over another person’s mat. Julie Ann guided me to a safe corner with a mat, block, eucalyptus-infused cool towel and an old-fashioned dry towel. This would be my home for the next 60 minutes.

We began our practice, and the heat, chanting and general physical activity triggered a bit of a hallucination. It’s taken me a week to fully gather my thoughts. These are my “Sweaty Six” takeaways:

1. Wear more deodorant than is socially acceptable.

I don’t care what the advertisement says. Your “48-hour freshness” will be done before your mat’s unrolled. Coat yourself like a middle-schooler after gym class. Turn yourself into a perfume aisle. Swipe not once, not twice, but three times.

2. This is the time for compression.

You’re moving your body (and parts of your body) in forbidden ways, and when times get tough, you need to know there’s stability at home. Keep the fancy boxers in the drawer.

3. Find a mat in the back behind someone who seems to know what they’re doing.

The front is reserved for falcons. Head to the back, and sit behind anyone with confidence (see: already there meditating, chatting up instructor or custom mat with gold initials). There are going to be moves that sound and look like a horrible curse from “Harry Potter,” and a human mirror will be helpful. Be careful about staring too much, though.

4. Maintain a low-fiber diet in the 48 hours prior.

No further comment.

5. Don’t freak out if you get deep.

Hot yoga sprinkles in moments of meditation amid extreme exertion. This intense introspection takes your mind down some paths, where you’ll find yourself remembering a locker combination from middle school (or hopefully something more profound).

6. “Do not attempt the wheel.”

After 20 minutes, you’ll think you’re in space. The class is literally flying around you (see: front-row falcons), and once your muscles loosen and the endorphins kick in, you want to fly, too.

The instructor had just instructed us to “…ease into wheel.” Julie Ann turned to me and said, “Don’t even try.”

As they say in yoga, don’t let your ego take over. You might get caught up in the moment and want to dive into a new move or up-level, but be careful. Only do moves that you have the correct foundation to enter. Do bridge before wheel, and remember that there’s always child’s pose.

Our session ended, and my body and mind were wiped. I paid respect to the front-row falcons, furiously blinked my contact lenses back into place and scurried to the locker room.

I stood in the shower for a long time, trying to diagnose what was water and what was sweat. Julie Ann and I got breakfast, where I’m pretty sure I exclusively discussed how “water tastes really good when you’re thirsty.”

I was a totally clean slate, free of pretty much any thought: good, bad, happy, sad. WebMD has told me this is the post-yoga fog or polio and recommends 6–8 weeks of antibiotics.

The day (and my life) eventually swept back over me, and I was faced with the age-old question: Did I like hot yoga?

Answer: Yes and no.

Hot yoga is very strenuous. (Still sore, whenever you’re reading this, I’m still sore — and I’m probably sweating). It might be better to start with something easier and then graduate to hot yoga. Learn the moves, begin to understand your body and then enter hot yoga with a purpose.

It’ll be truly rewarding that way.

Surprise hot yoga, with no prep or idea of what it actually is even though it’s free, should never be a thing.

Start slow. Stay hydrated. Namaste.

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