Hot Yoga, as Told by the Sweatiest Person on the Planet

I tried Bikram way once upon a time ago, and really hated it. I bought a Groupon (isn’t that how 90% of people wind up in studio classes?) for 10 classes and never went back after the first one. For a self-admitted cheapskate, that says a lot. The room was chokingly hot and humid with no airflow, and smelled of stale humans before the class even started. Everyone was so serious in their “yoga bikinis”, including the men, which seemed giggle-to-yourself humorous until one of them is doing standing split in front of you. When they tell you to focus on your mat, FOR THE LOVE OF BUDDHA listen and never lift your curious eyes from the floor.

But the thing I hate most about Bikram was how militant it was – from the unsmiling robot yoga patrons to the drill sergeant instructor. Every pose was barked out and executed in bootcamp fashion, and definitely nobody was amused when I let out a “eeeeEEEEP!” as I slowly fell out of Natarajasana (dancer’s pose) ((<— don’t worry, I had to google it)) When I found out that every class was the same structure – 90 minutes of the same exact sequence of 26 poses, I was out of that mess. Shit’s too uncomfortable to be going in without at least the prospectus of a little surprise here and there.

Every time I tell the story of my failed Bikram experience, I get urged to try hot yoga. “It’s just like a regular class, but in a hot room!” “It’s such a good workout – a GOOD sweat!” “Well yeah, they still wear those bikinis…”

Despite the bikinis, I finally headed down to one of the local studios yesterday for a free trial class.

Upon first entering it was like any other yoga studio – a peaceful desk girl checking people in, cubbies for your shoes and stuff, lavender-smelling shit in the bathroom…

I followed a few steps behind a girl that looked like a regular (treading a balance between “creepy” and “I’m new here”) and went through the glass door into the dark room. It was warm but not uncomfortable, with ceiling fans lightly spinning, circulating air that smelled pleasantly unlike human excrement. Great start compared to Bikram. I laid my mat in the back corner by the door, at the tip from Bri who said you might get treated to a breeze during class if someone opens the door.

“They open the door? DURING class??! I watched a guy practically go into a coma at Bikram because they wouldn’t let him leave the room.”

I laid on my mat trying to acclimate my body to the temperature and get used to being in just a sports bra and spandex shorties. Way less than modest me and my beer belly are used to, but after being wrapped in 4lb-drenched capris and a stick-to-you tank in Bikram I succombed to the logic behind the yoga-kinis.

(I’d say the class was split 25-50-25, yoga-kinis : bra/shorties : regular clothes)

A quietly-energetic girl entered the room – announced herself as Carrie and urged us to slowly get into child’s pose, “when we were ready.” She went through a standard announcement of intention – ‘your time on your mat is for YOU and you alone, let go of what your day burdens you with and enjoy this hour you’re spending on YOU’ – I wish I wouldv’e voicenote’d it to set as my morning alarm clock.

We slowly got moving into a few sun salutations and easy vinyasas, Carrie ensuring everyone knew to move at their own pace and listen to their bodies. Despite a low heart rate and not feeling like I was really working, the first sweat droplet crashed off my nose during plank and onto my mat. I checked the clock – 15 minutes in. Considered it a success for Super Sweaty Sarah to make it a 1/4 of the way through before becoming a human leaky faucet.

Except once that first drop broke the seal? “leaky faucet” === “open fire hydrant”

The class was relatively easy, despite not having practiced regularly over the last few months. I never felt a quivering leg in Warrior or the threat of face planting during chatarunga, and we didn’t hold any of the poses long enough to get a good stretch (which my hips desperately needed). But according to the pool of sweat I left behind, it was a good workout.

My towel was 100% soaked, my mat was surely only a few degrees away from melting, and to my sweaty shame horror there somehow was a puddle on the floor underneath all of that. I tried to nonchalantly wipe it with my fully-saturated towel as I picked up my things, but I’m pretty sure whoever cleaned the room between classes needed a shopvac for my corner.

hot yoga after

air drying after hot yoga – peroxide spray and a shower after

Is my sweat hog experience normal? Hard to tell. Probably not. The middle-aged woman next to me in long tights and a tank was lightly glistening, but the hardcore chic up front (yes I broke the “focus on your mat” rule again) definitely had an elbow drip or two during Eagle. I did not see anyone else secretly wiping under-mat muddles after class, though.

Conclusion? It WAS a great sweat – my fingertips were pruny and I felt super skinny after (yay, water weight!) But if the goal is simply a detox, like I could imagine would be beneficial after a round of heavy drinking or bad eating, I’d rather just lay in a sauna. For actual workout purposes, I’ll stick to a fast-paced flow or power class. Give me quivering legs and muscle burn to validate my sweat-stache, please.

Sarah OUaL

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26 thoughts on “Hot Yoga, as Told by the Sweatiest Person on the Planet

  1. Total sweatfest for me too. Pools. Puddles. And it’s game over if we’re doing any pose where my head extends beyond the edge of the mat (think half moon, for example). I should probably bring 2 1/2 extra mats to class – one for each long side, and then half a mat at each end – just to absorb all the extra sweat and keep someone from skating across the floor and busting a tail bone. But I’m like you – if it’s not a fast-paced class, with quivering everything, I’m not interested. If I’m going to lose half my body weight in sweat, I want to know I worked some muscles too. Otherwise, like you said – stick me in a sauna and let me nap! The best is that my hair, by the end of class, looks like I just stepped out of the shower. Literally dripping from root to tip – and I have a lot, and it’s long – past my bra in back. So that’s fun. And attractive. And not at all embarrassing. At least you lasted 15 minutes till you broke the seal. I’m lucky if I make it 7. Hope you find a hot vinyasa flow class you like – and happy sweating!!!

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  2. I started sweating in the lobby of a hot yoga place. This prompted me to run out of there and maybe go to the cupcake place across the street. Though your experience with the men in the yogakini makes the grunters I get stuck with seem much less offensive.

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  3. Have you tried Baptiste power yoga? It’s a power flow style done in a 95* room (so 10* less than Bikram). Like this class it’s very much about going at your own pace, trying things and not being afraid to do something new/fall out of a pose. I love my studio. And yes, I sweat like a freaking maniac. DISGUSTING. But it also makes me feel so renewed!

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  4. The hot yoga place I go to has “power vinyasa” classes that are a workout as well as in the hot room, as well as hatha yoga where you stretch for ages. I think the main point of the heat is that you can stretch more than you usually do – so I really like going to hatha yoga and getting super flexy, but all my friends like getting sweaty in power yoga so I usually end up doing that. If you need to stretch I really recommend the hot hatha yoga, since it makes you more flexible and you’ll be able to get a better stretch!

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  5. I sweat like a beast in those classes – I tried a free week at a local studio and learned the heat varies depending on how many people are in class. One class I was detoxing and the next I was literally slipping and sliding all the over the place. That same class, the woman in front of me barely broke a sweat in full pants. I don’t get it but the moral of the story here is – you are not alone in your sweat waterfall. Place I never knew COULD sweat did.

    I agree that it’s a good sweat but I’m also not on the boat of paying a ton of money for it.

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  6. I completely agree with you. Hot yoga just made me uncomfortable in a hot room. I wasn’t sweating from the workout, just the heat. I definitely prefer power yoga. My sister swears by Bikram, but i’m too ADD and OCD to do 90 minutes of un-fun poses over and over again.

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  7. This sounds like absolute torture. I am the sweatiest person in the room in any indoor workout class…which is one of the many reasons why I run and don’t do much else.

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  8. Okay, I do yoga at the YWCA and with YouTube videos… but I’d never HEARD of a “yoga-kini” before! Hilarious! (and a little appalling). I do finally “get” the need for sorta-yoga-specific clothes (did my last class in a too-short race T-shirt and saw way more of my belly button than I needed to), but that’s really funny. Pretty sure hot yoga is not for super-sweaty me — if I wanted to get that sweaty (spoiler: I don’t), I could just hang out in the sauna at the Y.

    Sounds like an interesting experience… but also sounds like you should maybe keep looking for your perfect yoga class.

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  9. Pingback: @SarahOUaL: #HotYoga, as Told by the #Sweatiest Person on the Planet (#Bikram) | castellani | brian castellani

  10. Did you go to Radiant Hot Yoga?? LOVE. I think I went to the same bikram place you tried the first time (at the camp) and I agree, it wasn’t my favorite. My cousin wanted to try it though, so when a Groupon came out for Radiant Yoga we pounced. LOVE it. they play cool music and the teachers are great. I definitely rock my short shorts but I wear a tank top. Nobody wants to see *THAT*. Let me know if you want to join us at class some time, Thursdays are free for newbies!

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  11. I’ve always wanted to try hot yoga… I don’t have a yoga studio anywhere close though… about an hour away and I don’t have the time… I just do regular yoga at home in front of the tv… sometimes I play around with different poses outside on a nice day and really enjoy it! I just started yoga about 1 1/2 months ago! :)

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  12. Recommend CorePower Yoga’s Hot Power Fusion if you want the HOT yoga experience without the militant attitude. 60 minutes and a totally welcoming atmosphere. Dozens of studios in SoCal.

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  13. I am both afraid and horribly curious to know what a yogakini looks like. I tried hot yoga once and your experience sounds like mine. As someone who is capable of sweating in regular old cold yoga studios – let’s just say it was disgusting. Take comfort: apparently fitter people sweat more than less fit ones…

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  14. I tried hot yoga for the first time last year… I felt like you the first few classes- good, but not too challenging. Well, it was challenging not to slip in my own pool of sweat. Another essential is a decent headband- my first class, I had to come out of poses because the sweat in my eyes was like trying to run through rain! I finally tried some of the vinyasa/asana/flow style hot yoga, and loved it! Regular flow has nothing on the rush to your head while twisting and turning, and breathing. I think it made me a better runner too. Enjoy!

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