Hot for Yoga

Get Your Sweat On At High Noon in the Jungle


“You understand it’s not a tantric sex workshop, right?” I asked my husband.

He’d just agreed to come with me to a hot yoga class.

“I know,” he laughed. Disappointment flashed briefly across his face.

“It’s yoga,” I said. “But the room is really hot. So you sweat a lot.”

“Got it,” he said. “I’ve done yoga before.”

Yeah, I thought, but you haven’t done yoga at high noon in the jungle. Or in a bread oven. This is a little different.

Hot yoga is everywhere. Some people are doing it as a regular practice. Athletes are doing it as cross training. People with injuries are doing it as part of recovery. While there are different approaches, the idea is that doing yoga with increased body temperature allows for deeper postures, greater flexibility and release of toxins. The studio temperature hovers around 40C, and the humidity is high. Bottom line: things get intense and things get sticky.    

I’d done hot yoga once before, about 10 years ago. My first recollection was how good it had made me feel. But, the day before this recent class, I began to get nervous. It’s like what happens in the days before giving birth to your second child. The memory of the joyous aftermath gets edged out by vivid flashbacks of suffering. I saw myself lying helpless on my yoga mat in a pool of my own sweat.

We got to the class early. We’d heard the Friday morning class at Pure Hot Yoga, a new studio in southwest Calgary, was popular. We wanted to get a good spot and, more importantly, acclimatize.

Feeling clever, we brought towels. Not hand towels like you use at the gym. Big towels — big enough to cover the whole mat. That’s a thing in hot yoga — a towel for your mat. Without a towel, your mat turns quickly into a sweat-induced Slip ‘n’ Slide. It didn’t matter that we brought a selection of multi-coloured Hawaii beach towels and enormous bath sheets from the Martha Stewart collection, while everyone else had sleek, fit-for-purpose-mat-sized Lululemon towels. Bottom line . . .  we had towels. In retrospect, what I really needed was a full-body ShamWow.

Within a few minutes of sitting quietly, I started to sweat. My husband noted he forgot to put on deodorant. That was fantastic news. Kristine Murphy, the owner and instructor, welcomed us all. She reminded everyone to take breaks at any time. Step outside the room for a minute if needed. Drink water. The message: listen to your body, and do what feels right.

Then things got going.

The flow was quick. We moved through sun salutations and primary series poses, much like an Ashtanga class. In this class there was music — perfectly flowing contemporary songs. I’d never done yoga to music, and I loved this part. The music provided a place for my mind to go when things got tough. This was essentially all the time.

By minute 12, my heart rate was at 140 b.p.m. Let’s be clear: among other things, this was an intense workout. The women in front of me were glowing lightly. I, on the other hand, was in a full flop sweat. But eventually everyone started to drip.

There was a point where I was bent over looking between my legs; the guy behind me had a steady stream pouring off his head like a faucet. Martha Stewart bath sheet, anyone?  

We sun-salutationed, warriored, balanced and downward-dogged our way through 75 minutes of yoga in a sauna. I had a few points of dizziness and some self-directed child’s pose. But, all in all, it was quite doable (and, let the record show, no one bolted for the door). In the final pose, Shavasana (a.k.a. lying on your back with eyes closed, giving thanks for survival), I let the experience settle in. Someone quietly placed an ice-cold washcloth on my forehead. Sweet mercy. That was a holy moment.

After the class, our bodies drenched, my husband and I agreed we’d be back. I was buzzing with energy. My heart rate was still in the 150s, and my skin was aflame. It was a feeling I’ve never had after a run or a spin. Someone noted the heat takes you deeper. Stuff happens in the body. Don’t label it. Just go with it.

We saw the guy whose head had been pouring like a faucet. He noted it can take a while for the body to cool down, even after showering and the all-important rehydration.  

“I usually drive home with my head out the window,” he said.

My husband and I nodded to each other. Head out the window . . . an excellent idea. Let’s plan to go with that.

Susan Dowse is a Calgary consultant, writer and fitness junkie.