Hot yoga has its origins in India, a country well known for longevity.
The explanations for this long life expectancy are said to revolve around the ability to achieve an equal balance between physical and spiritual wellness.
This is one of the reasons that yoga plays such a big part in the lives of the Indian population and why you should learn about how it can help you.
For the majority of adults, life can be stressful.
Often you try to juggle work and family life, or perhaps even battle with mental health issues.
Not only that, wherever you work, office, factory or even outdoors, much of your day is likely spent either stationary, or doing repetitive movements, sometimes in a less-than-ideal environment.
All of these factors inevitably take their toll on your body. It is easy to develop poor posture habits and become overweight or unfit.
Mentally, you may become stale too. Sadly, many people find themselves feeling lethargic and disinterested in life.
Hot yoga is a perfect way to remove yourself entirely from the constraints of life’s stressful environment; an opportunity to completely unwind and renew your energy.
Hot yoga represents so much more than just a way to exercise due to the way it seamlessly combines both physical and mental benefits.
What is Hot Yoga?
Hot yoga is most definitely NOT a fad!
The practices we teach in our classes and our retreats go back many hundreds of years.
Unfortunately, it has only been in relatively recent times that the Western world has started to see and feel the benefits of them.
If you don’t already practice yoga, you’re in for a treat.
If you do, hot yoga can bring a whole new level to your practice.
Put into very simple terms, hot yoga is a formatted pattern of movements, completed in a set period of time, which are undertaken in a very specific indoor environment.
This combination of factors has a whole host of health benefits and will not only improve the strength and flexibility of your body, it will also teach you to relax and clear your busy mind.
The History of Hot Yoga
Using yoga techniques as a form of exercise is far from new – the history of hot yoga actually began hundreds of years ago in India.
Using these same movements as a form of exercise is not a modern invention. A large part of India is either tropical or sub-tropical, which means that temperatures through the year rarely fall below 80F and can go beyond 120F through the summer months.
Hot yoga began as a truly organic activity due, in part, to the local climate.
Yoga, as we first knew it, did not really come to the attention of most of the Western world until the 1970s, when it achieved a reasonable level of popularity following Richard Hittleman’s TV series ‘Yoga For Health’.
Inevitably, a lot of yoga ‘experts’ jumped on the bandwagon which led to a spate of evening classes and other similar events.
The concept of hot yoga, practised in its original format, did not really emerge until Indian-born Bikram Choudhury moved to the United States.
Here he found it virtually impossible to attain the same levels of flexibility and focus in the much colder climate. He overcame this by moving high-powered heaters into his studio and hot yoga as we know it was ‘invented’.
When students switched their existing yoga practices to the hot yoga methods, they were impressed with the rapid results and quickly became avid fans.
The UK and Europe were even slower on the uptake. Hot yoga classes did not become a reality until 1999. Twenty years later it has now become one of the country’s fastest-growing forms of intense exercise.
Types of Hot Yoga
The most commonly practised version of hot yoga is Bikram. This was the style developed by Bikram Choudhury in the early 1970s, following his lifelong practice of performing yoga in hot, humid climates.
It is considered the most disciplined form, with every class lasting a set 90 minutes, following the same movement patterns and with specified room conditions. This format is strictly adhered to by many qualified Bikram Yoga instructors, so a class anywhere in the world should be identical.
Naturally, numerous Bikram Yoga copycats have put in an appearance and many other versions of hot yoga have emerged over the years.
Most have not achieved the same level of followers as Bikram, but those that are still regularly practised include:
Forrest Yoga, which began in 1982 and features less intense movements than Bikram. Each pose is held for a long period of time with a higher emphasis on slow stretching and breathing.
Core Power Yoga, first seen in 2002, is the complete opposite to the Forrest version. It concentrates mainly on vigorous movements and also brings in elements from other disciplines.
Moksha Yoga aka ‘Green Yoga’ is the closest in format to Bikram, although with higher accentuation on movements and sounds representing nature. This makes it more akin to Tai Chi.
Baptiste Power Vinyasa Yoga is the most diverse form. It uses different parts of several formats and offers a number of variations on the theme.
Ritual Hot Yoga (the style we teach) is a new version of hot yoga that totally changes the way that hot yoga is both taught and experienced.
Created by Lindsey Kaalberg, Ritual Hot Yoga was born out of frustration with the Yoga industry and the ‘guru’ mentality that exists within Yoga. At Ritual you will soon see the difference.
Our teachers are all professional, full-time staff and our class sizes are kept small. Ritual uses the most effective techniques from all the types of Yoga there is and these are bound together through breathing to the beat.
It is this exciting concept of inhaling and exhaling to the beat helps you to control your breathing and maximises the benefits of Yoga.
Ritual blends the experience of a luxury spa with the ancient philosophies of yoga to create an experience that has people raving.
How is Hot Yoga Different to Other Types of Yoga?
There is certainly nothing wrong with practising any sort of yoga, providing the movements are performed in a relaxed environment and are completed correctly.
Unfortunately, it is sometimes these two requirements that cause the most problems for many people.
If you have ever tried learning from a book, a DVD or online instructor, you will know exactly what this means. Trying to watch, or read, someone performing a movement, and then achieve it yourself isn’t easy.
There’s also no one there to make sure you have the correct form at all times.
Worse still, can be attending a class in a cold town hall or noisy local gym.
Mediocre instruction fails to provide an enjoyable, beneficial experience and you may finish the class feeling less relaxed than you were before it and certainly not invigorated.
In the worst-case scenario, injuries are possible.
This is where hot yoga (and especially Ritual Hot Yoga) is different, whether you choose a mixed class, a one-to-one session, or devote some time out for yourself at one of our retreats.
All our classes and retreats are focused on exercising in a comfortable environment, with qualified instructors
What are the Benefits of Hot Yoga?
There are multiple benefits to practising hot yoga, but it is the principles behind it that ultimately define them. There are three main factors involved: the combination of heat/humidity in the exercise environment, the movements themselves and focus/breathing techniques.
Heat and humidity have a huge effect on the way the body operates.
Muscles are warmed and able to perform more efficiently, then capillaries become dilated and send oxygen more efficiently around the body.
The pulse rate is raised, more calories are used, and circulation dramatically improves.
Once the body starts to sweat in an attempt to keep cool, toxins are released through the skin. The heat and humidity of the room promotes ‘all over’ sweating, which further encourages organs, such as the liver and kidneys, to detoxify too.
The movements themselves are not only designed to stretch muscles, they also improve posture and promote core strength, which is believed to aid colonic function.
The movements, when combined with deep breathing techniques, allow the mind to focus and become synchronized with the body.
This in turn releases endorphins. This process is described by experienced practitioners as feeling akin to a deep state of meditation.
Who Should Try Hot Yoga?
We like to say “everybody” should try hot yoga, simply because the benefits are so far-reaching and not at all restricted by age, sex or size.
Hot yoga is not a walk in the park though. If you’re not an experienced yoga practitioner, you should expect to feel challenged by your classes. If you find it easy straight away, something isn’t quite right!
If you have not tried hot yoga before, there are few pieces of advice you should take on board to maximise your enjoyment of the experience and avoid any discomfort.
First and foremost, wear comfortable sports clothing – you’re going to get very sweaty during a session.
Avoid eating for a couple of hours before your class, a full stomach will quickly become uncomfortable. Don’t drink any alcohol or you will dehydrate.
Bringing water is a must for the session. However, don’t drink too much immediately before a class, excess water swirling around in your very hot stomach will not be a pleasant sensation and may even make you feel ‘seasick’. (At Ritual Hot Yoga you are supplied with bottled water for each session)
Always approach your classes with the attitude of being able to achieve a little more each time. You’re not going to become a hot yoga expert overnight and there will be days when you seem to have setbacks. Always try to focus on the bigger picture, rather than on any small failure.
Etiquette is important in hot yoga classes, in terms of how you should respond if you are having difficulties or need to take a break.
For example, it could be as simple as taking a specific relaxed posture to indicate you are on a ‘timeout’. Be led by your instructor on this point, as etiquette may vary a little between different classes.
Make sure you’re aware of your specific class’s habits in this respect.
We do need to mention some specific conditions where we would advise abstinence from hot yoga sessions without the advice of a medical professional. The following people will need to talk to their doctor before starting a course:
- Pregnant ladies
- Those with high blood pressure, or coronary conditions
- Anyone who has had a recent surgical procedure
There are no doubt exceptions and workarounds to every condition on the list. But, if you do fall into any of these categories, take medical advice before joining in a hot yoga session.
How to Start Hot Yoga
Hot yoga is not just another ’exercise class’ – it is much more of an all-round, holistic experience. Our ethos is that it should be thought of in this way by students and instructors alike.
The best way for you to start might be by joining a group session in an experienced class. At Ritual Hot Yoga we offer a 10 day unlimited session trial that allows you to experience Hot Yoga to see if it is for you.
Because of the very specific temperature and humidity conditions needed, which form a big part of the hot yoga principles, it is difficult to replicate them at home. It is also essential that the movements and breathing are carried out in the correct way, which is hard to do while watching a video or trying to learn online or from a book.
Not only is it important to have an instructor that knows the format of the exercises, it’s important he/she explains the etiquette and is trained to observe students’ capabilities. Such an instructor knows the signs of a student that needs to take a rest, an important part of your progression and learning.
Hot yoga is a system designed to benefit the body and the mind. As such, the practice is holistic and demanding. Thousands of people practise hot yoga and enjoy the improvements it brings to their lives. If you think it may be for you, take the first steps today to get involved.
Contact us with any questions you have, or if you feel you are ready to book your very first session. A truly transformational journey awaits you. In as little as a month from now, your mind and body can be improved beyond your expectations.
Thanks for reading