hot yoga benefits|yogi surprise

The Hot Yoga Debate: Is It Actually Good for You?

Hot Yoga is the practice of yoga in a heated room. It's typically practiced in heat that is 100 degrees or higher. If you just said, "Yikes, no f'ing way could I do that," I'm with you. I've tried many times and finally landed smack dab on not for me. But there are many who absolutely live for it and there are legit reasons why. Let's discuss.

Facts about Hot Yoga

Hot Yoga, aside from happening in an extremely heated room, is often thought of interchangeably with Bikram Yoga. This is a common mistake. The high temperature is the defining component, not the sequence. Many styles of yoga utilize high heat to accompany the style. These include Baptist Yoga, Barkan Method, and Modo Yoga.

Reasons for practicing in a very heated room

Advocates of Hot Yoga feel very strongly about the remarkable benefits they've personally derived from practicing in the extreme heat and sweating profusely while doing yoga. They describe it as life-changing. Here are the main hard-core benefits if this practice is something you're either currently enjoying or interested in trying:

  • It's mentally challenging. If you've never tried it, the only way to find out for sure if it's right for you is to give it a go. But there's no denying that getting through a 60 or 90-minute class is hard as hell. Putting up with the sweat and the difficulty in breathing is a big part of the payoff according to long-time practitioners. Knowing you can persevere has lasting positive effects.
  • It can help with finding calm in the midst of the constant storms that cross our paths. Staci McCool, owner of Bluespot Yoga in Columbus, Ohio offers both Barkan Method and a variation on Bikram Yoga called Hot 26. She is firmly rooted in the Hot Yoga camp and articulately explains why. "It trains your brain to breathe before you react. How? For one, it's uncomfortable. It's hot and you're holding poses. And all you want the instructor to do is crack the damn door. But she won't. And you learn to let the sweat drip, your hair to fall in your face, and you find stillness."

Hot Yoga isn't for everyone

Staci McCool acknowledges this, as do many other hot yoga advocates. How does one figure out if it's not the right fit? First, identify your goals via yoga. Start with these questions:

  1.  Do I practice for strength, discipline, and to challenge myself? If yes, and the heat just feels too oppressive to you, there other styles of yoga that will offer you the above benefits and not require that you practice in a sauna. But if you enjoy sweating, you'll probably dig Hot Yoga once you get used to it and learn to breathe through it.
  2. Do I prefer a comforting, gentle practice that offers me ease, nurture, and a calming environment? If yes, go for a warm room (between 78-85 degrees).
  3. Do I get light-headed and feel dehydrated often? If either or both of these describe you, Hot Yoga is probably not the best practice for you. Those who regularly practice get used to hydrating before class and getting enough water after to replace electrolytes. But if you know you don't handle heat well, try a Vinyasa or Ashtanga class to build heat internally without overdoing it.
  4. Am I highly inflexible? If yes, practicing in a hot room will help with the pliability of your muscles and tendons. However, it's important to make sure you're not going too far. If you have any degree of hypermobility in your joints, be careful. The extremely hot room can make it even easier to go deeper. This is not a great idea for everyone. And yoga, in general, will help with increased flexibility even in a room-temperature space.

Bottom line, yo

Hot Yoga is fine for some and not so much for others. It's a matter of preference, goals, health, and what attracts you. If you love it, then do it. If you can't stand it, there are other ways to satisfy your desire to challenge yourself. I've most definitely given it many chances to seduce me and it only repels me further. And for those who just dig it so very hard, I'm so happy it exists for you. It's good for you if you feel positive effects. If it just pisses you off, no need to force it.

yoga arm balances benefits|yogi surprise

Yoga Arm Balances: The Benefits and Reasons We Want to Do Them So Badly

The first time I saw Crow Pose (Bakasana), I was pissed that the pose even existed. It was surprising to me that yoga arm balances were even a thing. I didn't know much about yoga, and arm balances hit me hard because I knew it would take a lot of practice to be able to achieve them one day.

I remember thinking, "Oh my stars, I will never be able to do this pose. How is it possible that in a class of twenty people, I'm the only one who can't do it?" Everyone else lifted into it so seemingly easily. It was dumbfounding. If everyone else could do it, how hard could it actually be? Um, turns out the answer is pretty damn hard. And acknowledging that is crucial if you want to pursue these postures.

Yoga arm balances are flat out cool. We desperately want to be able to pull them off.

There are a lot of benefits to arm balances. But do they really deserve the amount of attention we give them? Are the benefits that valuable?

The answer is complicated. It all depends on your goals and what you think is worthy of your time and dedication. It also very much depends on your health. If you have chronic shoulder, elbow, wrist, and hand injuries or pain, should yoga arm balances be a part of your practice?

Let's examine the benefits first

  • Strength. Yoga arm balances are highly effective in developing strength in the core, arms, hands, shoulders, wrists, and back. Being strong protects us and makes our bodies more efficient. Strength is important.
  • Confidence. When something initially isn't possible and we work for it, the biggest gift is the confidence in ourselves that we develop. When our hard work pays off, we feel really good about our dedication and commitment. It's not so easy to appreciate the things that come easy. We begin to believe in ourselves in more meaningful ways.
  • Learning from failure. To try, fail, try again, fail again, change your strategy, and eventually succeed is life changing. It helps us develop a mental toughness we can't gain otherwise. Not giving up and being willing to alter our approach teaches us that we can accomplish our goals. The effort is necessary for success.

Addressing yoga arm balances and injury

Injuries are quite the teacher. It's the rare adult who's never had even a minor injury to contend with. Some injuries happen because of accidents. And others happen when we push ourselves too far or ignore what our bodies are warning us against. So how can someone with an injury still benefit from arm balances?

Postures are shapes. We contort our bodies constantly. Let's take a look at Crow Pose. You can do the shape of the pose laying on your back and receive lots of benefits and information. It can also be done perching on a block or lifting only one foot to feel the strengthing actions necessary as we develop our muscle memory.

The most important thing is to let injuries heal. We have to learn from them and take a different approach to our practice to protect an injured area. Prioritizing our health and keeping ourselves safe is the choice we need to make to be able to continue to practice.

Reasons students crave arm balances

Obviously, not everyone cares about yoga arm balances. Lots of people do yoga for stress relief, restoration, and to stretch and move their bodies. Plenty of students don't have arm balances and inversions as a part of their practice and they're so good with that. But for those who do care, it's important to know the reasons beyond the benefits stated above.

  • Ego. You saw that coming. But we don't need to always demonize our egos. Everyone has one and our egos can help motivate us to try new things and desire goal obtainment. Yoga arm balances are challenging, dynamic, and difficult postures. The ability to pull them off feels good. That's really okay.
  • The need to challenge ourselves. It is a need for many of us. We want to see what we're capable of. Arm balances and inversions represent a challenge. They help us face our fears. They give us a sense of power over our bodies and control.
  • The feeling we take with us after our practice. Trying new things has long-lasting effects. Being exposed to poses we've never tried is exciting and opens our minds to the vastness of a yoga practice. Overcoming obstacles is vital. And knowing we can do it is key.

The most important takeaway is knowing what we value and why. If this is a practice that's important to you, stick with it. Seek out instructors who are experienced in teaching arm balances and be willing to change your approach. Remember the quote, "Practice and all is coming." ~Sri K Pattabhi Jois