Hot yoga has been an, er, hot fitness trend for a while now, and that's because it's a challenging but fun way to give your muscles a good old stretch, and give your mind a rest from the mentalness of everyday life. If you've never tried it before, the thought of stretching in a very hot room probably seems a bit daunting, so here are some tips to ensure you turn up prepared:
This is important for your peace of mind, and also admin reasons. Good yoga studios will want you to fill out a form so they know your details and basic medical history - this is also a good chance to have a chat to your instructor with any questions you might have, point out any injuries you might be suffering with, and make them aware how new to hot yoga you are. That way they can keep an eye on you during the class.
It's, like, really hot
In case you didn't guess from the name 'hot yoga', I'm telling you now - the room you'll be in is basically like a big sauna. Try to go and sit in the room for a few minutes before the class is due to start so you can set your mat and towel up and get comfortable - do this towards the back of the room, so you can watch what the more experienced people at the front are doing - then have a sit or lie down and try to acclimatise to the temperature.
The injured are welcome
The series of Bikram yoga poses were choreographed for their healing properties, so - within reason - a lot of injuries can benefit from hot yoga. The excessive temperature gets your blood moving faster, and as soon as you come out of a pose it will flush out areas that have been constricted. By this logic, any niggling knee injuries, for example, will benefit by being flushed out much more intensely than if you were stretching at room temperature. In addition, warm muscles will also stretch more, helping any tightness. I personally found hot yoga really helped with a running injury I had been suffering with for some time, but just be wary of how far you push yourself with stretches to avoid doing any more damage.
Wear minimal clothing
It's likely that when you walk into the yoga studio, there'll be a few people basically wearing underwear. This is because you will probably sweat more than you ever have before - even my shins were squeezing out beads of sweat (I know this because at one point I was having to try to put my face on them). You don't have to go that far if you're not comfortable with showing so much skin, but please don't turn up in bulky tracksuit bottoms or a long-sleeved top because you'll be so uncomfortable. Normal sweat-wicking gym gear is all good.
Various websites suggest trying to drink at least a litre of water about an hour before your class is due to start (you don't have to down it in one go) so it has time to get into your system. The same goes for food; don't turn up on an empty stomach as you're likely to feel weak, but don't turn up full. Bring water with you - I wouldn't go for squash or juice as they'll likely make you want to vom - but don't chug a whole load while you're in there, as feeling it sloshing around when you're trying to stretch your body in unlikely ways is also likely to make you feel ill. Just take small sips between stretches - but be aware that some teachers are quite strict about not breaking poses to have a drink.
Sit down when you need to
Even the experienced bendy people have to sit out of a few stretches now and again, so no one will judge you if you need to do the same - especially during your first class. If you start feeling a bit panicked or dizzy, just sit on your mat and concentrate on breathing calmly through your nose until your breathing goes back to normal. It's unlikely you'll be able to put your all into every single stretch for a while - I certainly can't - just be pleased with yourself if you manage to give some of them a go, and stay in the room for the duration of the class (generally 90 or 60 minutes).
It's not all about 'omms'
If you're not into the meditative spiritual side of yoga, just ask beforehand and gauge how much of a focus there is on it. Classes I've been to have had none of this, you're just asked to keep quiet in the room so everyone can concentrate on their stretches. If you are looking for more meditation, there'll be plenty of classes around that offer it.
Don't schedule any dates for at least an hour after the class has finished
Your hair will be so sweaty you'll look like you've just got out of the shower, and it's likely your face will be a shade of tomato for quite some time afterwards. But, trust me, you'll feel GREAT.