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Yoga for beginners: could hot yoga be for you?

March 19th 2015 / Ayesha Muttucumaru Google+ Ayesha Muttucumaru

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In the second of our series, our resident yoga newbie signs up for a 30 day pass to hot yoga...

If yoga conjures up images of just a whole lot of stretching, chanting and breathing in a room for 60 minutes, then Hotpod Yoga could be the class that changes those preconceptions for good.

A step up from regular Vinyasa Yoga, but not as scorching a setting as Bikram, the classes provided the next level when it came to my expanding yoga routine.

Needless to say, I caught the Hotpod bug when I signed up for a 30 day membership. Here why...

The facts

What is Hotpod Yoga?

“I set up Hotpod Yoga in 2013 with my friend Max and I’ve practiced Hotpod Yoga every day since,” says Nick Higgins, Hotpod Yoga Co-founder and yoga instructor. “Our innovative, heated inflatable studios can be put up anywhere and we now have them all over the country, including three studios in London, as well as internationally. The Hotpod Yoga philosophy is to stay true to traditional yoga but not make it too prescriptive; we practice hot Vinyasa Yoga and allow the teacher and each individual person to put forth their own personality and interpretations of the sequences. It’s not meant to be competitive but rather an enjoyable experience.”

Why 37 degrees?

“This is what we consider to be the optimum heat to aid flexibility (by warming up the muscles) and for sweating out toxins and improving the heart rate,” explains Nick. “We wanted to avoid extreme heat that can make people feel faint. We don’t believe there to be any benefit from greater heat.

“Highly physical, intensely sweaty but still peaceful, the one-hour Hotpod Yoga classes will get the heart working, rid you of toxins and strengthen, tone and stretch your muscles to their core.”

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The hot yoga benefits

“Perhaps the most notable thing about the physical benefits of yoga is the breadth and balance,” comments Nick. “While yoga of all sorts will significantly improve flexibility, posture and balance, specific forms will also enable you to target specific physical needs. Hot yoga, for example, raises heart rate significantly, ensuring a real cardio workout - and providing great health benefits for the heart. Higher paced forms such as Vinyasa can provide a serious aerobic workout - working the whole body and driving significant engagement with the breath. So, there really are a huge range of benefits, whether you're looking for weight loss, flexibility, better joints, better toning, stronger core, better posture, better balance, a cardio workout or an aerobic one.”

Nick’s top tips if you’re a beginner

“The whole point in Hotpod Yoga that it is suitable for all, so even if you are a yoga novice, you are still welcome. The classes are designed so you can choose the more challenging poses if you want, but absolutely don’t have to. Both men and women can relate to the health and fitness benefits of yoga. We run Hotpod Yoga training classes with Harlequins Rugby club, helping them to quickly recover from injuries and any aches and pains and build their strength. They appreciate the benefits for the mind too.

“My top tip for beginners is not to worry about others in the class - focus on yourself. You won't get it first time, no one does! But plug away, and the penny will begin to drop - you'll see yourself progress gradually and don't hurry that. It's a natural process of progression and you can't force your body or mind to change faster than it wants to! Relax, smile and enjoy!”

My hot yoga newbie diary

Week 1: Feeling hot and bothered

My first week of hot yoga was a serious shock to the system. Having done Vinyasa Yoga for a month before, I thought I would at least have some sort of advantage to use. Boy, was I wrong.

Set in their own inflatable, lilac-lit, cocoon-like studios, you can’t help but automatically switch off as soon as you step inside. However, to say I broke into a sweat 10 minutes later is an understatement - suffice to say, I broke the whole freaking dam.

Although familiar with the yoga poses, doing them in that sort of heat proved to be something I wasn’t prepared for. With every Sun Salutation feeling more and more literal each time, I felt like a beginner all over again at that first class.

However, Nick’s words of wisdom ring true and if there’s one piece of advice that I could give for fellow newbies during their first week, it’s this: don’t be as hard on yourself as I was! My biggest mistake was thinking that I would be able to continue at the same level as I did in my previous heat-free classes. View it as a new type of yoga altogether and be patient: it seriously takes some time to adapt to the heat and the Hotpod Yoga instructors are fantastic at ensuring that you only push yourself as far as you are able to.

While the heat does some amazing things in helping you become more limber, make sure to practice restraint to avoid injury. For me, two classes in that first week proved to be the best number for ensuring that I had a good introduction, while also allowing my body the time it needed to recover.

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Week 2: Beating the heat

I did use to be able to do a Full Wheel....but I think it dissolved in the heat, along with my makeup at the start of week two. However, this particular set of sessions proved pivotal in viewing the heat as an ally and not an enemy.

Extending my routine to 3 classes this week, I used the heat to my advantage for a degree of extra suppleness to bend and stretch that little bit further. So much so that I was able to hold Crow’s Pose and a Full Wheel at the end of the week again. This was more like it. The mixture of challenging routines and meditation was making for a truly multi-faceted workout, the likes of which I hadn’t tried before.

MORE GLOSS: Could meditation hold the key to a healthier and more stress-free life?

Week 3: “If you can’t change your circumstances, you can change your perspective”

My mindset is what received the greatest makeover this week following a hugely motivating class with Hotpod’s Hayley Mia. My biggest hurdle when it comes to any type of exercise is finding the fitness motivation to push myself and take a step out of my comfort zone. However, something seemed to switch when Hayley said, “If you can’t change your circumstances, you can change your perspective,” during my first class of the week.

From “can’t do” to “can do,” my attitude took a much more positive stance and I found myself trusting my body more, making small but effective changes literally and figuratively to my points of focus and surprising myself when I was able to hold a Full Wheel for two rounds of 10 seconds consistently throughout the week.

Celebrating the little victories was particularly encouraging, without losing sight of course of the areas which were still in need of some improvement. My hips and lower back still possessed the flexibility of an ironing board and my one-leg balances and side planks were continuing to shake like a Polaroid picture...however, my sleep had definitely started to improve, my arms were noticeably more toned and I felt much more calmer than I had in months.

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Week 4: Loving the heat

It’s the last week and I’ve grown to love my Hotpod Yoga classes. Tough but rewarding, they’ve been a complete workout for both body and mind. I’m not quite at the stage where I can do a headstand or a Standing Splits pose where my leg reaches higher than a 90 degree angle(!) however, considering where I started (read: real life Thunderbird), the improvements have been incredibly motivating. My transitions between postures are smoother and less strained, I’m able to quiet my mind with less effort, my stomach, arms and legs are more toned and being present isn’t the struggle it used to be.

Providing a great way to help counteract a day hunched over a desk and reset the positioning of my rounded shoulders, I will definitely be returning to the heat in the not too distant future and would recommend it to anyone in a heartbeat: from beginners to experts. Just ensure to go at your own pace and be patient with yourself as your body learns to adapt.

MORE GLOSS: 6 morning yoga poses guaranteed to transform your day

The hot yoga ‘It’ kit

1. Lululemon Wild Free To Be Bra, £42: the perfect light support bra for the more modestly busted among us, with the coolest strappy back that looks great under a loose-fitting tank.

Buy online here.

2. A towel: an essential to keep on your mat during classes in the interests of hygiene and to help deal with any sweaty aftermath. You can buy a Hotpod Towel, £20 from the online store.

3. Lululemon Wunder Under Crop II (Roll Down), from £72: with all that twisting, sweating and transitioning, these yoga pants acted as the ideal way to keep my belly from making a break for it thanks to its stomach-cinching adjustable waistband. Its stretchy fabric boasts the type of flexibility that I’m shooting for in my actual yoga practice, managing to move with ease no matter which way its directed - flailing limbs and all.

Buy online here.

4. Vichy Normaderm Micellar Water, £11: keep breakouts at bay with this no rinse-needed complexion saviour that leaves skin refreshed and cleansed post-workout.

Buy online here.

5. Dailygreatness Yoga Journal, £34.95: a great way to chronicle your progress and allow you to get into the right mindset even after the most stressful of days...

Buy online here.

6. WATER!!

Find our more information about Hotpod Yoga at www.hotpodyoga.com.

Follow us @getthegloss and Ayesha @ayesha_muttu.

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