Summertime heat means practicing yoga in an extremely hot and humid room that can make breathing unbearable — especially when the guy next to you forgot his deodorant. Who can focus on their drishti when sweat is pooling in their eyes? If you're not used to practicing in super high temps, you'll need to take some precautions to get through the 60- to 90-minute class without passing out. First, make sure to drink water throughout the day to prevent dehydration and bring an insulated water bottle with ice water with you to class. Sip your chilled water every 15 minutes or so to cool yourself down and prevent overheating.
Make your yoga outfit work for you and wear clothes made of lightweight, breathable material designed to wick moisture away from your skin. You'd think sporting less clothes, like spandex shorts and a sports bra, would be the perfect outfit for a sweaty practice, but you actually want material to cover your body. Slip on your regular tank top, but wear leggings on the bottom that cover your calves. Loose shorts or pants tend to trap heat, so make sure they're skintight. Pants or capris won't make you feel that much hotter than shorts, and they'll help absorb your perspiration, keeping puddles of sweat off your mat.
Speaking of your mat, some types become dangerously slick when wet. When it's really hot and humid, sweat may pour off your body like a leaky faucet, so invest in a rug or towel designed to go on top of your mat. It'll absorb dripping perspiration and offer a stable surface you can grip without slipping. Don't forget to bring along a hand towel to wipe sweat off your face and arms.
For more tips on enduring your hot and sweaty Summer yoga class, keep reading.
After thinking about water, your outfit, and your mat, it's time to think about the actual class. You might want to save the really hot types of yoga like Bikram and Ashtanga for days when the humidity and temperature levels aren't so high. Our bodies aren't used to exercising in such hot, thick air, so give other styles a try that aren't as focused on heat such as Iyengar, Kripalu, Jivamukti, or some Vinyasa classes.
Heat helps warm up our muscles, so keep this in mind when practicing. Your sweaty, open body might surprise you when previously you struggled to do splits, and all of a sudden you find your lady business on the floor. Welcome your more flexible body during a sweaty yoga class, but don't go so deep into poses that you end up with a pulled muscle.
If the room has windows, ask the instructor to crack them open, or run the ceiling fans if your studio has them. He or she might be appalled that you even asked, since many types of yoga are supposed to be practiced in a hot room, but it's worth asking.
During class, it's OK to take it down a notch. Do less-intense modifications of postures since heat tends to zap your energy. And don't be afraid to take breaks, in fact, you should when it's so darn hot. Do relaxing poses such as child's pose or just sit cross-legged on your mat, close your eyes, and do Sitali, the cooling breath. Try it: curl your tongue like a hot dog bun, and take deep breaths through your mouth and exhale out your nose. If that doesn't help and you're feeling overheated, go to the bathroom to splash some cold water on your face and hair. The moment you start feeling dizzy, nauseous, or lightheaded, stop practicing ASAP. These are signs of heat exhaustion and dehydration.
Before heading to class in the Summer, I like to take a cold shower to help keep me cool — I twirl my wet hair up in a bun. Eating cooling foods, such as salads and fruit, can also help.
Above all, listen to your body, and if it seems nuts to practice yoga inside because it's a high of 101 with humidity levels at 90 percent, give a paddleboard yoga class a try. Since balancing on a board is so challenging, you may end up doing the doggie paddle more than downward facing dog, but at least you'll stay cool!