Sweat dripping down your forehead. The blisteringly hot glare of the sun. Air so heavy it feels like you’re stepping into a sauna every time you leave the house. The steamiest months of summer are upon us. And all you can think about is sitting inside with the A/C blasting, a popsicle in hand. The last thing you’d probably want to do is practice yoga in a heated studio with sticky strangers dripping next to you. But—contrary to what you might think—doing hot yoga in summertime doesn’t come without its benefits. From acclimating easier to scorching heat wave temps to encouraging regular hydration, it can actually help you survive those days when the mercury won’t stop rising. We chatted with several hot yoga experts about the surprising perks that heated down dogs and chaturangas can offer.
Detoxifying through sweat
If you’ve ever practiced heated yoga, you probably know that by the class’s end you’re dripping in sweat. Sweating aids in cleansing your organs, muscles and glands. Whether you’re feeling lethargic or overindulging during weekend barbecues, summer is a great time to detoxify your body. Sarah Levey, co-founder of the New York–based Y7 yoga studio, notes, “During the warmer summer months people tend to get sluggish. Doing hot yoga re-energizes you and helps you sweat out bad toxins.”
Acclimation to summer’s heat
For Sarah Neufeld, the co-founder of Modo Yoga NYC, practicing hot yoga in the summer helps “our bodies become more adapted to sweating and to temperature extremes. This is one way of how yoga can soften our reactions.” More often than not, many hot yoga practitioners are able to step out of their studio and not feel bothered by the heat outside. Little by little, you might even notice that you don’t need to blast the A/C as much, or that you’re less sensitive to sweltering weather. Neufeld adds, “I’m not as bothered by temperature fluctuations as I used to be.”
During any hot spell, it’s essential to maintain good hydration. And most hot yoga aficionados know that drinking fluids is imperative—even off the mat. Whether you’re losing a lot of water from a sweaty yoga session or from simply being outside in the heat, Neufeld advises, “You need to be really mindful about hydrating and eating water-rich foods. Don’t eat too much sodium or drink a lot of alcohol.” If you’re already careful about staying hydrated from your hot yoga practice, you’ll probably maintain that habit throughout your everyday life.
Stronger coping capabilities
Hands down, a hot yoga class is the perfect training ground for coping with excessive heat. Case in point: When your yoga practice gets a little too hot for you, you learn how to listen to your body and adjust to the environment. This can entail slowing down your breath or taking a soothing child’s pose—or simply knowing when you’re ready to take a few sips of water.
Maintaining your practice
There’s perhaps nothing better than walking into a heated yoga room after a chilly winter day. But after months and months of dedicated practice during the colder months, it doesn’t make sense to take a 3-month hiatus from May to August. For many seasoned yogis, their practice is “an integral part of their rhythm. If they stop going, their lives would be very different,” explains Neufeld. So if you’ve been rocking it in hot yoga all winter and spring, don’t let summer put a damper on all the hard work you’ve accomplished.
Warming up faster in class
You know that feeling: After a long day at work (probably sitting down at a desk), your first down dog in class is full of stiffness and cracking joints. Hot summer temps and high humidity can actually help loosen up muscles and joints before you hit the mat, and make warming up at the beginning of class that much easier. If you’ve been working on bringing your hanuman (split) to a deeper level or still trying to touch your toes, summer’s heat just might be the answer to loosening up those hamstrings. Coupled with a heated element in the class, “your muscles and joints will definitely get a good stretch,” says Sarah Levey.
Prepares your body for other activities
After months of avoiding outside activity like the plague, there’s no better time than summer to enjoy a jog in the park, long bike ride or a relaxing hike in the woods, even in the heat. Sarah Levey notes, “Especially if someone is engaged in outdoor physical activities, having the familiarity of moving in a hot room eases you into doing outdoor sports when it’s hot.” So if you’re dreaming of training for a marathon in August or playing a lighthearted game of baseball with the family, a session of sweaty yoga will probably lessen the shock of being active in the heat.
READ MORE: Bikram Yoga for Beginners