What I’m about to regale to you is not practical. Not one bit. But ask the regulars who practice hot yoga beside me on a daily basis, and they’ll tell you that I’m the girl who shows up in a cashmere sweater layered over actual workout gear. I first introduced the additional layers into my repertoire to make sure I broke a sweat earlier on in the class (because who doesn’t feel incredible during a great sweat session?).
Over the years of practicing hot yoga, I’ve noticed that it takes me longer to work up a sweat, so while newbies might not need the cashmere to heat things up, it certainly makes things more efficient for me. And despite the fact that I’m willing to put one of my nicer fabrics through the ringer, I can assure you that I peel the clothing off my body (often with great reluctance) once I begin to drip. Say what you will about the fabric, it’s luxe, it’s soft, it’s oh-so cozy, but it’s not exactly a great sweat-wicking option.
Yoga instructor Steph Armijo explains the draw of heated exercise (yoga or not) saying, “your core temperature rises faster, so you break a sweat much more quickly. The internal heat, coupled with a consistent raised heart rate, will improve aerobic capacity more than you would in a room temperature class.” But, when asked about building somewhat of a tolerance for heat, she assured me that it wasn’t all in my head. “Your body is always working to be more efficient for you,” she explained. “I’ve seen that eventually over time, after practicing yoga in a hot room, your body adapts. Just as your body would adapt to the same workout routine, you become more efficient and expend less energy to do yoga in a heated room.”
As it turns out, my layering is not actually as out-there as it might sound (or look!), as Steph explains, “The minute you step into a heated class, your body starts to work to cool you down, which is why you start to sweat,” adding, “For those with experience in a heated room (again, this is not for everyone) keeping layers on can help keep your core temperature higher than it would be if you were actively trying to cool down.”
All of that said, there are certainly people for whom a heated class is not in the cards, as she cautions, “Heated workouts are not for everyone and there are serious contraindications for certain populations. If you feel dizzy or lightheaded in class, never ever push through that. Take a break on your mat and hydrate if possible.”
The moral of the story? I might not exactly start wearing that garbage bag-looking sweat-suit to my heated studio classes, but at least I can now rest happy that my yoga high with cashmere layers is more than just a placebo effect.
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