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Hot Yoga: A Westernized Ayurvedic Perspective

When you practice asanas (yoga postures) in India, it’s hot, and you sweat. No heated room necessary!

In 2017, I stayed at an ashram in March and April outside of Bangalore in the south of India. It was an extremely hot and dry time of the year, analogous to spring, sort of…

I completed an Ayurveda training program as well as a 21-day 200-hour yoga teacher training, in which we also discussed Ayurveda. Yoga and Ayurveda are deeply intertwined.

We practiced asanas for about 3 hours every morning to beat the heat. Still, we sweated.

I remember thinking, “You don’t need hot yoga studios in India! The heat is built into the environment!”

Now, back in the West, I have revived my love of hot yoga by practicing in studios in Halifax, Nova Scotia and in Scottsdale, Arizona.

I have been drawn to hot yoga for many years, a pattern which has got me wondering…why?

In Ayurveda, yoga asana practice is recommended for all prakriti, or “one that is formed first,” the inherent nature of living form. These are our body constitutions.

Prakriti are expressed as combinations of the three doshas (bioelements):

  1. vata (ether & air)
  2. pitta (fire & water)
  3. kapha (water & earth)

In the West, this is all usually oversimplified and referred to as the doshas.

People take quizzes to see if they are vata (air), pitta (fire), or kapha (water-earth). See what your dosha is here.

Usually, you predominate in one or two (e.g. vata or vata-pitta).

Finding Balance

Basically, Ayurveda is a holistic approach to balance. We each fall out of balance due to genetics, food, lifestyle, behavior, and emotions.

When we are out of balance, usually we are too high in one dosha, particularly in the West. Excesses cause disease and are harder to treat than deficiencies, like malnutrition.

For instance, I am kapha-vata physically with a vata-pitta mind. When I have excess kapha and low vata and pitta, I have excess fat on my body, and my circulation and metabolism are down. Mentally, I am dull, sluggish, and drowsy (aka falling asleep while meditating and constantly reaching for coffee!).

When I have excess vata and low pitta and kapha, my skin is dry, I am always cold, I don’t eat enough, and I have blood sugar issues. Mentally, I’m scattered, ungrounded, and prone to anxiety.

What does hot yoga do for the doshas and prakriti?

Hot yoga is great for people with excess physical kapha. What a great way to heat up the body and burn off the excess fat! Melt the kapha, heavy earth element, and sweat out the excess water.

Hot yoga is great for vatas and kaphas with low pitta, since you heat up the body, and jumpstart circulation, increase metabolism, and pump the lymphatic system.

It might not be so great for those with excess pitta. Although, pittas will be drawn to it, because like attracts like. Fire will want more fire!

Recommendations:

  1. For all doshas practicing hot yoga, I recommend adequate hydration. Yes, drink water, but also include more fresh fruits and vegetables.
  2. Those with excess kapha and vata, go for it! Be mindful of your body, and don’t overdo it. Find the regularity of practice that works for you.
  3. Super fiery pittas, it might be best for you to keep hot yoga to a minimum. Let it play a smaller role in your health and fitness routine.
    • Perhaps you can get away with practicing hot yoga more regularly during cold times of the year or if you live in a super cold climate. Even then, watch yourself! Hot yoga may aggravate and increase pitta.
  4. Don’t overstretch! Remember, in a heated room, you will be more bendy and flexible than if you practiced in a cold, cool, or room temperature space. It is very easy to hurt yourself for this reason…I am speaking from experience!
    • Go easy on yourself your first couple classes (or weeks of classes if you are new to yoga). Very gradually and mindfully go deeper into the poses for more challenging variations.
  5. Whatever you do, don’t compete with another yogi or yogini. This is YOUR time and YOUR practice. You will increase your familiarity with the poses, and your flexibility, strength, and fluidity over time. Be patient, and be consistent.
    • There is no judgment. There is no “better than” or “worse than” or “fatter than” or “skinnier than” or “leaner than” each other. Don’t play that game!
    • Once I know a flow by heart, sometimes I practice the entire sequence with my eyes closed, so I don’t play the judgment or competition game. It’s not why I am there.

I hope you found this article useful, and feel inspired to try hot yoga.

Take my westernized Ayurvedic perspective with a grain of salt, especially anyone in or from India who is reading this!!

I learned so so much at my Ayurveda course, but we barely scratched the surface. If you want to learn more about Ayurveda, I highly recommend the course I took at Shrimath. Go here to learn more.

To learn more about my experience at Shrimath, check out the article I wrote here.

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Summary
Hot Yoga: A Westernized Ayurvedic Perspective
Article Name
Hot Yoga: A Westernized Ayurvedic Perspective
Description
My experience of yoga in India. An overview of Ayurvedic doshas and how they relate to hot yoga. Recommendations for hot yoga, according to doshas and in general.
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