So I think I’m officially addicted to hot yoga. I find myself only ever attending the heated classes at my studio. I’m still trying to figure out exactly what keeps me coming back, but something recently occurred to me: added resistance. The extremely humid environment of a hot yoga studio makes it feel like you’re doing yoga in a thicker atmosphere. It’s almost as if you’re transitioning from pose to pose under water.
I find that the heat exhausts my muscles, forcing them to work harder. When I move through different postures I often feel like my limbs are heavy, which forces me to maintain a keener awareness as to where I am focusing my strength in order to attain more stability.
The best example I can think of is transitioning from warrior two to twisted warrior. I used to have a lot of trouble with this but I can now feel myself getting stronger and more stable. In my last two classes, I’ve noticed that by stabilizing my back leg, the poses have come much more naturally to me. At times it felt as though I could float my back leg off the floor and still maintain the pose. Strengthening my back leg made me significantly more stable and made the poses much, much easier.
I think what this means is that added resistance can greatly improve and benefit your practice. This would explain why my instructors always encourage active resistance between muscle groups. I’ve put together some tips on how to maintain this type of awareness throughout your practice. Whether or not you do hot yoga, I believe that this advice will allow for not only more stability in your yoga class, but greater benefits and generally a better overall workout.
- Always engage your core: This will ensure that you have a strong centre. By tucking your belly in and up, you will be able to feel strong in any pose while strengthening the key central muscles of the body.
- Square your hips: In poses that call for your hips to remain forward, make sure to actively monitor this by pulling your hips in toward each other. You will likely be able to feel this resistance from your ribs to your glutes.
- Pull up your knees: While standing, keep your legs active. Even if you’re in a one-legged posture make sure to keep the standing leg very, very strong by pulling your knee muscles toward your hip. You will be able to feel this all the way through your quads.
- Keep the arms active: Whenever you find yourself in a pose that uses your arms in any way, think about flexing the muscles in your arms and lengthening them as much as possible. This will stretch out your shoulders and improve your posture, and it will also stabilize your inversions.
- Pretend you’re under water: We must never rush in yoga. Move from pose to pose very slowly and carefully and pretend that you are forcing your body through a thick and heavy liquid. This will ensure that your muscles are constantly engaged.
I can guarantee you that going through an entire practice with as many muscles as possible engaged will give you a terrific workout. And you will definitely feel it the next day. Don’t worry about sore muscles though, the best cure to sore post-yoga muscles is… you guessed it… more yoga!