One of the things I really like about Yogafurie Hot Yoga classes is that we often set an intention at the start of class. It’s a few minutes to remember why we showed up, and what we might hope to change in our lives. It puts today’s class into a bigger picture of personal development goals.
We often hit the gym, or the road, every January with good intentions and a fresh determination to see it through this time. But determination gets eroded, and we stop working out or going out for that run. Perhaps that’s because we’re not taking time to remember why we’re going to the trouble.
So why hot yoga?
Hot Yoga offers some surprising benefits to anyone looking to de-stress, lose weight, rehab injuries, or increase suppleness and strength. I want to talk a bit more about all of those, but beforehand, let’s look at the method behind intention-setting in our Yogafurie classes.
Set the scene by setting an intention
There’s a lot of talk about positive thinking. Creating the right mental framework around our lives means we usually get better results. This is no modern idea – in fact, Yogis have worked with this principle for many centuries. It clearly works if we’re still doing it in the modern age! The Yoga technique is called sankalpa. Now there’s an awful lot we could say about the history and evolution of this practice. However, right now let’s just talk about how it’s done.
First, you need a bit of space and quiet to uncover what you really want. You might initially think: I want a new car, or I want to stop smoking, etc. But what’s really behind that first thought?
Just to follow these examples – the new car could be because your old car is pretty finished. The underlying heart’s desire is for security in how you transport yourself to work, how you help family and friends get around. Or, you might want the new car to give you a better feeling of status. Now there’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s great to notice if you feel you are lacking in status. One of our principal aims through sankalpa is to accept things as they are, and use that as a springboard for change. Accepting yourself as you are, realising that you are the one who assigns status to you, knowing that your status is not someone else’s decision – these are very valuable personality transformations. The heart’s desire at the core here is for you to learn to be cool with you.
If you want to stop doing something – what’s preventing you from stopping? What’s the driver to keep doing something you feel is harmful? Before beating yourself up for smoking, take time to consider how you are shouldering that burden of bad health in order to get the relaxation or other benefit you feel when you smoke. Give yourself a break: you need relief badly enough to hurt yourself. You’re getting to the heart of the matter now – the heart’s desire is that relief.
Ok, so you’ve made some progress in understanding what you really want. But it might be quite nebulous and inaccessible. For instance: feeling more secure, having a measure of self-acceptance, providing a space for release and relaxation, etc. These must be realised as a set of real and accessible milestones – things you can actually do to move yourself in the right direction. At that point, you might come back to the original intention (new car, quit smoking etc). Or you might creatively come up with new ideas about how to move your life forward. The point is that your whole being will now be in line with and behind whatever you decide to do. It’s not just a good idea any more – it’s a genuine need that you know you can satisfy. The will power is already there, and won’t run out, if the desire is truly from the heart.
Having a clear intention is not enough. It’s important to remember it – and often. Hence, we take time at the start of class to re-state it to ourselves, to remember the process that we went through to create it, and in effect realigning ourselves with our deepest needs and desires as often as we can. And it really is important to do this often: every decision we make, every action we take – on or off the mat – will either strengthen or weaken our position. The more we come back to our heart’s deepest needs, the more likely we are to take the decisions that strengthen our resolve. Because it often isn’t easy to ditch old habits, no matter how uncomfortable they make us. It takes a real effort to transform and then to maintain and build on that transformation. We can fall back into the old ways very, very easily. This won’t be a one-time fix. You’ll need to keep realigning yourself over and over again – there’s an argument that it makes sense to do that every day of your life, for the rest of your life.
How you state the sankalpa is very important. By saying “I want…X”, we are saying that we don’t have X, that, somehow, we are a bit broken at the moment because of the lack of X. Only X can save us, without X we can’t rate ourselves. X is outside of us, and off in the future somewhere. This is an unhelpful position to put ourselves in. It’s also unhelpful to state things in the negative. “I’ll stop X”, “I won’t X” really just makes you think of X even more! So, to be more positive and present for example, “I want to stop smoking”, might become, “I’m providing space for renewal and relaxation, in this class right now”.
Benefits of Hot Yoga
We’ve looked at how to set and state an intention. The method suggested aligns your mind with your deepest, heartfelt needs, and that brings on all the resources (such as willpower) that you need to get through the changes. Along the way, you’ll have specific milestones to achieve. Hot Yoga can help with these milestones, and in this section, we’ll look at how it helps, and so why hot yoga, in more detail.
There’s actually very little research into the good or bad effects of Hot Yoga. However, there is extensive research confirming the positive effects of Yoga. I’m not going to reproduce that here – I think we all accept that well-taught Yoga is great for people. There’s also a lot of research into the positive effects of heat in the context of sauna. So, for general health, we can expect the following benefits.
A 2015 study concluded that increasing the frequency of visiting a sauna is directly linked to decreased occurrence of fatal heart problems and increased longevity generally. The study was conducted over 20 years, so it has considerable credibility. However, it focused only on men.
Detoxification other than natural elimination
Our bodies naturally remove organic waste, and they do so really quite effectively. However, some inorganic materials can hang around in our systems with nowhere to go, and that’s a problem. Some heavy metals (arsenic, cadmium, lead, mercury) – which, to a degree, we all carry – are eliminated naturally through sweat, stools and urine. Research
exists suggesting that elimination levels through sweat are the highest.
Healthy weight management
How our bodies manage weight is related to insulin sensitivity. A study has concluded that this sensitivity improves with regular sauna.
Health in exercise
A study has concluded that regular exposure to heat also generates some of the same physiological responses as exercise.
General health and immunity
This study showed that exposure to heat boosts white cell count in those who are already quite fit.
Interestingly, this study showed that colds and ‘flu are far less common for those who are regularly exposed to heat:
Why Hot Yoga? Unexpected health benefits
Some research (, ) also found that growth hormone increases as a result of regular sauna. Growth hormone is very important for athletic recovery – ie, recovery from strenuous physical work, such as teaching and practicing lots of Hot Yoga.
Why Hot Yoga? Mindful Breathing
This is perhaps the most powerful and least expected benefit of a Hot Yoga practice, and we particularly emphasise this in Yogafurie Hot Yoga classes. Heat greatly heightens the physical environment. People learn to breathe well very quickly, because without good breath, it’s a very challenging experience.
Contrast this with Yoga at room temperature. If someone is quite physically fit then they might never learn to breathe. Their cardiac fitness can carry them through just about anything in a slightly breathless way.
Heat is just a great leveler – no matter how fit you are walking in, you will be very warm (our classes run at a range of temperatures from 30 degrees c to 42 degrees c). Your existing fitness is great, but probably won’t carry you through the warmth. We will call attention to breath at the beginning of the class in order to settle us for sankalpa. From then, your goal is to stay with that attentive, settled breath. The very act of paying attention to your breath, despite external conditions, is the foundation of a mindfulness practice.
Why Hot Yoga? Weight loss
There’s a startling headline figure to share – you can burn 900 calories or more in a single Hot Yoga session. Lots of people wear calorie-count watches: as accurate as these can be, I’ve seen people report anything between 500 and an unprecedented 1150 calories consumed in a single session.
These figures are dramatic, and your personal results will depend on how much effort you put into the class. Of course, the foundation of practice is breath. If you want to burn lots of calories, then learn to breathe. Once your breath is steady and complete, you’ll be in a position to go for it a little more with each movement – within the bounds of what is safe for you as an individual of course.
Conclusion for Hot Yoga
This blog has looked at Yoga’s powerful techniques for framing and achieving personal changes and transformations. We’ve also talked about where Hot Yoga can fit into your development plans, and how Yogafurie’s Hot Yoga classes can be your stepping-stones. On a personal note, I have found the practice transformative and I’ve seen countless people change and grow in all sorts of ways through contact with our classes. Why not try something different – try Yoga in a Hot room, at Yogafurie?