I took my first Bikram (hot) yoga class a week ago and let me tell you – it was an experience! I’m a novice yogi… actually novice is way too generous – I’ve taken one yoga class, but somehow I mustarded up the balls to jump head first into hot yoga.
I definitely wouldn’t recommend that to others (jumping straight in to hot yoga that is – take regular yoga for a bit to build your vocabulary), but if you’re brave go for it! Here are 5 need-to-knows for all Black girls looking to take their first hot yoga class.
1. The heat is real
I’m talking 105 degrees Fahrenheit real. It’s no joke. I’m a cold natured person so heat is usually my friend, but this is that kind of heat that forces you into a stillness. Like one of those ‘your grandma told you to be still because it’ll help you cool off’ type of stillnesses. The bottom line is, go in expecting the thermostat to be on Hell and you’ll be mentally prepared. There will be times where you will feel like your body is overheating and that you’re going to pass out (and you may – you’ll probably definitely see stars/little black spots during your first class), but give yourself permission to take a break. The heat helps to warm your muscles and open up your stretch but it also leads to sweat which takes us to…
2. Drink plenty of water leading up to class time
Drinking water before class will help to prevent dehydration (both from the heat and excessive sweating). I have never sweat this much in my life. You sweat from places that you didn’t even know could sweat! By the time class ended, my entire workout top and bottom were drenched. The studio I went to provided plastic bags for wet clothes. However, I’m not sure if this is a standard practice so I would recommend that you bring your own plastic bag for your wet clothes. I would also encourage you to bring at least one bottle of water into class with you – you’ll need it!
3. Wear as little as possible
Shorts and a sports bra are more than enough. However, if you are shy about your body an athletic tank top and capris will also work. I’ve been wearing moisture wicking fabric clothes which is supposed to help with keeping your body cool (but I mean, you’re in 105 degree heat – cool is relative). You will be barefoot for class so no need to worry about matching your shoes and socks.
4. Bring your own yoga mat and towels
For class, you will need a yoga mat, a long mat towel, and a hand or face towel to help curb the sweat that drops everywhere. I purchased my mat and mat towel from a Marshalls near my house the night before class. I noticed that some people use beach towels so if you are looking to save money there’s an option. I would also pack in your bag cleansing wipes, deodorant, and fresh underwear for getting yourself together after class.
5. Some sort of ‘curled’ or pulled back hair is a fantastic idea
We already discussed the heat… your curls are going to pop before class even starts! I made the mistake of attending class shortly after having my hair straightened. Yeah, I was back to wearing my natural curls halfway through class. Wearing your hair in its naturally curly state (adorned with a cute moisture catching headband) or your hair pulled back into a ponytail or bun (with the same cute headband) are probably your best bet.
Overall, my hot yoga experience was pleasant. So much so I purchased a one-month, unlimited class pass (it was only $39!). It’s important for me to note that I battled with myself about whether taking the class was cultural appropriation (I’ve always felt a way about yoga – which explains why I’ve only taken one class – but that’s a whole ‘nother story for another time). Obviously, I made some decisions…but it’s all about transparency.
Of course I was almost the only person of color (POC) in the class (which was expected), classes are predominantly female (again I was expecting this) and there is yoga class etiquette (such as silence in the studio, standing when the instructor enters, saying namaste at the end of class, etc.).
If you can handle all of these things I’d encourage you to go for it! Hopefully this guide adequately prepares you. Let me know your experiences!