I only started practicing yoga five years ago when I could no longer dance or weight train due to illness, but now I can’t imagine my life without it. It was really the only thing I could muster at the time and it was difficult learning something new especially you’re body is so fatigued. I started with hot yoga, simply because the sweat made me feel better and it was ‘detoxifying’ after all.
Now years later, I just love the feeling of hot yoga and I used to think that it was the heat that gave me a clear head but really, that is what yoga does! Novel idea. Heat or no heat. Breathing, oxygenation, inversion, flow. It clears the mind. Recently though, I started to feel some major fatigue the day after class. And with all the adrenal burn out my body went through with Lyme disease, I put on the breaks. The truth is, practicing hot yoga doesn’t really detoxify your organs and your body. Sweating is mostly water and things your body needs like sodium, calcium and electrolytes. This sweat when pulled for your bloodstream, lymph and brain fluids can actually be taxing on your internal detox organs (actual detox) like your liver and kidneys that rely on internal hydration to operate at their best. The sweating from hot yoga definitely has a nice effect on your skin though!
At the same time, I started to notice an increase in irritability and that wired/tired, not-really-sleeping-well, feeling. So I started to see my acupuncturist who immediately guessed I have some excessive heat issues with Qi deficiency effecting the spleen and stomach. This is from overly sweating and inefficient production of Qi (vital energy). It can leave you fatigued and really having an overall reverse effect on the immune system, something you definitely do not want.
So, I tell people especially those dealing with healing or with any chronic illness, the best way to know if it’s helping or hindering their recovery is to check in with yourself the day after a class or sweat session. I usually feel fantastic the hours following hot yoga, but slowly get depleted by the next day and I drink about 64oz of water with added electrolytes during and after class! Another tip is to space the classes out. Doing classes back to back for a healthy person is probably even a bit too depleting, but I get it! It does feel good. I should also mention that this type of sweating is completely different than infrared sauna sweating which actually does detox the body by creating a fever to fight infection. But we can dive into that in a separate post!
Giving up hot yoga completely feels too drastic, but I have to say after one week without, my body already feels like it’s falling back into equilibrium. I did find a couple of yoga studios with normal temperature setting and beautiful vinyasa flows. I notice too that these classes are much more spiritually focused and give me more ‘zen’ calm than the ‘power’ feeling of a hot yoga class. It sort of feeds my femme:)
If you don’t feel like going anywhere, altogether, stay home and carve out a yoga space in your home and have a little fun with that! Disco is definitely a moving target on the mat and can even make a downward dog challenging!
Remember that yoga is intended to nourish the body and the mind, to keep us in alignment with our authentic self. If hot yoga has become more about the sweat than the practice itself leaving you feeling fatigued, it doesn’t mean you need to leave it forever, it just means your body needs something less intense in the meantime. You might be pleasantly surprised around the effects that a softer, subtler practice can offer.