Will I pass out in hot yoga?

The short answer to the question is: it’s highly unlikely.

Many new students have heard horror stories about yoga classes so hot that people were dropping like flies and being carried out of the room. Most of these are embellished or frankly fabricated. Like any tall tale, there’s always a kernel of truth: usually survival stories from teacher training where they try to burn you down metaphorically so you can rise like a phoenix from the ashes. You won’t find that in a general public yoga class.

I sat down this morning and tried to count how many times I’ve seen people pass out in yoga. I couldn’t even fill up one hand. I’ve heard stories of more than that, but in 17 years of practicing and teaching Bikram Yoga, I’ve only seen three people “go down” in a class.

Pre-existing conditions

Pre-existing health conditions make some people likely to pass out. I had a student in class one time who was born with an unusually narrow carotid artery. After half moon, she leaned back against the wall and slowly slumped to the floor. As she came-to in class, she smiled and said, “I pass out all of the time.”

Be sure to tell your teacher if you have any health concerns that might make you more likely to pass out. They’ll show you where to take it slowly and keep an extra eye on you during class. This includes, but is not limited to: heart conditions, arterial abnormalities, dwarfism, history of syncope, diabetes, dehydration, anorexia nervosa, and the use of some medications.

There’s a profile for that.

There actually is a stereotype for passing out in hot yoga. Our prime candidate is usually a very thin, tall woman, around the age of 19, who hasn’t had much (or anything) to eat. She comes up from a deep backward bend or forward fold, goes grey and collapses. This tends to happen due to low blood sugar or low blood pressure. The same can happen occasionally to people who consume very little water as they won’t have enough available water in their kidneys or blood volume to produce sweat without a dramatic drop in blood pressure.

You can prevent this from occurring by fueling your body with healthy, but easy-to-digest, foods before class and drinking plenty of water throughout the day. Your body is a precision machine that can’t function with out gas and oil.

Leaving the room

One of the primary places people pass out is in the lobby just outside the hot room doors. Here’s why:

In class, the air temperature is hotter than your body. All of your blood vessels dilate and blood rushes to the skin to cool your body and maintain a stable body temperature. That’s your body’s prime goal: maintain homeostasis. Your eccrine sweat glands kick in to high gear and start producing a lovely, cooling sweat.

If you feel hot or uncomfortable in class, your first instinct is to rush out of the room and take a quick break. This action is confusing to the body. Suddenly, the air is 30 degrees cooler, and significantly cooler than your body temperature. To add insult to injury, your body is now covered with moisture that is evaporating rapidly and dropping your internal temperature. Homeostasis alert! The status quo is not being maintained!

The body will quickly constrict the blood vessels and shut down the action of your eccrine glands to make you stop sweating and prevent your internal temperature from dropping below optimal. This quick vasoconstriction slows circulation all over the body, even up to the brain. If it happens rapidly enough, the student can temporarily lose vision or event pass out.

The problem with passing out outside the hot room is that the floor is hard and there’s no one there to catch you.

If you feel dizzy and think you might pass out, the best idea is to sit down right where you are standing. Take a few deep breaths and even a sip of water. If you don’t feel better in a matter of minutes, flag down your teacher and they’ll walk you out to sit on the bench and cool off.

Even if you don’t pass out when you leave the room for a “break”, you do shut down the cooling process of sweating. When you return to the room, it feels even hotter and your body has to start all over from scratch acclimating you to the new environment.

Leaving the room should be reserved for the five Ps: pee, poop, puke, period, pregnant.

One reason new students leave the room is fear that there’s not enough air in the room. That’s a by-product of nervousness and the fight-flight-freeze response to the new environment/activity. Our air quality is carefully maintained by an energy-recovery ventilator activated by carbon dioxide sensors in the room to bring in plenty of fresh air. If you start feeling like you can’t breathe, take the same precautions as you would if you were going to pass out. Sit down and breath slowly through your nose until you feel better.

The heat is a tool, not a weapon.

Bikram Yoga classes are heated to 105 degrees and 40% humidity. These conditions allow for complete vasodilation and allow students to stretch their muscles with a reduced risk of injury. The heat has additional benefits like improved mood, reduction in body fat percentage, and decreasing the day-to-day detoxification load on the liver.

The temperature is not intended for a dramatic increase in internal temperature. On average, body temp increases about one degree in most practitioners. The heat is a tool to facilitate the healing process, not a weapon with which to beat your body into submission.

Give yourself time to acclimate

We live in New England. It’s only Bikram Yoga temps outside for about two weeks in August. Around the world, people live in the very same heat index as a hot yoga class year-round, but we’re not used to it. We know the human body can live in these temperatures, we just have to give it time to get used to it. It takes the average new yogi 10-14 days of regular practice to get acclimated to the hot room.

Your sweat comes from fluids in your blood stream. If you haven’t sweat much since August, your body won’t be ready to dump a quart of water out of your pores the first time. It will take a few classes of going slowly and sipping water as you need it for your body to figure out you’re going to do this regularly. Your kidneys have to learn to hold water and dump it back into your bloodstream, rather than into your bladder, so your blood volume stays stable. You have to learn when and how much to drink and eat to fuel your practice. You may notice you crave more salts as you add this sweaty practice in to your life.

The great news is that in a couple of weeks, you won’t be worried about the heat any more. You’ll be too busy working out how to balance on one foot.

sara toe prep

 

 

 

Sara Curry is a Bikram Yoga teacher from Southern Maine who has dedicated her life to helping people take control of their lives and their healing through the practice of yoga. She owns and operates Bikram Yoga Portsmouth with her husband, Jaylon.

 

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Funk’tional Nutrition Podcast

I had the great pleasure of joining Kyle Maiorana and Erin Holt of the Funk’tional Nutrition podcast this week to talk about what role yoga can play in healing chronic pain and illness.

Both women are registered dieticians who work to help their clients develop personalized plans for health that cover all aspects of their lives. I have a tremendous amount of respect for the work they do and wait anxiously each week for the release of the next episode. Topics cover everything from healthy fats to good sources of animal protein, and from the benefits of CBD oil to understanding diet culture. They also host people in the fields of health and wellness to share their unique areas of expertise.

You’ll find the information in this podcast to be science-based and designed to help develop a life of health that supports all of the amazing things you love to do on a daily basis. In Erin’s words, “I don’t teach people how to diet. I teach people how to EAT.”

Our episode covers how this yoga works, back pain, chronic pain, yoga and autoimmune disorders, and much, much more. Take a listen here.

Funktional Nutrition Podcast 19

Is the hot yoga studio clean?

A couple of students expressed concerns about the cleanliness of the studio in our recent customer feedback survey. I’m here to address all of those concerns.
The main take-away that I want to offer with this post is: We’ve got you covered. All of your concerns are ours, too. We’ve been in this business for 16 years and your best interests are also ours. We are always working to offer the most effective, green, sustainable environment possible so that we can all thrive, together.
Is the studio clean? I’ll start to answer the first question with a question back: have you met my husband, Jaylon? He steam cleans our carpets at home for fun. At the end of a long, hard day, he just wants to mop the kitchen floor.
Jaylon Mopping
Jaylon after a 12-hour day at work
We employ an army of cleaners to keep the studio in top condition so that you have a beautiful, welcoming, and clean space in which to practice.
The studio and all of the flooring is cleaned every day. We have one cleaner whose job, twice a week, is to wash your sweat streaks off the walls. We have another person who cleans the air vents, fans, and moulding every single week.
As you can imagine, our bathrooms get a lot of use. That’s why we have cleaners to scrub the bathrooms, including the walls, every single day of the week. The shower curtains are changed three times a week and the bath mats are changed after every class.
Am I going to catch something? In sixteen years, we have never had an outbreak of anything at the yoga studio. We have never had students get or pass on foot fungus. We once had a student with MRSA practicing at the studio for four months without telling us. The number of students who contracted MRSA during that time is zero.
Why not? First, the studio is really clean. We wash down everything, frequently. Second, your sweat contains two natural and powerful antiseptic compounds: sebacid and the heavy-hitter dermcidin. In clinical studies, dermcidin is more effective at killing Staph than Lysol. It functions by actually ripping off the cell membrane to kill the cell, so it is not an antiseptic to which an organism could develop a resistance. Feel free to cover yourself with this free, antibacterial solution daily!
For all of my real germophobes, rest assured that you’re much safer in a hot, sweaty yoga class than you are opening the door to your doctor’s office or pushing a grocery cart.
In addition, we run an Odorox hydroxyl generator between classes and overnight. This product is the most advanced solution today for eliminating odors, decontaminating surfaces, and purifying the air that is both 100% green and safe for use around humans and animals.
Further, our Humidifall improves air quality and reduces our use of natural gas by increasing ambient humidity while simultaneously filtering airborne contaminants and destroying bacteria, viruses and fungi with a secondary UV filtration system.
We also diffuse doTERRA On Guard Protective Blend throughout the studio. This study shows a reduction of 40-90% in the flu virus dependent upon concentration.
 
Isn’t your flooring breeding fungi? Our hot room flooring is Flotex Flocked Flooring by a green company, Forbo. This product was originally designed for nursing homes to be both non-slip and antiseptic. It is NOT carpet. Carpeting has loops and coils that catch skin cells and hair and liquids. Flocked flooring is short, straight bristles that cannot catch debris. It is 100% moisture-backed, so no sweat can seep under the flooring (like happens with wood, cork, and carpet). You can dump a whole bucket of water on Flotex and suck every last drop of it up.
Our flooring is vacuumed at least once every single day of the year. It is steamed with hot water extraction every weekend. We add melaleuca oil to the hot water to further enhance the antibacterial aspect of the process.
Why does it smell sometimes? We can control a lot of the things in the studio, but we can’t control the people. Sweaty people smell like sweat. We run the Odorox between classes to clear the smell, but if you’re in class and people start sweating, you’re going to smell sweat.
The sweat that cools you off comes from your eccrine glands and doesn’t really smell. It’s mostly just water. Clean bodies don’t smell strongly of sweat.
The sweat that does smell comes from your apocrine glands and does not significantly contribute to cooling. These are found mostly in the armpits and groin and this “smelly” sweat is where a large amount of our pheromones are excreted. Your apocrine glands are not activated during a hot yoga class, so if you smell a strong armpit smell, it’s usually from something that stimulated the system earlier in the day to produce these “communication” odors.
Some behaviors contribute to a stronger sweaty smell. For some, eating garlic, onions, or cumin creates a powerful smell the next day. Individuals who drink alcohol or smoke marijuana often have a strong smell of ammonia or “cat pee” to their sweat.
 
What can I do to help?
  • First, bring a yoga mat and towel large enough to catch all of your sweat. If you find there is a puddle around your mat during or after class, you don’t have a big enough towel or enough layers.
  • If you did leave a puddle, please be sure to use the mini wet-vac provided by the door to suck up your sweaty puddle. Your fellow yogis in the next class will appreciate it!
  • Please brush your teeth before the morning classes. The Saturday 9 am always complains about the “bad breath” smell from the 7 am.
  • Please refrain from wearing scented products like perfume, cologne, body spray, hair spray, and spray deodorant. One in five Americans has chemical sensitivity. This condition produces nuisance symptoms like stuffy nose and sneezing, in addition to more serious effects from exposure like hives, wheezing, and asthma. If you can’t live without your Axe Body Spray, just apply it in the car after you leave.
  • Bring home all of your sweaty items with you after class. We’ve all been yoga space cadets before. Take an extra moment before you go to look around and be sure you’ve collected all of your wet, sweaty things.
  • Towel off if you’re a massive sweater. Dripping in the shower line? Ask the teacher for an extra towel to stand on or towel off with it so you don’t leave a puddle in the lobby.
  • Come to class clean. You don’t have to shower before class, unless you smoke, wear perfume/cologne, or have a job that has a powerful odor. If you do, grab a quick shower so the people next to you can inhale deeply without worry.

Yours in sweat and service,

 

Sara

On 15 Years…

Fifteen years ago today, the first hot, therapeutic, 26/2 class opened in Portsmouth at 9 am. Over 20,000 classes and tens of thousands of students later, the greatest compliment is that many of the students who practiced that first week in 2002 are still with the studio today.

Over the last few weeks, we’ve had an out-pouring of thanks and gratitude in cards and emails from students. You’ve shared your stories and your thanks for our time, our teachers, and our community. When the first card came in, I told Nel I didn’t know if I could survive two whole weeks with my heart on the outside every day.

Years ago, Ariel and Laura and I sat together in a teachers’ meeting and talked about creating community. In what type of place did we want to work and practice? What were the qualities of a yoga community that we admired? What kind of teachers did we want to make of ourselves?

At that meeting, all of the dreams and hopes and intentions we set were YOU. When I look around the studio before, after, and during class, all I see is everything we ever dreamed we could create together. You are my dreams come true.

We wanted to create a place where everyone felt safe to be themselves. A place where you were met each day with a smiling face. A place where you could come on your best day and your worst. Where you could practice the morning of your wedding and the day after your sister died. A place where sweat, tears, and laughter all belonged in the same room. A place where you could quietly do your practice or share your stories with others. A place where we lift each other up. A place we learn over and over again that we are all the same on the inside.

I had one of my most profound experiences of that unity, that Namaste, in a music class a few months ago during the chorus of Guns ‘n Roses, Livin’ on a Prayer. In the class were students from age 16 to 71, of all different political affiliations and religions, with massive income disparity and differing gender expressions and identities, of all different phases of health and wellness. In that room was everything that could divide us outside these hot room walls, but instead, 53 voices swelled in song together, “Oh! We’re halfway there. Oh-oh! Livin’ on a prayer. Take my hand and we’ll make it, I swear.” G-N-F-N-R. Bringing people together since 1986.

In the beginning, Laura and Ariel and I had to do the work of establishing that community ourselves. With each new student, we made sure they were okay. Gave them the low-down on acclimating to the heat and where to buy a cheap yoga mat. We talked to them about hydration and emotions coming up during camel.

One day, as I sat at the front desk at the old studio, I heard Dede’s voice over the top of the ceiling-less women’s room walls talking a new student through what she’d just experienced in class. “I felt like that, too, my first class! What you’ll need to do today is be sure to hydrate and if you wake up sore tomorrow, come to class. Don’t take a day off. You’ll feel so much better…” Holy crap. Our community was starting to wrap new students in welcome like we’d done for them. When you treat people with kindness and compassion, it ripples far beyond the initial contact.

Jaylon and I are overwhelmed by the out-pouring of love and gratitude from everyone this month, each week, last night. We want to be sure that we are clear on one point. We work our asses off. We love this community. It is our studio, our home, our life’s work, our passion. We give a lot of ourselves so that we can make this community a place you want to return to day after day, but none of that would matter if it weren’t for every single face that walks through that door. Every single person in this community is what makes it special. We are not the only ones working our asses off. Our effort is a reflection of yours.

I made me so proud to see the reception for each of our teachers at the celebration class when they stood to speak. In case you weren’t sure, they love their jobs and they love you guys. They think about you after class and do research on your weird knee problem and they notice when you’re having a rough day. They take their commitment to their work far beyond expectations. Of the dozens of teachers who have graced this podium, I am proud to call each one my colleague, my teacher, my peer, and my friend. From long-lost faces like Amy, Glenn, and Kirk to our newest additions of Lunny, Kat, and Todd.

We’ve reminisced a lot lately about the old days and the first students to practice here. My first class at BYP, I remember Nicole calling out, “Glicka, lock your knee!” Jonny P steaming carpets. Jamie taking pictures. Standing on Heather’s hips during camel. Taking class with Molly, Kristen, Monique, Amy, Cory, Teri, Jenn, Tim, Bill, Lolo, Spidey, Michelle, Maeghan, Julie, Norm, and Weezie. It’s amazing to have Wanda back after 12 years and that Chris came back after leaving for back surgery. We have spent so much time together through sweat, tears, middle fingers, and laughs. We have built a history that has bonded us as a community. We have lost members of our community and we have mourned together.

Those veteran yogis have built the foundation and the web that welcomes every new face into the family. I can’t list all of your names because there are literally thousands of people who have made an impact on this community. From Dick, Glenn, and Jack-in-the-back to Rachel, Jes, and Ainsley.

When I was pregnant with my second child, I thought, “How can I love this child as much as I love Bella?” My heart was already full of that sweet, little girl. When Judah was born (the day after that headstand picture), I realized how as my heart grew bigger to wrap him inside.

That’s how our community works. As each new student joins us, the community grows bigger to wrap them inside. We send each new student a postcard that says, “Welcome to the family!” and we mean it. Like it or lump it, you’re a part of our yoga family now. Life and years may carry you to and from the hot room, but we’ll always be here for you, whatever state you return in, to welcome you with sweaty arms.

Last night, as we celebrated with Nel’s Greatest Party Ever, we did all of the things. We laughed. We cried. We danced. We reminisced. We supported each other. We did the ultimate act of public intimacy: sweat-soaked, half-naked hugging.

As Elissa started to sing, and then Stef, and then Chris, my heart grew three sizes like the Grinch. If we can sing together. If we can cry together. If we can sweat together, then goddamn it, we can change the world together.

I have one request for you this week. As you go about your day and your week, is there any time you can bring a piece of this feeling to someone outside the studio? That your presence in their day made it the tiniest bit better? That they aren’t alone in this struggle called life?

I promise to do my part.

Love,

Sara