Turn Up the Heat

Photo by CorePower Yoga

"There are two things you must do every day in order to live a happy life: sweat and laugh," offers Gurmukh Kaur Khalsa, founder and owner of Golden Gate Yoga in Los Angeles.

If you practice hot yoga, you're guaranteed to check at least one of these off your list just by walking in the door.

Running and yoga have become fast friends. Of the 7,255,000 runners in the United Sates, 36 percent also practice yoga—one of the highest rates of crossover activity, according to the Sporting Goods Manufacturers' Association's most recent participation study.

The same study shows that from 2008 to 2009, yoga grew 13.2 percent, and currently boasts 20 million participants, 76 percent of them women. In particular, hot yoga is hot. Try turning up the temp on your yoga practice to boost self-confidence, increase flexibility and prepare your body to run in mid-summer heat.

Turn It Up

Hot yoga is an evolution of Bikram yoga, a series of 26 postures called asanas practiced in a 105-degree room. While Bikram kicked off the hot yoga trend, its popularity has spawned many different options, including other styles of yoga performed in rooms heated to a slightly lower temperature.

Proponents claim the heat helps in a myriad of ways. Lisa Sullivan, national leader for Core Power's hot yoga teacher training program says, "Your body warms up so you can be more flexible without injury." Sullivan explains that the high temps help to release toxins through heavy sweating.

The heat also makes simple movements more challenging. "It took me three classes to not feel completely exhausted," says Sullivan, "but after the fourth, I felt an amazing yoga high."

Mental Gymnastics

According to Sullivan, the heat forces you to focus intently in order to maintain regular breathing and balance. And, if you practice Bikram, the precision of completing the same exact postures in the same exact sequence cultivates mental discipline.

"The mind will give out before the body," says Sullivan. Much of the mind-over-matter mastery hot yoga develops is essential for runners. When your breathing is short and your heart is racing, it's easier to give up. Learning to stick with your movements in the yoga studio will give you the confidence to keep going when you're struggling through a tough training run or race.

The addictive quality many hot yogis feel toward their practice mirrors that of runners, because of how it makes them feel: strong and empowered. "I didn't start with the confidence that I'd make it through the class," admits Jennifer Olson, who eventually became certified and taught hot yoga for six years. "But the more I showed up, practiced, accepted the self I saw in the mirror, the more confident I became."

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