6 Reasons Behind The Magic of Hot Yoga

Photo by Marci Hohner, Courtesy of Sweatbox Yoga

Photo by Marci Hohner, Courtesy of Sweatbox Yoga

Traditional Hot Yoga is a practice in which you go through 26 postures and 2 breathing exercises, at 105ºF (40.5ºC), absolutely drenched in sweat for 90 minutes. A lot of people read that description, cringe, and immediately think WHY?! Why would someone put their body through that?

The answer is actually quite simple: because it feels incredibly good! Like, NEXT LEVEL good, not just physically, but mentally, & spiritually. So much so, that we had a sit down with a very experienced yoga instructor to learn about the reasons behind these magical effects.

Frani Assaf has been a hot yoga teacher at the Sweatbox Studio in Capitol Hill, Seattle for over fifteen years. In her past life, she worked as a PR consultant, and amidst deadlines and vast amounts of pressure, longed for some peace and well-being. She happened to find so much of it in hot yoga, that she decided to become a full-time teacher and “share with other people the thing that changed her life.”

Happily, she agreed to share her light with us, and after an insightful conversation, we discovered 6 reasons behind the magic of hot yoga*:

1. It’s a Lesson in Self-Compassion

During the first few hot yoga classes, “you need to accept that you have no idea what you’re doing.”

It’s easy to forgive yourself for not knowing how to backbend all the way in the heat –because seriously, why would you? Also, it feels incredibly good to allow yourself to rest as many times as you want, even if everyone else around you is still going strong. It’s perfectly normal –in fact encouraged- for people to take multiple breaks throughout the class.

In a world where we should supposedly be pulling everything off, its great to have a space where imperfections and forgiveness are the rules. Even after 90 minutes of getting a lot of things wrong, you still leave with an incredible sense of accomplishment for trying.

2. It Requires You To Be Present & Let Go

“You have to let go of a lot of thoughts to stand on one leg in the heat.” You really have no other choice. If you start thinking about tomorrow’s deadline, or yesterday’s mistakes, guaranteed you’ll fall flat on your face. So if you want to learn about the power of mindfulness, a hot yoga class is the place.

You can’t even hold on to your mistakes during the previous posture. Most times a posture is over, Frani will literally remind the class to forget about what just happened and focus on being here now.

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3. It’s a Powerful Tool to Feel Clarity

When Frani first started going to yoga, it was the only thing that kept her grounded. It gave her a feeling of “if I go to yoga, everything is going to work out” -clarity that is certainly not easy to come by nowadays.  

This rare moment of zero anxiety that can be achieved at a hot yoga class is a powerful path to connect with the self, a reminder of your true nature: being at peace.

4. It’s a Spa for Your Spine

You can’t support your community if you’re not well, so when you invest in yourself, you’re ultimately investing in your community.

The physical benefits of hot yoga are endless. Frani’s top pick is the benefit for your spine: “we’re always sitting and hunching.” Think about it, using our computers, our phones, at our desks, we look down most of the day. “Too many people can barely touch their toes, which is terrible for your spine.”

Your spine serves as your energetical connection to the world “if it’s working, everything else will follow.” Traditional Hot Yoga incorporates many postures that serve as a spa for your spine, helping you feel centered and connected.

5. It’s a Reminder That You Are Worthy of Time

Many people probably think that a 90-minute exercise class is a lofty goal. That’s perhaps why finishing a class of this length feels like a rebellious act against our fast-paced society.

If we lived in a world that took women’s well-being seriously, Frani thinks we’d realize that “we are worthy of time for ourselves.” “Going to a yoga class is making that time.”

Of course, ninety minutes every day is most likely a privilege that not everyone can afford –but “we all deserve self-care.” So although taking time might look different for all of us, the important thing is remembering you are worthy of time.

6. It’s an Experience of Communion

Sweatbox Yoga, the studio managed by Frani, is a female-owned boutique that is deeply community-based, being one of the oldest Traditional Hot Yoga Studios in Seattle.

A jam-packed class of 25 students exudes the fantastic energy of people being present and focusing on themselves. The power of that closeness is not only a beautiful personal experience but a vibe that benefits people outside the studio. “You can’t support your community if you are not well, so when you invest in yourself, you’re ultimately investing in your community.”

With the topic of community, the subject of privilege came back up. For too long yoga has been painted as something reserved for a few, but to Frani, this couldn’t be further from the truth. In an ideal world, “we would teach yoga in schools, and give people the tools to practice in their homes.” All you need is your body & mind, and this magical practice should be available to anyone.

 *This interview has been edited & condensed for clarity.