The familiar ‘drip-drip’ from the forehead in Balancing Stick, the slippy-slide feel of your legs against your arms in Crow and the water-in-eyes conundrum in forward folds: In hot yoga, we sweat, a lot. If you’re working hard, hey, even if you’re not, the sweat is real. Usually we can take the heat by breathing properly, but in the instances it’s too much, were you already dehydrated?
With the average male being 60% water and average female 55%, we are essentially water-creatures without the gills. Your hydration levels within your body have to drop 2-3% in order for receptors to send messages to the brain to generate the sensing of thirst, However, at just 1% it starts to affect our overall physical and mental performance.
Water is the fuel that keeps the well-oiled machine that is the body ticking over. It allows for the digestion of food, the expulsion of toxins and temperature regulation. It is present in all cells within the body. Essentially, if you don’t put a lot in, you don’t get a lot out. Experiencing dehydration during physical exercise pressurises the joints (not very helpful in that Standing Head to Knee, is it?) and also means there is less water to create sweat for the body to cool down, further increasing the chances of cramping.
Something we learn through yoga is body awareness; understanding and listening to your body is partly knowing what to put into it. Unlike food, water is absorbed though osmosis as soon as it enters the body, starting in the mouth and the throat. It is ingested the same way the whole way down, so staying hydrated is very easy, especially if it is little and often. Unfortunately, swigging by the gallon as you run into the studio will only leave you feeling heavy and bloated… a little like offering a deluge to a sad plant after weeks of neglect. System overload and you’ll never win at the Chelsea Flower Show like that.
Water is also found in food, especially in fruits and vegetables. If you’re needing a hydration boost, coconut water can also do the trick. Low calorie, high in fibre and electrolytes, containing metabolism-balancing copper, anti-inflammatory antioxidants and more potassium than 4 bananas, plus a low sugar and sodium content, it’s no wonder it is known as “Mother Nature’s sports drink”. With the explosion of clean-eating and healthy-living in the media over recent years, it’s also got Hollywood’s seal of approval.
Following his record-breaking 11 hour long match at Wimbledon in 2010, American tennis player John Isner credited coconut water as what keeps him going on court, even in hotter conditions. The well-hydrated star said he drinks coconut water and water pre-match, coconut water laced with salts on-court then a cocktail of coconut water and protein powder for post-match recovery. The only draw-back is that it does not contain sufficient carbs or sugar to counteract a heavy perspiration resulting from 3 hours of intense heat; lucky that all Fierce Grace classes are under 90 minutes then, isn’t it! So, after class, have a break, have a Chi (not a Kit-Kat).
Make May the month where you honour your watery selves and hydrate to stay great!
Whether you are new to hot yoga or you have been practising for a while, you may start to see how your practice benefits your daily life outside of the studio. One of these things may be your skin. Many a myth exists around hot yoga (did you know we are all half unicorn?) but many people claim that getting your sweat on in the hot room improves your skin, giving us that (*cough*unicorn-) glow we all resonate (with the exception of some Mondays).
Hot yoga improves blood circulation, bringing oxygen and nutrients to the skin from the inside out, simultaneously encouraging the release of bacteria, toxins and other nasties out through the loosened pores. We’re sold; but what else can we do to help our skin this winter?
We have assembled a list of some lesser-known skin essentials that you might just find in your kitchen cupboard, meaning that you can keep costs down and avoid unnatural ingredients.
- Baking soda: As an abrasive, this product can be used as an exfoliant to help loosen dead skin. To get your feet silky soft for our barefoot hot yoga studio, how about trying a baking soda foot-bath, with half a cup of baking soda to every gallon of warm water and leaving for 30 minutes?
- Oats (particularly colloidal oatmeal): one of the few FDA approved natural ingredients to treat skin irritations such as eczema and dry skin
- Beta Carotene: our body converts this nutrient, found in red, orange and yellow fruits such as carrots and sweet potatoes, into Vitamin A helping us to heal wounds and maintain healthy cells
- Apple cider vinegar: regulating the pH level of the skin, a splash of this product with some water can be used as a toner or occasional face wash
- Fruit: You can make you own natural, exfoliating face-mask using fresh mango skin, mashed strawberries or pineapple. Apply directly onto the face for a few minutes before rinsing. (If you suffer from fruit-related allergies, do not try this at home!)
- Lemon: Fierce Grace Brixton knows the value of the mighty lemon. We put it in our water every day! Lemons are anti-bacterial, anti-viral and have special immune-boosting powers. If the lemon was a Star Wars character, it would be the wise Yoda – the force is certainly strong with this one. A great detoxifier, our livers and digestive tracts also love them. They can be used to beach-blonde our locks in the sun and with a high concentration of Vitamin A, lemon can be mixed with warm water to whiten nails and even out skin tone. Phwoar, is there no end to the lemon’s magical powers?
- Brown sugar: Sugar is the nation’s bad-boy in town right now, but mix half a cup with a few tablespoons of olive oil and water and you’ve got yourself a finger-licking good way to clear away dead skin. Sugar might be in the naughty corner but this sure sweetens the deal.
- Chamomile tea bags: Eurgh, now that we are all in winter hibernation mode, those dark, puffy eyes are a killer. The best antidote is sleep, but as you are all jumping out of bed for our early morning classes, try this alternative. Tea bags contain caffeine and anti-inflammatory tannins that should, fingers crossed, have us all looking a decade younger in no time! Place a tea bag in boiling water for 5 minutes, leave to cool in the fridge then place one over each eye-lid (please note that the fridge part is strongly advised, unless you have asbestos skin). Chamomile is the equivalent of a hug in tea-world and smells like it too, so that gets our vote.
What are your favourite natural skincare tips? Let us know!
Tonight, Fierce Grace creator and founder, Michele Pernetta herself, is venturing south of the river to teach an extra special Fierce Grace class here in Brixton. It’s going to be popular! In preparation, she explains the 7 principle postures behind our classes…
Fierce Grace is a system of interconnected classes. These classes work together to allow the body full expression, full range of motion, full functionality. The classes have a core set of poses running throughout them, poses that ensure we never lose our core, our support system, and build a powerful foundation.
These core poses recur in various forms throughout the FG system in order to ensure the correct alignment of the body is regularly re-patterned into the musculo-skeletal system. They provide the “skeleton” to all the classes so that continuous progression is made, structural alignment is regularly repeated, as well creating a template for safety, as the key muscles are continuously strengthened and conditioned in every class. This approach provides a structure on which the other more than 100 poses of the FG system can be safely supported.
“Hanging a beautiful, heavy coat on a bent flimsy hanger will only cause the hanger to bend and eventually snap. That’s why one must create a solid and aligned foundation in the body, while building musculature and before attempting more advanced poses.”
~ Michele Pernetta
To progress in our goal of having a strong, flexible, aligned body, which will prevent wear and tear, injuries, ageing and degeneration and last us a lifetime, we must develop and maintain:
- A strong flexible spine
- Flexible pelvis and hips
- Aligned and flexible shoulders
- Strong quads
- Aligned ankles, knees and wrists
- Strong hands and feet
- Strong Core muscles
- Strong back muscles
- Flexibility of hamstrings and glutes
- Upper body strength
To this end, the following poses repeat throughout all the lasses, albeit sometimes fast, sometimes slow, and in beginners and advanced forms, as well as with variations:
1) Spine compass series (Half moon, Backbend, Hands to feet)
2) Chair / Utkatasana, advanced (3 parts)
3) Standing Separate Leg Stretching
5) Warrior 2
6) Reclining Pigeon
7) Down Dog
Although the FG philosophy is that one needs to move the body in every possible way, fast, slow, linear, circular, static, flowing, and to confuse muscles with new poses so we can not rely on habitual patterns and awaken dormant muscles, there is a need to core poses in order for our main alignment needs to be met. These poses neutralize the wear and tear of our daily lives. Sitting in chairs, cars, at computers, the lack of movement, the compression of the front body, the weakening of the back body, these potentially degenerating habits need regular, even daily, countering and neutralizing.
Beautiful sequences for a beautiful body
Fierce Grace Brixton studio manager Marija Jovanovic explains some of the benefits of a hot yoga practice this week. So if you want to know how good it is for you, read on….
1. Practicing yoga in a heated room increases pulse rate and metabolism, increasing blood flow to the limbs. This allows you to move more freely from posture to posture. In addition, a warmed up body can twist, bend and stretch further and more safely, which also allows for an internal organ massage. All inner glands, organs, ligaments and muscles benefit.
2. Yoga promotes the relief of stress and connection of mind and body and spirit. Through regular you will challenge yourself – as they say, life begins when you step out of your comfort zone! When you can stay calm and focused during hot yoga, you may find that that carries through to any given situation occurring in everyday life – enabling you to retain peace of mind as you face the challenges of life.
3. Hot yoga encourages elimination of toxins from the body by sweating. Your body burns fat more effectively in the heat, and fat may redistribute and be used as energy during the class. You may notice a your muscle definition and tone improves fairly quickly with regular practice as does your flexibility and strength.
4. The increase in sweat also benefits your skin; it’s the hot yoga glow! After all, the largest organ of our body is the skin, and a 90-minute class will help clear out the pores.
5. You may become better equipped to fight infection with regular hot yoga practice. Similar to when your body raises its temperature to fight infection, the raised temperature in the room assists in improving T-cell function and the proper functioning of your immune system.
So enjoy the experience – exploration of your own body, mind and soul. It’s a journey well worth taking and it’s really good for you.