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!
Before I did my first 30 Day Challenge in 2014, I read all the blogs and all the tips. The ones I found most useful were the most personal, so that’s what is going to happen here.
First, it is called a “Challenge” for a reason. Breaking up with your ‘snooze’ button is hard. As much as you want to hold on, you have to let it go… Your friends are going out for pizza; instead, you are trundling along to Day 12, cursing under your breath, halfway between moody teenager and deranged delinquent. Just like when you are on a ‘diet’ and you suddenly want to eat everything, even if you practice every day normally, psychologically the challenge of embarking on an official 30 Day Challenge is REAL. However, with that said, it is hands down one of the most rewarding months I’ve ever spent and I would implore each and every single one of you to do it, or as Fierce Grace says “laugh trying!”
- Water. A lot of it. How much? OK, pretend you are on fire. Douse yourself in the stuff.
- Replenish nutrients and minerals. Electrolytes. TIP: I heard Himalayan salts contain the same natural minerals and elements found in the body.
- Sleep. Eat well. (You will start to do this naturally as your body needs the good stuff. Let your friends keep their pizza. Or at least most of it.
- Get another towel, unless you can tumble-dry as fast as Concorde.
- Listen to your body. During my Challenge I felt like punching the next person to say that to me (cue the “moody teenager/deranged delinquent”) but it’s true. Give it what it needs. That applies to food, to sleep and to class. If you worked hard yesterday, maybe ease off today. Maybe that pose where you can usually do the full expression is weirdly causing discomfort today – take a step back. In one class, I did just a few postures and spent the rest lying down (tired and *cough* hungover). Interestingly from a meditational point of view, this was one of the best yoga classes I’ve ever had. The experience also completely transformed my practice; it taught me acceptance. Show up and work with what you’ve got. For yoga and for life.
Fierce Grace Brixton is set up for a 30 Day Challenge. It makes such a difference to walk into the studio and have a staff member ask you how your challenge is going then congratulating you as you leave. Over the 30 Days, community becomes really important. At Fierce Grace Brixton, we are truly blessed that this “community” already exists. If learning names was an Olympic sport, the Fierce Grace Brixton team would be bringing the gold medal home. (To confirm, we absolutely do not have your mug-shots up on our walls at home). The changing rooms are pretty much where 90% of Brixton’s gossiping is done and as you step into the studio there are waves and plentiful bright smiles. One big happy Fierce Grace Brixton family. Family got your back on this Challenge and are here for you 100% of the way.
There are days where in no way does the end appear in sight. However, the continual sense of achievement is astronomical. There is a childlike pleasure in ticking off another day under your name on the studio’s 30 Day Challenge white-board. The Kanye West swagger with which you can conduct around the studio is completely legitimate. In fact, it will be actively encouraged. Completing your 30th class can be likened only to when Halle Berry won that Oscar and the certificate is still on my wall, a level above my university degree certificate.
In all seriousness, a 30 Day Challenge really does transform your practice. It is a feat in itself to make time in your schedule, regardless of what else is thrown at you. However, it is so much more about creating the mental space. In prioritising your practice, you are prioritising yourself and if that isn’t worth 30 days I’m not really sure what is.
Good luck! Megan
We thought you’d like to know a little more about Michele Pernetta and the principles behind FG.
What was it about hot yoga that made you realise you wanted to create a brand around it?
Having introduced Bikram Yoga to the UK in 1994, have been teaching yoga in a heated room for over 20 years. After teaching over 200,000 people and opening 4 studios, I decided I wanted to teach in different ways, to a wider audience, and also vary the temperature of the room in order to provide both Warm and Hot classes. I love a heated room for yoga, it relaxes the muscles, as well as the mind, and you are not stiff the next day if you do yoga in a hot room as opposed to a cool room. The sweating is cathartic, and the body and mind feel open and receptive. So although I now offer Warm Yoga, as well as Hot 9our heat is moderate not overwhelming) I do still feel being nice and warm really does support the process.
Are you a hot yoga devotee? What are its best selling points? Why should people try it?
After 23 years in the hot room, I guess you would say I was a devotee yes! I am a Fierce Grace devotee not a “hot” yoga devotee as not all hot yoga is create equal.
Fierce Grace builds incredible strength, endurance, fitness, flexibility and vitality. It promotes weight loss and healthy toned muscle, as well as fluid flexibility and a full range of movement. Super-charged fitness, postural alignment, flexibility, strength, slimming, toning, stress release, mood lifting, oxygenation of the body which is reported to be a disease preventative, detoxification through sweating and we are also learning self discipline, self motivation, focus, concentration,and determination.
However I am not a fan over overheating, it’s not conducive to a great class if you are just struggling to survive the heat. Its best selling points are that it prevents injury by allowing the muscles and joints to operate at their optimal working temperature, it aids detoxification through sweating and it makes stretching easier. It also means you do not feel sore or stiff the next day. People find the sweating cathartic and find it helps them get into their own zone.
Fierce Grace has five types of classes: how did you decide on these?
It was a long process that took may years of study, practise, research, trial, and workshopping sequences with groups of students and teachers. It took many years. It was based on my having taught s many people over such a long time and seeing what their bodies needed, their minds, their energy. Asking them, seeing what weaknesses certain poses addressed, or didn’t. What kind of classes relaxed people, or fired them up. It has taken me 15 years of going to every class i could, studying with different teachers and experimenting. I feel my Fierce Grace system allows our different energies to be addressed, and the over 150 poses in the system allow us to move the body in every different way, and bring out its different possibilities energetically. Without sounding too strange, this means that we need different classes to express ourselves fully, a slow relaxing stretch class to get connected and sensitive, a fiery energetic class to ignite our energy and stamina, a pleasurable, easygoing, flowing class to help us become relaxed, graceful and opened on every level, and a linear more disciplined alignment class to bring power and form. i felt the human body was too complicated to be sentenced to one way of moving, an that people deserved a choice of classes to cater to their changing needs, but that were all based in the same core poses so they would always be progressing, safe and have a foundation structure to build on, so it wouldn’t matter which class they chose, they would always be working within a familiar and safe foundation.
How is Fierce Grace settling into Brixton?
I will leave Katie and Nigel to answer that! My students and teachers that have gone there say its a welcome addition to the fun, down to earth vibe of Brixton and that our no-nonsense approach and welcoming atmosphere fit in well with the community feeling of Brixton.
We know how hard it is to find motivation during the summer, especially when it’s actually hot. Sometimes the last thing you can imagine is getting off a hot and sweaty tube, or bike commute, and then heading to Fierce Grace Brixton for another 90 minutes of the sweaty stuff, right? So here’s some ways to stay motivated…
- Maintaining your hot yoga practice will help your body stay cooler in the summer, as it helps you acclimatize to the temperature. So those 90 minutes of extra sweating in our beautifully climate controlled room is actually helpful. So you can look forward to a less sweaty summer, when all those around you are ‘glowing’…
- Stay hydrated, stay motivated. We know we bang this drum a lot, but being dehydrated is going to make you feel more tired and less likely to want to put the extra effort into getting to a class. Bananas, blueberries and coconut water will help with electrolytes, essential for proper hydration levels. No, a lager shandy doesn’t count.
- Think about changing your practice times. We’ve touched on this before, but if you normally find early morning classes a struggle, the summer is the ideal time to embrace them. Your body clock will naturally want to rise earlier, as does the sun, so get up and get going. A class at the beginning of the day will set you up for the day and might feel easier then a class at the end of a long, hot day.
- It’s an obvious one, but get a yoga buddy / motivation-mongering butt-kicky friend to help make sure you turn up when you say you are going to.
- You might find your practice goes to another level for a reason you may not have thought about. Most of us eat differently in the summer, we eat lighter meals generally and when its hot we go for salads and grains vs potatoes and pasta, which means our digestive tract is less busy. You might be surprised how deeply you can twist, bind and move!
With the long awaited arrival of warmer weather (yep, British Summer Time is as reliable as British Rail these days) we thought it might be a good time to go over the ‘pre-hydrate and re-hydrate to avoid de-hydrate’ principles to ensure you get the best out of your practice at Fierce Grace Brixton.
If you are anything like us, the sunshine means beer gardens, BBQs and a nice chilled glass of rosé, (speaking of beer gardens, the Duke of Edinburgh pub in Brixton has an epic garden!) Combine that with a regular hot yoga practice, sweaty commutes and summer temperatures and it’s pretty likely you are not taking on enough fluids.
There are very physical signs that will also tell you this. For example, if you find the class more of a challenge than usual, you experience cramps, tiredness, feel nauseous or dizzy, then you could need to hydrate properly.
If the weather gets particularly hot, water alone won’t be enough to hydrate you fully – you need water and electrolytes in balance. Essential electrolytes include: sodium, potassium, magnesium, chloride, phosphate, sulphate, and calcium ions and bi-carbonates and the easiest, quickest way to get these on board is coconut water. Not a fan of coconut? Never fear, the Emergen-C sachets or Arbonne Fizz Sticks are great before class too!
The first thing we strongly recommend is that you pre-hydrate before you hit the studio. If you are doing the morning class this is something to be even more aware of, especially if you have had a couple of glasses or wine or beers the night before. Be sensible, start drinking water as soon as you wake up, have a coconut water before class, and back off a little if you are struggling.
After class, eat something as soon as possible as this helps the body hydrate effectively. Fruit and veg is best, so hit up the stalls in Brixton Village for a slice of watermelon, or get yourself a smoothie made with skimmed or fat free milk for a surprisingly effective hydrator (the fat in whole milk can slow fluid replacement down).
Have a happy, hydrated, Fierce Grace summer!