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Whether you’re only thinking of trying hot yoga or you are an experienced practitioner, doing yoga in 90- to 100-degree heat comes with unique challenges. Choosing the correct mat for such an endeavor can go a long way towards making the practice more enjoyable!
Things to Consider When Purchasing a Yoga Mat for Hot Yoga
Given the propensity to slip during hot yoga, mat stickiness is something to investigate before purchasing. You may also want to take the mat material into consideration. There are mats with non-slip surfaces, sticky yoga mats, eco-friendly yoga mats and hot yoga towels, to name a few. Additional props like yoga gloves can be useful.
Some materials break down fast than others in intense heat. Mats with polyurethane coatings or other toxic materials may emit these toxic compounds at a higher rate in intense heat, so a good yoga mat for hot yoga must be able to withstand the additional heat and moisture from your sweat. Additionally, the difference between open cell and closed cell mats becomes more important since open cell mats will absorb more of the bacteria in a space.
Top Yoga Mat for Hot Yoga: Our Picks for 2020
This is a great option for individuals with a regular yoga practice who are looking to experiment with hot yoga as well. The Manduka eKO has a comfortable price point and offers great traction when wet due to its horizontal wave pattern. It has a closed cell top surface, ideal for preventing the absorption of sweat and bacteria. The bottom is open-cell in order to provide more cushion, with the tradeoff of possible bacterial exposure.
Note: Manduka also makes a lightweight version of the eKO that is one of our top travel yoga mats.
A solid yoga mat for hot yoga practitioners who prioritize eco-friendliness, Yoloha’s Nomad Cork Mat provides the ultimate non-slip mat. The top facing layer is comprised of cork, which is naturally antimicrobial, a plus in sweaty situations and free of all toxins and other chemicals. The bottom layer is composed of latex-free, closed cell rubber, offering additional protection from bacteria. Ideal for regular hot yoga practice, the cork also resists odor absorption.
The Gaiam Sol Studio may be the best mat for those with rubber-sensitivities. It prioritizes thickness and stickiness. The Gaiam Sol mat was designed specifically for hot, sweaty yoga practices and features a moisture-wicking top coat. The topcoat also provides a good amount of stickiness for extra staying power in difficult poses. At 5 mm thick, this mat is a great option for hot yogis who prefer a bit of cushion. The Gaiam mat is 100% rubber-free, ideal for those with a latex allergy.
This Lab Combo Mat is the ideal option for yogis who practice hot yoga 1-2 times per week, are OK with moderate thickness (3.5 mm) and prioritize being dry over traction. This mat boasts a natural rubber bottom and a microfiber towel top layer. This mat keeps throughout the duration of a hot yoga class as sweat is absorbed into the towel portion.
This also creates decent traction, although some may wish for more stickiness. Perhaps the best feature is that it is machine washable! Please note that it has to be line-dried and may not be the best option for those who practice hot yoga more than a few times per week.
Hot Yoga vs. Bikram Yoga
Many people conflate hot yoga with Bikram yoga. This is actually not accurate, despite the fact that both hot yoga and Bikram yoga are conducted in heated spaces.
Bikram yoga is a very strictly defined practice, invented by yogi Bikram Choudhury, who has turned out to be a controversial figure. It is a 90-minute practice that consists of the same 26 poses and two breathing exercises, conducted in a room that maintains a temperature of 105 degrees and 50% humidity.
Hot yoga more loosely refers to any practice conducted consistently at a temperature of 85 degrees or higher. These classes may range in duration, and poses vary. Hot vinyasa yoga classes have been a more popular hallmark of this trend.
The Benefits and Challenges of Hot Yoga
Practicing Bikram or a more generalized form of hot yoga comes with some added benefits. For starters, the heat provides for enhanced flexibility as your muscles and ligaments loosen up. It also increases blood flow throughout the body and increases your ability to flow more easily between postures.
Hot yoga also comes with all the benefits of regular sauna-sitting, such as increased detoxification via sweating and boosting of the metabolism. Practicing in a heated setting has also been proven to boost immunity.
Many people find 60+ minutes of physical practice in such high temperatures to be mentally challenging. For this reason, a hot yoga practice can be especially useful for honing your ability to maintain focus and calm under pressure.
Other challenges that come with the hot yoga territory are less beneficial to grapple with. At the top of this list are slipping around on your mat in your own sweat and accelerated mat degradation due to the unique conditions of a hot yoga class.
How Hot is Hot Yoga?
Like many folks just starting out, I was once a little scared to participate in a hot yoga class. I don’t do well in saunas or other very hot places. Breathing often becomes difficult and I worry about overheating and getting dizzy. But I made it through that first hot yoga class and found it to be an invigorating experience.
Temperature of hot yoga sessions varies by studio. CorePower, a popular nationwide studio, aims for a temp of 105 degrees Fahrenheit for its Bikram sessions, which consist of a static set of 26 postures performed in a specific order. CorePower’s website explains further:
“This class systematically works the entire body, concentrating on the essence of every organ, bone, joint, muscle, ligament, tendon, blood vessel, nerve and gland. Incorporating strength, balance, and flexibility, CorePower Hot Yoga teaches students how each pose stimulates the mind and restores and shapes the body.”
Not all hot yoga classes involve a Bikram sequence. Some hot yoga power classes or instructor-created course sequences can feature temperatures as low as 90°. But generally speaking, expect a hot yoga class to be close to 100°, and expect a very high level of humidity.
Factors that affect hot yoga temperature
As noted above, CorePower aims for 105° F in its hot yoga sessions, but in actual practice, sometimes that varies. I’ve been in classes in which the thermometer showed temps ranging between 102 and 109. I’ve also had instructors ask if everyone would be happy with raising the temperature a few degrees, which resulted in hotter rooms after everyone said yes.
Another obvious factor affecting the temperature of a hot yoga class is body heat, determined by the number of participants. Thirty people crammed into an already hot room will make the thermometer soar, while a room with only 5 or 10 yogis will not be quite as sweltering.
Other factors to consider include outdoor temperature. Some studios, like CorePower, have only large glass windows between the hot yoga rooms and the outside. If it’s a frigid 20 degrees outside, that will obviously affect the indoor temperature differently than if it’s 85 outside.
But don’t assume that hot yoga rooms will be cooler in the winter. In my experience, instructors often turn up the indoor temperature to compensate, so you could actually end up with a hotter class during the dead of a frigid winter.
Hot yoga tips: What You’ll Need for a Hot Yoga Class
In addition to your yoga mat for hot yoga, you’ll need a few other things. Wear breathable clothes that can handle moisture. Make sure to bring a water bottle to rehydrate and a yoga towel to absorb some of the perspiration. Sweating is good for the body, so don’t go overboard with the towel, but if you’re dripping like crazy, feel free to sop up some of it.
Don’t skimp on the yoga towel. Get a good one that ranks highly in terms of absorption level, comfort, and durability. You’re going to be washing it a lot, so spend a few extra bucks to get one that will hold up over the long haul. (If you’re looking for a mat-length towel, we recommend the Yogitoes Skidless.)
Finally, bring a positive mental attitude. Hot yoga can be one of the most renewing and rejuvenating experiences as long as you go in with the right mindset of challenging yourself.