Hot yoga & the perimenopause – a survival guide

The sweating begins with me unrolling my yoga mat and reaches profuse with the inclusion of ‘ujjayi’ breath. At 35C, 90 minutes becomes a survival exercise, a constant battle to mop sweat and hydrate between poses. Slippery arms and feet fail to grip or balance as my clammy limbs slide inelegantly out of eagle or tree pose.

Loud drips of perspiration hit the mat as I forward fold and my mountain pose leads to temporary blindness as my saturated head band can no longer stem the flood from my forehead.

And yet here I am aged north of 45 decked out in the aptly named Sweaty Betty, not so much flowing as still going but in an oddly satisfying mindful sort of way.

As a youngster my lack of flexibility and strength frustrated any yoga ambitions. Now, at least I have a modicum of core and endurance to see me through 60-90 minutes. Meanwhile the heat seems to help me bend and stretch a little better than I ever recall at room temperature.

So I’m getting hooked on hot yoga, but with an imminent and inevitable oestrogen decline how will practice feel? Will my vasomotor issues in class be compounded? Can you get away with a hot flush exercising at 35C? Have the wicking properties of sports fabrics reached their technical limits?

Pre-empting the peri-menopause here are my Hot Yoga tips (applicable to most hormonal states).

1. Put water in the freezer.

My sports bottle is semi frozen at the start of class, which means those, critical early drinks help to cool my core.

2. Keep drinking.

There are cardiovascular risks to exercising at hot temperatures and hydration is essential to mitigate this. Be wary of any instructor who discourages drinking either explicitly or tacitly (by not pacing class to allow drinking).

3. Leave your ego at the door.

Practice according to your own body and level of fitness not what the nubile 20 year old on your left or the seasoned lifelong yogi on your right are doing.

4. Don’t be afraid to take a breather

This could be in ‘child’s’ pose or even ‘Shavasana’ (a.k.a. corpse pose!). I’ve witnessed many yoga instructors doing this mid class.

5. Modify or omit poses that might exacerbate existing injuries.

Tell your yoga instructor pre class if you have any niggles so they can help you with modifications. Right now I’m nursing my lower back so I adopt ‘sphinx’ during tricky floor poses like ‘superman’. I like to think it makes me look enigmatic.

6. Don’t be tempted to wear shorts in classes with balance poses.

Leg sweat can be contained with a nice wicking pair of leggings. With trial and error I’ve found the Skins range skins.net to be best and their A400 compression leggings seem to support my wobbly ‘standing leg’.

7. Try not to overheat covering up.

Tempting as it is to use layers and baggy bottoms to mask sag and bulge without a breeze you will only feel hotter. Instead try lightweight yoga bras from sweatybetty.com with sheer tops and work your way up to a crop (if you failed to pull this off in the 80s don’t worry no one did)

8. Forget makeup.

It will only slide off your face, stain your mat and combined with cactus arms make you look like a circus act. Tinted brows and lashes are a better option.

9. Arrive early if you can and the studio is free.

Stretching out for 5-10 minutes will help ease the old soft tissues into class and create the illusion of proficiency.

10. Props are fun tools not cheating aids

Embrace them (as I frequently do with my favourite bolster). Straps help with ‘binding’ and tendon stretching. Blocks assist with positioning, alignment, balance and flexibility Supported Bridge is one of my favourite restorative poses and can help progress with shoulder stand (last achieved in gymnastics class circa 1979).

So with some careful mopping, propping and cropping you will end up sopping but hopefully not dropping or flopping as you end up adopting Hot Yoga.

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