How to Keep Students Safe In Hot Yoga

The craze for hot yoga has never been more fervent than it is right now. From London to Los Angeles, hot studios are springing up, offering everything from rigid Bikram classes to heated flow practices. And students love them. From beginners to yogis who’ve done it all, turning up the temperature brings a fun added challenge to the practice. Proponents also argue that working in the heat helps muscles release more deeply. That’s all good, but it also means that teachers need to be extra careful to keep their students safe in hot classes.

Of course, all the common sense rules about teaching yoga in general still apply in 90 or 100-degree room. Make sure to show modifications, let students know they can always come to a brief rest in Child’s Pose (Balasana), and make sure to check the room regularly to ensure that no one in the class seems to be struggling with the heat. But, there are a few more specific strategies you need to keep in mind when you’re at the front of the room. And, if you’re the studio owner, you need to make sure all your instructors are familiar with them. Here are a few things to keep in mind.

Learn the danger signs

Any yoga class can leave a student tired– even if you don’t think it’s that hard. But, in hot yoga, that tiredness can be heat exhaustion or faintness. If you see a student who seems lightheaded, dizzy or is losing coordination (as opposed to not being able to balance—we’ve all had those days), keep a close eye on them and encourage them to rest for a moment. Flushing can also be a cause for concern if the student’s skin has a blue or purple tinge—a basically fair person could just be flushed from the exertion. You can also bring a cool towel to drape around their necks. If there is a cooler part of the studio, suggest they move there. If that doesn’t help or they complain of being nauseous, that could be a symptom of dehydration or a more serious heat reaction. And, if you suspect that a student might be feeling faint, make sure they stop immediately and rest. Before you teach, check with your studio on guidelines for when to let students leave class, as policies vary considerably among studios and styles.

Pace your class

What feels easy in an unheated room can be overwhelming in a hot one. While each style varies, bear that in mind when you sequence your classes. You might want to slow down the pace or limit the number of repetitions, for example. It might also be a good idea to encourage students to stay for a rest in Corpse Pose (Savasana) to transition between the heated room and the unheated outdoors or studio lobby. Many students will want to rush out early and get on with their busy days, but that’s not always a good idea.

Watch the humidity

100 degrees can feel very different in a dry environment vs. a humid one. Check the thermostat before class. If the room starts to feel sticky during the practice, make sure you turn down the temp a few degrees (of course, check with your studio first to see if they’re OK with teachers adjusting it—some styles aren’t) or turn on fans. If you can’t adjust the temperature, place extra emphasis on making sure students stay hydrated throughout the class.

Be careful with inversions

You don’t have to avoid them completely, but be mindful that inversions can be more intense in the heat. Offer more modifications for any you do include, and emphasize again that students can always take a break.

These tips will help you make hot yoga a great experience for your students. And, remember, safety first—if you have a lot of beginners in your class or you don’t know how experienced your students are, it’s better to go slower at least at first and make sure everyone is OK. Also ask if any students have health problems that could make them more sensitive to the heat, or any injuries you need to be aware of.

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