My First Hot Yoga Class Changed My Life

Caitlin Houston
6 min readJan 18, 2024

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Five years ago you couldn’t pay me to take a hot yoga class. Today I will pay anything to take a class because I NEED hot yoga for my mental health and well-being. My first hot yoga class changed my life for the better.

Caitlin Houston Hot Yoga on Mat

I Need Hot Yoga for my Mental Health

As I lay breathless, completely soaked in my own sweat, I could not help but smile. My first hot yoga class was nothing like I ever imagined it would be. Yoga was after all, the most boring activity on the planet. And sweltering humidity is my least favorite environment. However, the sixty minutes I spent stretching, posing, breathing and melting was the most wonderful sixty minutes I had ever experienced in my life.

My sister and I left the yoga studio in a euphoric daze — I couldn’t wait to go back. Funny thing is the vibe in the car was much different on the way to the studio — it was almost dreadful. My sister, a self-proclaimed hot yogi fan, practically forced me to go with her. She knew I despised yoga, but loved a great workout. She also knows my weaknesses — so she told me I was starting to look like a loaf of bread from my lack of physical activity. Not wanting to look like the food I eat, I put on a pair of leggings. Then I told her I’d only go if she drove and brought me a yoga mat.

I expected hot yoga to be as miserable as the regular yoga class she dragged me to years prior. Repetitive poses in a quiet room is not enjoyable for someone with a busy mind like myself. Not only am I someone who feels like she never stops thinking, but I also suffer from occasional anxiety and obsessive compulsive behaviors. Instead of finding peace in Warrior 1 or relief in Pigeon, I found myself thinking about my groery list and looking for a clock.

The only exercise I ever enjoy challenges not just my body, but my mind as well. Dance and cardio aerobics with a great playlist was always my favorite form of exercise. Dance has always been a hobby and outlet for creativity as well. During those activities, my brain can only focus on the routine. All other thoughts disappear, sometimes my anxiety subsides, and in those moments I am most, and quite literally, carefree.

But then I tried hot yoga and my life was changed forever. I thank my sister time and time again for dragging me to that first class.

My First Hot Yoga Class Changed My Life

How did hot yoga differ from regular yoga? Well let’s first acknowledge an important fact: yoga and dance are very similar, as they both use a sequence of movements to bring awareness to the body and mind. So I should have loved regular yoga since I love dance. However, regular yoga lacks one big element: heat. The sauna-like environment of a hot yoga studio is a game changer for the entire experience. The heat is partially what brings me back to the studio again and again.

Not only does heat relax your soft muscle tissue, allowing you to stretch a little further and achieve a greater range of motion. But heat also forces you to pay attention to your breathing and your body. There is so much concentration required in a hot yoga class that it’s impossible to think about anything but yoga. My search for a way to shut down my anxious brain was achieved in that first hot yoga class.

I have tried hot yoga in other studios, but my heart is most happy at Some Like It Hot in Hamden, CT. It’s a judgement free zone where I can lose and find myself at the same time. Some Like It Hot is owned by an incredible woman who I will forever thank for giving me a safe space to practice what I love. She also taught me the power of kindness while I was sick during 2020 when she brought our family dinner every night for months. Deb and so many of her instructors have been my guides through some of the stormiest times of life.

sisters post hot yoga
Some Like it Hot Hamden Hot Yoga for Mental Health Benefits CHB
Some Like it Hot Hamden Hot Yoga sweaty mat for Mental Health Benefits CHB
Some Like it Hot Hamden Hot Yoga for Mental Health Benefits CHB
Deb Some Like it Hot Hamden Hot Yoga for Mental Health Benefits CHB

Why do you love hot yoga?

I love hot yoga for a multitude of reasons — and not just because it is good for my anxiety. Yoga offers a time for self-reflection, the practice of kindness and self-compassion, and continued growth and self-awareness. At the beginning and end of each class we thank (and hug) our bodies for showing up on the mat. We praise ourselves for taking time out of our day regardless of how hard we work in class. In hot yoga, I have learned to love myself for existing.

When I am consistent with my hot yoga practice, my physical health benefits as well. I have muscles in places I didn’t know existed and actually feel strong. My flexibility has improved, which obviously helps in dance class allows me, but also allows me to easily chase around my toddler. Over the years I have learned how to do things I never thought possible — like a push-up (!) and a headstand. I feel empowered and strong and GOOD about my body when I practice hot yoga.

Some Like it Hot Hamden Hot Yoga for Mental Health Benefits CHB
lunge open yoga Some Like it Hot Hamden Hot Yoga for Mental Health Benefits CHB
side plank yoga

Is Hot Yoga actually good for Anxiety and Depression?

In case you’re doubting my claims, scientific studies are beginning to show hot yoga may lead to greater well-being. An empirical study has demonstrated that hot yoga is particularly effective in reducing negative-affect and state-anxiety in individuals who are under substantial stress in daily life (Szabo et al., 2017). Another recent study suggests heating the body, a process called whole body hyperthermia, may provide from relief of depression symptoms (source). My therapist encourages my practice of hot yoga, especially when my mental health is at it’s worst.

In a society where we rush from one moment to the next, constantly trying to change to connect to the world around us, yoga serves as a pathway to discover and align with our true selves and tap into our inner potential. It allows us to let go of external distractions and expectations, enabling us to embrace our authentic selves and live a more fulfilling and purposeful life..

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Caitlin Houston

Caitlin Houston is a Mom of three and creator of Connecticut based life + style site Caitlin Houston Blog.