The Critical Five Musts (and Must Nots) Before Hot Yoga

The Critical Five Musts (and Must Nots) Before Hot Yoga

The secret to having the best experience in the yoga studio, is to prepare your body and mind before you enter — particularly if it is a heated room.

Kevin Mattison, MS, a certified Bikram Hatha instructor at Bikram Yoga Santa Barbara, shares his approach and philosophy:

“Class prep for me begins days before class. Your practice may deepen and improve if your energy, during class, is not diverted to digestion and you are not carrying an uncomfortable amount of food in your GI tract.”

1. The best food is NO food.

Human digestion is relatively slow, generally taking 6-12 hours to go from your mouth to small intestine; that’s just the beginning. Low fiber consumers and meat consumers have an even longer digestion cycle.

Because it can take over 48 hours to expel consumed red meat, I recommend that new Yogini / Yogi’s avoid it altogether a couple of days before their first class. This may sound a bit extreme, but, it’s worth the restraint.

Vegetables are better within two days leading up to your first class. Over time, to accentuate the practice, newcomers may find that their lifestyle and choices with respect to food changes entirely to more healthy consumption (less meat, fewer empty calories) as a somewhat automatic adjunct to strengthen their Yoga practice.

2. Hydrate!

Make sure you drink plenty of water.  That is, avoid bloating and GI tract discomfort while ensuring that any water released from the body prior to class is clear in color.I also strongly recommend an electrolyte balance. Thus far, I’ve found the best electrolytes at >  They produce a product called HEED and another called Endurolytes.  I use them both as a ‘shortcut’ when I don’t have time for my electrolyte smoothie from select high electrolyte content fruit(s) that I VitaMix at home.

Begin and end your intake in a manner that does not require a trip to the bathroom during class.

Avoid ’over the counter’ electrolyte drinks, and products of that ilk; just read the label and you’ll know what I’m talking about.

3. Eliminate 

Evacuate the body’s digestive system before class. Also try to ensure that gaseous byproducts of digestion are eliminated. Solid, liquid, and gaseous byproducts of food processing, when held in the body, can detract from deeper expressions of the practice and the attendant benefits. Any associated discomfort and digestive system requirements will draw the mind away from the available meditative state(s) closely tied to the asanas.

4. Sleep

Yep, sleep; gotta’ get a good rest before you come to the hot room.  Once a new student has established a consistent practice, sleep may become less and less necessary prior to taking class.

5. Establish and maintain an open mind for the class.

“Check yourself before you wreck yourself!” Where is your head, your mind?  Show up without expectation and let the experience unfold (no pun intended).  Forget what your body looks like in a speedo or unitard; that’s not who or what you are anyway! Forget about the outside world. Although your outward appearance and functionality will change, more than likely for the better, our Yoga practice is an inside job.

About Kevin

Kevin Mattison is a certified Bikram Hatha instructor at Bikram Yoga Santa Barbara.

“I am a lifelong athlete with a military leadership background.  I engaged in a full spectrum of ‘gladiator’ type sports that typically have many injuries associated with them.  Fortunately, as I approached the BIG-5-OH, I made it to my first Bikram Yoga class in relatively good condition; not perfect, but good! Although I practiced other forms, or traditions, of Hatha Yoga prior to my Bikram experience, I found that the Bikram method resonated with me and, ultimately, healed me in remarkable ways.

I became a Bikram Yoga teacher to proliferate the benefits of this practice. I bring an open mind and heart to the art and science of Hatha Yoga. I regard this gift that we share as a ‘health’ oriented Yoga journey. As our bodies process what we do in the hot room we incrementally fix what needs repair and enhance what’s already working. In short, I’m here to help you gain physical, energetic, and mental strength on all levels; increase not only your physical range of motion, but your mental and spiritual ranges as well; detox all systems; especially your integumentary system; and, last, but not least, experience a dignified longevity. After all, if we don’t take care of our bodies, where are we going to live?”


Kirsten is a certified yoga instructor (E-RYT 200) living in Santa Barbara, California. When she is not practicing, writing about or teaching yoga, you can likely find Kirsten on a paddleboard or on the beach with her kids doing something silly.

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  1. Timothy McLaughlin - June 20, 2014

    Hi Kev,

    This is outstanding! For those men who believe Yoga is odd are missing a lot, and the macho thing pure rot. Any honest male would getting on in years would attest to not feeling as perky, limber, or possess the stamina he had at 18, 30, and on. Frequently, this is exacerbated by an insufficient lack of exercise and accordingly, a reduced range of motion, physical strength, and stamina. Yoga does wonders in this regard, and I am complete novice as only started doing it occasionally after spinal surgery as a result of a car accident. I highly recommend it to any man, because as a result, I feel much better, take no pain meds, and I am certainly not as stiff relative to my posture and flexibility. Dudes….Yoga is a GREAT thing! Check it out…you will not be sorry.

  2. Carl Adams - June 21, 2014

    I have to say that Kevin is not just a great yoga instructor; he’s the complete package and my greatest friend. He introduced me to yoga a couple of years ago . I have to say that at 47 years old, it put me in the best physically shape of my life. I use to think that yoga was just for girls, however, I have been corrected. Yoga is for anyone, young or old. Yoga helped condition my mind as well as my body. I too have been exercising for years but not until I began practicing yoga did I realize that building muscle don’t make you fit. Yoga provided me with the flexibility, strengthening, and body purification that I had been lacking since I was 30 years old. I have a challenge for any guy that thinks yoga is just for girls, start practicing Bikram. It will change your mind and body forever.

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