As you know, I practice yoga quite a bit. One of the classes I go to frequently is called Hot Power Fusion, and it's a blend of Bikram (hot) yoga and vinyasa flow. The sequence is nice, and I enjoy not doing any chaturangas for a change :) You might be thinking, "How are YOU--someone with such a strong aversion to heat able to practice yoga in a room over 100 degrees?" Well, I think this often as well (trust me). I mainly take this class to work with the huge amount of discomfort that I feel with regard to heat, brought on by my Generalized Anxiety Disorder.
Whenever I go into a heated yoga class, especially one like Hot Power Fusion, I immediately feel sensations of discomfort. I begin to feel an enormous "flight-or-fight" response in my body. It's difficult, because I don't want to flee the feeling, but I also don't want to necessarily fight it either. I want to just be with it. I set up my mat, sit down, try to lay down, but the feeling of wanting to jump out of my skin is so heavy that I can't be still.
This "flight-fight-or-be" response slightly dissipates when class begins. The sequence is overall relaxing, so I am able to make some peace with the discomfort in my body. Though, once I've been in the room for 20 minutes or so, my anxiety sneaks up on me, saying things like: "It's too hot in here, you're going to die, or at the very least, pass out." This thought always puts me off balance. During one class, I was so uncomfortable during savasana--solely because of the heat--that I could not relax like I normally could in my other yoga classes. I actually wanted the class to end.
I take this particular style of yoga at least once a week, because I do like it, and I think it's helping me face certain aspects of my anxiety. This class really forces me to utilize my breath, so that has definitely helped with my anxious thoughts.
After my years of dance training, and before I got into yoga, I wasn't too active. I remember when I moved to Chicago, and started practicing yoga at a studio (or going to the gym), my anxiety would flare up. I wasn't used to feeling hot or sweaty or having my heart rate go up, thus, these bodily symptoms often made me think I was having an anxiety/panic attack. There were countless times where I had to leave the gym, because I felt like, "Holy shit, what is happening to me right now!?" It may sound weird to some of you, but it happened, and it was difficult, because I associated working out with anxiety.
I started to go to more yoga classes, and once the place became more familiar to me, I was finally able to let go of some of my work-out anxiety. It will sometimes come up, but rarely. This is another reason why I like taking the Hot Power Fusion classes, because I feel like I'm clearing out the rest of that work-out related anxiety.
If you have an aversion to heat, I do suggest you try a heated yoga class--at least once. You may surprise yourself.