I started doing Hot Yoga 2 years ago and during one of my first experiences with Hot Yoga I couldn’t stand the way it made me smell. At one point during an intense hot power yoga practice in Charleston, SC I kept thinking to myself “God, who is that? It smells like pure cat piss!” I attempted to waft myself during every brief resting opportunity. I could not pin it down. I left convinced it was my neighbor and I was all set to go. Weeks later, I couldn’t shake the smell again and realized…its me. At this point I began to teach Hot Flow and I couldn’t be the elephant in the room, who just so happened to be the instructor secreting the smell of cat pee and death. I began to research the possibilities of this smell and came up with the answers I was searching for. So If you find yourself experiencing this, hold to you seat—-you’re DEHYDRATED!
This smell isn’t a direct smell, its an aura of smell that can easily be brushed off as it being someone else. I played college soccer and lacrosse and I am familiar with dehydration, however this is different. Sports dehydration will cause dizziness, dry mouth and salty sweat. In hot yoga, all of the above can happen but in a room set and tempered at 102-105*f with 40% humidity, if not more at some places, you’re body is working very hard to cool your organs to prevent over heating. This is when your muscles come into play. Your working so hard physically and biochemically that your body begins to break down muscle to sustain motion and temperature. Your body uses amino acids for energy everyday and to convert it into a usable source of energy, it
strip[s]the nitrogen atom off of the molecule. The skeleton molecule that is left behind is then further converted into glucose and used as fuel. In order to get rid of the excess nitrogen, your body typically processes the nitrogen in your kidneys and forms urea, CO(NH2)2 – basically, a carbon dioxide molecule bound to nitrogen and hydrogen. Urea is then excreted in the urine. If your kidneys cannot handle the load of nitrogen, then the nitrogen will be excreted as ammonia in your sweat.but when there are no stor[ed] energy blocks to use, it will begin to break down muscle. Muscles are composed of amino acids contain[ing] nitrogen which is a building block for protein. Nitrogen secreted from the body gives you the ammonia smell found in urine and your sweat. (Likness, 2015)
So what does this have to do with staying hydrated? Urine and sweat require a way to transport out of the body. Water serves as an aid to passing urine or secretion in the skin (sweat). When the body does not have adequate water to help pass ammonia, it will secrete at a potent level, therefore making you smell like your rolled in a litter box. Water helps dilute the ammonia so it can be secreted from the skin almost undetected when you are properly hydrated. In hot yoga you are also using a lot of energy in the body that you can not see or feel so you are also likely to be breaking down an excessive amount of amino acids. Both serve as a smelly combination if you don’t bring your H2O. Drink more water than you think you need during the day and when you are practicing, take small sips of water so it can be adequately absorbed in the body.
Likness, J. (2015, April 10). What Is That Ammonia Smell When I Sweat? Retrieved March 17, 2016, from http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/ammonia.htm