What's so Hot About Hot Yoga?
Dec 05, 2012 12:57PM
Hot yoga continues to be a popular yoga practice for fitness aficionados. Offered primarily in studios that specialize in hot yoga alone, the system is set apart from other paths of yoga, attracting an entirely different audience. The segregation is partly due to the cost and complications off setting up a heated environment for practice, but also because the general mindset of hot yoga enthusiasts is centered on a love of the physical rather than a pull towards the mental and spiritual element of yoga. But can hot yoga be approached as a path to enlightenment, or is it just a great way to burn calories? That depends on the class, the student, and the circumstances, of course. With a clear understanding of this unique practice, you candecide whether or not this kind of class will be a good fi t for you and your goals as a yogi.
HOT YOGA’S HISTORY
Hot yoga began with the popularity of the Bikrim method, a system that involves 26 poses done twice in a circuit manner in a room heated to 105 degrees. The practice has always attracted people who want to do yoga primarily for the fi tness element. The system uses a carpeted studio (designed to keep in the heat and lower electrical costs) and a no frills environment. Because these schools maintain the heated environment full time and sweat is the goal of every class, many Hot Yoga studios have issues with odor. Mold and bacteria commonly form in ceiling tiles and wall board, unavoidable when moist heat is generated consistently. Due to the focus on the physical, most hot yoga practices do not incorporate much, if any, of the spiritual aspects of yoga, such as chanting, meditation, readings, or other things that teach yoga from an authentic standpoint. Because of this, many hot yoga teachers need only be trained to teach a defi ned set of poses, which means they have little understanding of yoga beyond the postures.
When the founder of the system, Bikrim, patented his method, he began demanding franchise fees from other yoga teachers. Studios offering this type of practice faced lawsuits if they taught the method using his name, so those who wanted to continue teaching yoga in a hot environment changed the name of their classes to “Hot Yoga” while still offering a practice that was pretty much the same 26 poses done in 105 degrees. As each teacher or studio strived to fi nd their niche and perhaps invent a practice that was unique unto them, evolution occurred, bringing variation to hot yoga practices. Hot yoga started including things such as a Vinyasa fl ow with Ashtanga style sequences or Yin, restorative or other approaches to Asana. Studios now began setting the temperature at 90-95 degrees to make the classes more palatable to a greater range of participants. Many studios experimented with heating techniques beyond blowing hot air into a room from a space heater, introducing infrared heaters, humidifi ers, and other methods to warm the environment.
For those that like the science of yoga, practicing in the heat can be remarkably healthy for the body. Hot yoga detoxifi es skin, challenges our endurance,
But one of the problems with a formatted yoga practice (repeating the same 26 poses each class) is the argument that there cannot be a one size fi ts all practice. A 60 year old person with deteriorating joints and high blood pressure often needs very different poses sequences than a 24 year old marathon runner. A seasoned teacher who is well versed in yoga in all its diverse forms, one with an understanding of posture adjustments, yoga therapy, and who is trained to unfold every practice in a way that will truly build, restore and improve the health of the participants, can design each and every practice to meet the needs and goals of different students. Hot yoga, when it is designed to address the specifi c needs of students, can be a hugely therapeutic and inspirational practice.
IS HOT YOGA FOR YOU?
There are several choices for trying a hot yoga class in Sarasota. An authentic Bikrim studio is available downtown, and Body Heat on Fruitville offers Bikrim style classes as well. ReFlex Arts, best known for their diverse program, including aerial yoga, restorative, yin, and yoga teacher training programs, recently expanded the school to add hot yoga to their comprehensive schedule. This studio has built a new, serene yoga space specifi cally designed for hot yoga, with an eye towards offering a strong, cleansing, challenging physical practice, while also keeping the integrity of yoga intact. Their hot yoga instructors occasionally follow the traditional hot yoga systematic series of 26 hot yoga poses for those that love the familiar, but there are hundreds of postures and sequences to expand the envelope of movement, strength and fl exibility, so the school’s mindset is, “Why limit ourselves?” Many of the hot classes are an Ashtanga inspired fl ow series that challenges the body’s cardiovascular health, fl exibility, endurance, and cleanses (and burns calories) through the sweat process. Some of the less aggressive “all levels” classes will be offered at 92 – 95 degrees, but the advanced power fl ow climb to 100. The temperature is never pre- determined, but dependent upon the strength and endurance the students show on a given day, and any other relevant information that allows the teacher to design a practice for the specifi c body type and fitness level of those who attend.
ReFlex Arts is heated with infrared heaters to warm the body at the surface of the skin for a deep cleansing effect, the best choice for those with respiratory challenges or who feel claustrophobic in stifl ing heat. Baseboard heaters are installed and sometimes incorporated for consistent, steady heat for the more aggressive classes that set the temperature above 90. Each day, the studio is cooled to kill bacteria. Alternate scheduling, along with bamboo fl oors and air purifi ers, assure a mold free, healthy environment for all. The school offers complimentary microfi ber cloths for students to wipe sweat, and mat sized yoga towels are available to rent for 2.00 for those who do not have their own. (The rental fee pays for the laundry process.) Complimentary mats are available specifi cally for hot yoga, separate from a collection of purple mats available for traditional practice so the hot practice does not in any way interfere with the purity of the environment for non-hot classes. Best of all, ReFlex Arts teachers are all experienced, fully trained yoga alliance certifi ed yoga teachers and therapists who understand yoga at the physical, mental, spiritual and therapeutic level. Music, gongs, crystal bowls, and anything else that might enhance the yoga practice may fi nd its way into select hot yoga classes, so students will leave feeling rejuvenated and inspired inside as well as out, while still reaping the physical benefi ts of a hot yoga practice.
Is hot yoga for you? The best way to know is to try it. ReFlex Arts is offering the fi rst hot yoga class taken at their facility free all through December. It’s getting cold outside. What better time to crank up your internal heat than with the gift of a warm practice!