Yoga isn’t exactly a new craze and if I’m totally honest, I’d always thought of it as ‘exercise’ for hippies and fitness fanatic celebs like Madonna and Gaga. There’s always a lingo between fellow ‘Yogi’s’ (look it up) and I can’t help feeling silly that I don’t really know what ‘Zen’ means. Because trying out a normal yoga class wasn’t extreme enough for my first attempt, I decided to make it unspeakably hot. I’d heard stories of grown men needing to take time out due to the high temperatures and smothering humidity, begging the question: ‘Why on earth do people choose to put themselves through this?’
On the other hand, anything David Beckham does, has to be good for the soul (and the body). Invented by a Mr Bikram Choudhury, Hot Yoga claims superiority over ‘normal’ yoga as the increased room temperature is said to detox and improve the blood flow; allowing a higher distribution of oxygen around the body. Other desirable benefits include improved concentration, flexibility, patience and self control. So is Hot Yoga really as tough as they say? Time to find out.
Fitness Fusions have turned up the heat on their classic yoga class and are now offering the hotter variety in their brand spanking new, ‘HotFit’ studio in Clapham. After just a couple of minutes walk from Clapham North station, I arrived at a passage illuminated by a string of twinkling lights. A paved garden path led me to a lovely stone cottage off the beaten track, with a large light studio attached (rather like a super plush conservatory). I’m no expert but Fitness Fusions Clapham is definitely not your usual yoga venue.
Arriving early I eyed up the 15 mats in the studio, tentatively choosing one at the back as although i’d tried Antigravity Yoga, I was a ‘normal’ yoga newbie and wasn’t quite ready for the entire class to see me flailing and rolling around. For 95 degrees Fahrenheit and 40% humidity, it felt pleasantly warm in the studio and I sat happily on my mat, feeling like my body was easily adjusting to the change in temperature. I wondered how people could find this difficult, it was a bit like having the heating on max; totally bearable.
The spiritual aspect of yoga is something that has always put me off a bit as I tend to be quite sceptical about these things. I was surprised just how quickly I felt calm and at peace with it all, something I credit entirely to our teacher, Isabel. Calm, patient and peaceful, she directed the class slowly and carefully through each movement; giving the option of a variety of postures for those who were new to yoga, and those who were simply finding it more difficult.
The temperature of the room made my muscles feel totally relaxed and the humidity was like a warm blanket. Surprisingly, this sensation was anything but suffocating and oppressive and I felt an overwhelming sense of calm and open-ness. This wasn’t the case for the duration, as the longer the class went on; the hotter it got. After about 40 minutes I started to realise just how thirsty I had become and appreciatively gulped down my water, panting like a dog and wondering if I should have a lie down.
As we went through the class repeating certain movements, I started to tell the difference between my ‘Chaturanga Dandasana’ (like The Plank) and my Adho mukha śvānāsana (downward-facing dog). The heat encouraged me to focus and worked its magic on my muscles; by the end of the class, I even managed to do a shoulder stand which I believed to be very impressive at the time- N.B. I tried unsuccessfully to recreate this move at home yesterday, I wouldn’t recommend it. Even though my stomach and legs were wobbling like jelly, it was a definitely achievement.
It was only as I was about to get changed at the end of the class did I genuinely realise how much I had been sweating. My clothes were literally saturated as though I’d jumped in a swimming pool; if that’s not detox, I don’t know what is. I can totally understand how some people may not like working out at 35 degrees centigrade, but I am definitely not one of those people. I would go so far as to say this was the best exercise experience i’ve had, ultimately because it was holistic and I could genuinely feel the results in my body and mind, even after one session. If you fancy a go at Hot Yoga, the one thing I’d recommend is that you drink a LOT of water beforehand because believe me, you’ll need it. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to find my Zen. Namaste.