Aerobic Belly Dancing to Zumba
Illustrations: Elena Ray
(page 3 of 6)
Why do they call it hot yoga?—because it’s the hot new thing?—well, maybe, but also because it’s really hot—Hatha yoga performed at temperatures up to 105 degrees.
“I’m addicted to it! I love it,” declares New York Times reporter, Alex Kuczynski, who is a regular in Zenergy’s hot yoga class and the author of the best-selling book Beauty Junkies: Inside Our $15 Billion Obsession With Cosmetic Surgery. “You sweat a lot the first time, but your body gets used to it.” She suggests coming already well-hydrated to class.
Kuczynski has gained flexibility and strength and is leaner in her midsection because of the core work in class, she says. “The primary benefit of this as opposed to regular yoga is that you’re able to stretch more because your muscles are like liquid” in the heat.
She holds poses she couldn’t before, like the Chaturanga pose, similar to the plank in Pilates, balancing all your weight stretched out horizontally supported only by your hands and toes.
In a seemingly secret cozy corner of the health club, instructor Brenda Powell leads the evening class in a semicircular mirrored room that looks out to the mountains.
At the moment, the shades are pulled, lights slightly dimmed, with extra heaters keeping the room between 98 and 102 degrees. Most of the participants are in bare feet on flat mats on the perfectly shined wood floor.
Hot yoga is an offshoot of Bikram yoga created by Bikram Chahoudri. He brought his version of Hatha yoga over from India after realizing that practicing in Calcutta’s 120-degree heat got a lot more results. “Hatha yoga is really developed to be a more athletic and physical therapy form of yoga,” says Powell.
The intense class lasts 90 minutes and is composed of some of the classic postures of the 600-year-old Hatha yoga. The first 50 minutes are standing poses. “They’re done in a certain sequence to really open up the spine and when the spine is more open, the rest of the body follows suit,” adds Powell. Each pose is held for a while, encouraging endurance and strength. “The commitment to the stillness of holding a pose teaches us to really be present,” says Powell. Other poses might include a hip-opening series and a hamstring sequence.
The heat accelerates the healing process and the sequencing of the postures really helps with therapeutic benefits, asserts Powell, an exercise physiologist for more than 20 years.
Practicing hot yoga, she says, has really helped one client with MS and another with a crippled spine. “One lady couldn’t sit hips to heels and could never grab her foot without a strap. She lost 40 pounds and can do it all now. People don’t realize how important flexibility is. If you’re tight, you get low back pain pulling on the sacrum. There are a lot of issues that come out of inflexibility like a higher likelihood of being injured.
“Flexibility gives the value of feeling more free in movements and prevents and rehabilitates injuries.
“I would say do hot yoga because it really does give you everything—balance, flexibility, muscular strength, muscular endurance and cardiovascular fitness.” >>>