GET OUT: Beat the cold with hot yoga

By on December 3, 2013
When the student is ready for hot yoga, the teacher Elly Garrett (right) appears. Photo Mary Grossman
When the student is ready for hot yoga, the teacher Elly Garrett (right) appears. Photo Mary Grossman

When the student is ready for hot yoga, the teacher Elly Garrett (right) appears. Photo Mary Grossman

JACKSON HOLE, WYO – The snow encouraged me to exercise indoors. The last time I took a yoga class was in August, ironically held outdoors at the National Museum of Wildlife Art on a morning when the temperature rose to a toasty 80 degrees.

“Hot Yoga at Inversion can’t be much different,” I thought. “Besides, December 1 is a fitting day to try something new and make my first visit to Inversion.”

I was inspired by Sophia Breene’s Huffington Post blog that suggested one way to stay fit between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day is to set a challenge. She encouraged readers to create a personalized challenge such as testing different yoga poses.

Just a few days post-Thanksgiving, I was ready to sweat off my turkey feasting by trying hot yoga. I hydrated all day prior to class upon the advice of several yogis, finishing off more than a liter of water. I opted for the “Hot 60.” The “60” refers to the duration in minutes, not the temperature. The class is practiced in a searing 105 degree studio with 50 percent humidity. So hot means hot.

When I first entered the sauna, I mean studio, I had a flashback to when I deplaned on the tropical island of Okinawa. I gulped, trying to breathe in more oxygen from the heavy air so thick with water molecules I could almost drink it. The studio’s floor-to-ceiling windows let in the light and a mirrored wall reflected a room filled with students, 21 in all. Eight shirtless men plus one midriff-baring woman hinted that I might be overdressed in my typical yoga attire: stretchy pants and a body-hugging top. I pulled my shoulder-length hair up in a ponytail as high as I could and secured it with a coral-colored band.

Elly Garrett, who has been teaching hot yoga for more than 10 years, led Sunday’s class through a series of 26 postures averaging about a minute or so per pose, per side. The movements flowed and so did the perspiration.

Luckily, I brought a towel and a tall water bottle, which I had to refill half way through the class. I sweated out toxins and in the end felt cleansed and supple. Yes, I liked it, but I did not understand why anyone would regularly participate in such a sweaty, difficult practice.

September Vhay, who has been practicing yoga for about 10 years and hot yoga for two, said regular Vinyasa yoga and hot yoga have their different merits. She attends two hot yoga classes a week in addition to vinyasa flow classes.

“What I like about hot yoga is the detox because you sweat so much. And it is meditative because you do the same poses every time,” she said.

That made sense to me. After talking with Vhay, I opened to practicing hot yoga again. Garrett admitted that most people are not immediately drawn to hot yoga, though many end up loving it after taking more than one class.

“Over the years, I’ve come to realize the hook might be the athleticism, but for many it’s the feeling of bliss and well-being that keeps people coming back,” Garrett said. “You come for your body, but end up staying for your mind and spirit.”

About Teresa Griswold

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