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Droplets of sweat drip into my eyes as my muscles tremble and burn.
It’s 105 degrees in the dimly-lit studio. Everyone is drenched in sweat as we move into position warrior one. It’s hot yoga, and it’s not for the faint of heart.
Hot yoga is becoming increasingly popular among yoga-lovers and yoga-virgins alike. The fitness trend combines the strength and flexibility of yoga with the incredible heat of a sauna and atmosphere of a spa.
The benefits of hot yoga are attractive. According to yoganonymous.com, 1,000 calories can be burned in a 90-minute session. Many different muscles are used simultaneously during a session along with strenuous balancing and increased sweat production. Calories don’t stand a chance.
The regulars of the hot yoga classes look amazing. The men and women who attend sessions have chiseled backs and shoulders, great posture and glowing skin. Intense sweating flushes toxins out of the skin, creating a cleansing affect.
By no means am I an avid yogi. So when I timidly signed myself up for a free hot yoga session at Be Hot Yoga, located at 348 N. Bluff St., and wound up having to sign a waiver for the extreme heat, I began to fear for my life. Things ran through my mind like, “Who’s going to drag my lifeless body out of the studio after I pass out from heat stroke? Wait, why is it so hot, and what am I doing here again?”
But once I dragged my feet into the candlelit, hot-as-hell studio and began the hour-long session, I started to see why hot yoga classes are packed full of yoga-addicts. It’s a great workout in a tranquil environment with happy, positive people.
The class begins with intense stretching and basic yoga positions that help center the mind and help the body adjust to the heat. I immediately wished I had worn less clothes instead of ankle-length pants and a long sleeved shirt. This is no place for modesty. Fitted shorts and a tank top would suffice.
Yoga instructor Kallie Taylor encourages the class to let go of daily stresses and assures the extreme heat is an opportunity to become mentally and physically stronger.
“In the heat, you’re detoxing your body,” Taylor said. “It takes mind discipline to be in the heat.”
The heat started to wear me down nearly halfway through the session once the yoga became more strenuous. With an increased use of leg muscles and a higher requirement for balance, I found my entire shirt damp with sweat before I knew it.
The session continued to be challenging with multiple sets of abdominal and leg exercises until the final 10 minutes. The last moments in the session included deep stretching and meditation. Taylor talked the class through a meditation with positive affirmations and encouragement to release negative energy.
Hot yoga is not only an exercise for the body, but also for the mind. According to bikramyogamemphis.com, hot yoga sessions can lower cortisol levels — which is a hormone related to stress — calm the mind, and reduce stress and tension.
As I laid on the yoga mat, eyes closed and heart pounding, I tried to do the things Taylor was telling the class to do. I tried to release the stresses of the day and embrace positive feelings. I tried to really be aware of all the muscles used in the workout and recognize the work I had done during that hour. And when I got up to walk out of the muggy studio, I felt awesome.
I had completed a challenging workout with a group of people who seemed to love doing it. I felt great about what I had accomplished physically and mentally, and I was proud I tried something new. In addition, I was sore from head to toe for the few days following my hot yoga experience. In other words, it worked, and I’m sold.
Taylor said yoga has a way of changing the way people think and feel about the body and hopes more people will give hot yoga a try.
“It takes courage to try something new,” Taylor said. “Embrace the scared feeling. It will be challenging, but after you’ll see a progression of yourself.”