Sweating through hot yoga

Mind and body become one to relieve stress

December 6, 2019


Ani Avakian

The entrance of the studio is decorated with calming objects.

Yoga is a fun and relaxing way to stretch out your body and exercise. It requires little to no equipment, just your body and mind. 

But try doing yoga in a room with a temperature ranging from 95-105 degrees. While it may seem like such hot temperature would make the class uncomfortable, many who participate actually enjoy the experience.

“When I first walked in, I thought that I was in the wrong room. It felt more like a sauna than anything else,” said Marine Serobyan, a first-time participant. “I didn’t expect to feel the intensity of the heat, but it made yoga so much better.”

As I made my way along to Hot 8 Yoga Studio, in Pasadena, like Serobyan, I did not know what to expect. I am a dancer so I am familiar with the art of yoga and exercise. But adding the word hot in front of yoga made it a whole new experience for me.

I found out about hot yoga through my dance instructor who had to attend classes before. Hot 8 Yoga provided a free trial week for new customers. 

When I signed in for the first beginners class, I was given a yoga mat and towel. The studio also provided cold towels infused with eucalyptus for cooling and calming, and they served salt shots to help the body gain back all the sodium lost while sweating.

The studio is very calming, with soft music and a zen garden in the back. After class, participants can sit in the garden to mediate or just to relax. There are a total of three yoga studios and locker rooms with showers. 

Ani Avakian
The Zen garden meant to provide relaxation and peace.

“Hot Yoga isn’t just about breaking a sweat or working out,” said Kirstin Ford, an instructor at Hot 8 Yoga. “It is self-expression and a vessel through which your mind, body and spirit find communication and healing.” The temperature of the room opens your mind and muscles. It creates an “opening” to your mind and body to come together as one. 

Ford has been a yoga instructor for over three years and has certifications as a personal trainer. According to Ford’s class description, she focuses on “finding a balance between physical strengthening and opening while being mindful; leaving you feeling grounded, strong, present and at peace.”

Hot yoga was first introduced in 1970 by yogi Bikram Choudhury. It includes 26 yoga poses and breathing exercises in a room which is higher than body temperature for 90 minutes. Hot Yoga or “Bikram” includes an 80-20 breathing exercise to help deal with the intense heat of the room. According to Life Science, the 80-20 method works by taking a full breath of air, getting into the pose and continuously exhaling 20 percent of the air through the nose. 

According to the Washington Post, more than 36 million Americans practice some type of yoga. Much like regular yoga, hot yoga has many benefits for the body. Hot yoga flushes toxins from the body through sweating, and the hot temperature improves blood flow and helps oxygen reach muscle tissue. It also helps with weight loss and improving flexibility. Besides the body, hot yoga also realized anxiety and stress and opens the mind to tranquility.

When class started we were told all the benefits of the class and told that we should focus on one thing that we dislike about ourselves. The instructor kept on repeating that with every breath we should think about a positive trait we have and with the outtake of breath release the negative thoughts about ourselves. Throughout the class, we had to focus deeply on our breathing and focus on engaging our muscles in different positions.

Some of the poses were familiar to me due to my dance background, but for the first time yogini, it was difficult to keep up with the heat. I had to constantly hydrate and wipe off the tons of sweat my body was producing. I was feeling a little insecure in the beginning because I was having a hard time keeping up. But my instructor assured me that I was doing great for the first time and to just keep breathing. 

Ani Avakian

Some of the positions included the warrior and a variation called cat and cow. The warrior engages our thighs and helps with the balancing of the arms straight in the air. The cat and cow positions include being on the floor arching our backs to straighten the spine. For each pose she told us to not push ourselves and to do only as much as our body allowed. 

Being such an intensely hot room can have some safety issues, so it’s very important to be aware of the environment. According to Healthline, dehydration and lowering of blood pressure is a common issue. It is easy to feel dizzy and weak. That is why it is so important to keep to your own pace and try to do the exercises that you are comfortable with.

Hot yoga isn’t just used for exercise. University student and Clark alumna Cynthia Babakhanian uses yoga to relieve stress and help with schoolwork. “It was really difficult for me to adjust to college life, so I decided to take a hot yoga class because I heard about all the benefits,” she said. It only took one class to help relieve stress and boost concentration. After that day, she has attended classes once a week. 

Hot yoga also provides meditation and physical training. Some athletes and dancers do hot yoga to relax their muscles before big games or concerts. The soothing music and breathing help declutter the mind and focus on the body.

Anoush Markarians, a dance instructor at Anoush Dance Studio for over 30 years, insists her dancers attend hot yoga classes. “Dancing strains the muscles a lot and when we have a big concert coming up I always ask my dancers to attend hot yoga to relax their bodies,” she said.

Doing hot yoga has many benefits for all types of people, ranging from athletes to regular people who are in search of tranquility.

Caroline Eisagholi has been doing hot yoga for five years now. She says there is nothing more exciting than a hot yoga class. “It is important to take care of yourself and your body because it is your temple,” Eisagholi said. “For me, hot yoga provides a healthy, happy lifestyle. It is something I have done and will continue to do.”

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