Stacey Margaret Jones: ‘No’ to Hot Yoga, but ‘Yes!’ to Warm


You may have seen the funny Craig’s List ad in which a yoga mat is listed for sale, along with a detailed timeline of its brief and torturous use at a hot yoga class, or this piece on how hot yoga is excruciating and, yet, addictive. 

With my Yankee sensitivity to heat and humidity, I have vigorously avoided hot yoga classes, even though many friends go regularly and rave about how much they love it. 

Researching Bikram Yoga, I became convinced it was not for me. The international Bikram studios are a franchised brand of classes in which students practice a set series of 26 poses over 90 minutes, along with breathing exercises in a room heated up to 115 degrees. That did not appeal to me. At all. 

But I started becoming more interested, at least in the “kinder, gentler” hot yoga classes offered at my Conway studio, Go Inside Yoga. Johanna Epps, the owner, wants people to get the benefits of the heated room—greater flexibility, for one—but not have to endure hardship for hardship’s sake.

For example, she elevates the temperature to only 90 degrees, and she takes participants through a more basic series of flow poses. With the heat turned up, she turns down the strenuousness of the class. 

You might call this “humane hot yoga.” I call it “warm yoga.”

I decided to try it along with my friend Tina, who tutored me in my rock climbing outing and was Merida on our Disney Princess Half-Marathon adventure. She had just returned from a three-day Ozarks hike and wanted a good stretch, so she drove from Little Rock to join in the hot fun.

For both of us, the class was better than we had imagined. Tina, who said she felt “wonderful!” the next day, told me she thought hot meant “serious” and that she would be surrounded by lean and graceful yoga experts bending about to sitar music.

“It wasn’t anything like that!” she said. “Johanna played mellow, contemporary music. She also did a fantastic job of talking you through the movements—how to modify to make poses easier or harder and how to get the most benefit from each one.”

Tina noted that the higher temperature warmed her muscles to help her maximize her movements and really get those deep stretches she craved. I’m sure my pigeon pose that evening was one for the record books—I felt like liquid just melting into the floor.

The specific environment at Go Inside helped Tina get into the class too, as the studio is a warm, non-mirrored, intimate space. “That allowed me to focus on my movement and not what others were doing around me,” said Tina.

She rated the class a 6 in terms of difficulty, on a scale of 1 to 10, “mainly because of the temperature.” She thought Johanna’s workout was so easily adaptable to individual needs, and that another student might rate the class a 10 while someone else thought of it as a level 2. “Johanna made it quite clear that if any pose became too intense, resting on your mat would be perfectly acceptable.”

I’ve already made plans to return to one of Go Inside Yoga’s hot yoga classes, and if I were attending one somewhere else, I would call ahead to understand the specifics of the session—temperature, duration, degree of difficulty, etc. I still have no plans to sample the Bikram method.

Tina said she definitely recommends Go Inside’s hot yoga class specifically for her running and cycling friends, “who sometimes forget the importance of maintaining flexibility.” She also advises that if you are going to try out hot yoga anywhere to drink lots of water before and during the class, to bring a towel or two to avoid turning your yoga mat into a Slip’N Slide, and most important, to be prepared to sweat.

Tina hot yoga 

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