[Disclaimer: I am not a fitness expert, personal trainer, yoga teacher, or anyone that can speak scientifically about fitness. I'm just sharing personal opinions and preferences based on my experiences.]
I’ve mentioned before that I really enjoy yoga; I mainly do Vinyasa style in a normal-temperature atmosphere…however, I have dabbled in different types of HOT yoga since I was in college. Actually, the first kind of yoga I did regularly was hot! It was Bikram. But what does that mean, and is it good for you?! Can’t you die in a room that’s 105 degrees? WHAT ARE TOXINS?! These are questions I’ve asked and that I’m sure many non-hot-yogis are wondering. Here’s a little breakdown of the hot yoga styles I have tried, with my personal opinions on each:
What is it? Whatup, Bikram Choudhury. You are kind of insane, but a lot of people really love you and, I’d argue, even worship you. You even call your 105-degree yoga rooms “torture chambers.” From Bikram Yoga NYC’s website:
Bikram Yoga is a series of twenty-six Hatha Yoga postures and two Pranayama breathing techniques designed to provide a challenging, invigorating, rejuvenating and effective yoga experience. During this 90-minute class, you will work every muscle, tendon, ligament, joint and internal organ in the entire body, giving you an incredible sense of well being.
Thoughts: Like I said, Bikram is cray. But in a good way, kind of! I really enjoyed taking Bikram classes during summers home from college and even back at school. I also went to some when I moved to NYC. I like and dislike Bikram, though, for the same reason: it’s the same every time. Knowing exactly what to expect is sometimes nice. The series of postures is also great if you want to see yourself improving — I remember struggling with many postures at first, but over time, I got better with practice and that brought me a sense of accomplishment. However, it can be a snoozefest if you have time to think about that in between sweating your a*s off and locking your knees. I like variation in my workouts. Back to locking your knees…the Bikramites make you do this in certain poses and it felt really unnatural to me. Maybe because I have hyperextended knees. So I did some research and found that what the instructors mean is to keep your legs stable and firm without hyperextending. An article on Livestrong.com explains:
When performing poses in yoga that require a significant amount of weight to be placed on one or both of your legs, avoid locking the knee or knees. Doing so will over stretch the ligaments in the knees and weaken the quadricep muscles, eventually leading to hyperextension. Instead, lift the quadricep muscle to activate stability in the joint. Also, keep your arch activated on your foot. Doing so will make it extremely difficult to lock your knee. If you stand with your arch flattened, locking the knee is almost automatic.
Also, this What Sucks blog post made me laugh: “Perhaps Bikram just isn’t for me. But come on, who’s it for? People who say ‘Hey yoga’s cool but I wish we could do it in a sauna, in the earth’s core…at high noon!’?”
Cost: (NYC studios) $25 per class, $185 month unlimited (other packages available as well)
What is it? Hi Canada. Yoga, eh? Moksha Hot Yoga is a group of independent and green yoga studios that originated in Canada. In addition to regular Moksha classes (intention-setting, 40-posture standing and floor series, ending in a savasana), studios offer options such as Moksha Flow, Hot Yin, Yang Yin, and Karma classes that benefit local charities. Classes are between 60 and 90 minutes. From Moksha Yoga NYC website:
Moksha Yoga is a green, clean, hot yoga series that stretches, strengthens and tones the muscles while detoxifying the body and calming the mind. While all classes are rooted in the Moksha Yoga series, teachers are encouraged to bring their own unique knowledge and experience every time they enter the room to teach. If you’re interested in how this sweaty community works, check out our 7 Pillars page to get a sense of what we stand for.
Thoughts: I just got a deal that the studios offer for new students ($40 for 30 days unlimited) and I’ve only been to 3 classes, but so far I really like it. I definitely like it better than Bikram, as it feels much more intuitive in terms of movement. I’ve tried Moksha and Moksha Flow, both of which incorporated Vinyasas and fluid movements. The teachers seem to use their own style and change it up, and also include ab work which is a nice bonus. I felt challenged but was encouraged to move safely in each class. Another perk: the space is really beautiful, clean, open, and there are showers and lockers.
Cost: (NYC studio) $20 per class, $130 month/unlimited or $160 with mat/towel rental (also student rates)
Hot Vinyasa (YTTP Style)
What is it? Thank you, Yoga to the People, for providing yoga classes at a reasonable rate. I will take a $5 yoga class to a $200 monthly rate any day! Except when I’m really rich (from teaching the youth, obviously), at which point I might go somewhere fancy. The different YTTP studios offer various kinds of yoga (including “traditional hot yoga” which was actually kind of “stolen” from Bikram, and there was a lawsuit), but I like their hot Vinyasa classes, which, as the name suggests, are pretty much Vinyasa flow classes in a hot room. From the website:
Our power vinyasa flow classes are inspired by Bryan Kest, a profound teacher who has found the balance between effort, awareness and breath. The emphasis is on you, not on any particular teacher.
Power Vinyasa classes are vigorous, yet accessible. They utilize fluid transitions from pose to pose, seamlessly linking body, breath, and movement.
Thoughts: I love that these classes are 60 minutes and that the teachers kind of let you do your thing. It’s no frills but it gets the job done, especially when you’re low on funds and want to practice yoga with unpretentious folks. I also like the overall mission of this studio: accessibility. The classes do get crowded due to the low cost, but that’s mainly during “rush hour” times. I know there are a ton of versions of hot Vinyasa classes and it seems to vary by studio, so I’d love to try some different ones in the future. This is a great place to start if you’re new to hot yoga!
Cost: (NYC YTTP) $5 per class (the costs of the studios and classes vary; some are donation)
Have you ever done hot yoga? What’s your favorite style?