Steamed

Yoga that's so not cool

Hot yoga is the place to go if your shins need a good sweat.

That's what I discovered after taking a class at Hot Yoga on 16th Street just north of Bethany Home Road. I was shocked when I looked down after only five minutes of warm-up poses to find my lower legs smattered with beads of glistening, milky liquid. Knowing that I still had another hour-plus to go, I got a little nervous. I couldn't shake what my editor had said when she approved this assignment: "While it would be great for the story if you passed out, we don't really want that to happen."

I didn't pass out — I survived the whole ordeal and felt pretty great afterward. For me, breaking a sweat is no big whoop. Forgive this overshare, but I'm a hardcore sweater. Since puberty, I've embarked on a series of knock-down, drag-out fights with my armpits. I've tried every antiperspirant on the market, to no avail. Some overnight underarm products actually work, but the metallic-smelling liquid burns like Hades and dries to leave an unnatural barrier over my skin. It feels as if I've rubbed a coat of hot wax into my pores and I wouldn't be surprised if the chemical-laden product causes Alzheimer's. So I stick to yummy-smelling deodorant and thrice-daily five-minute showers in the summer months. My wardrobe consists of colors and fabrics that don't immediately out me by turning dark with the tiniest bit of moisture.

Curiously, though, I don't sweat very much when I work out. Sure, I get clammy, but the salty discharge isn't dripping down my face like all the other huffing, red-faced chicks on the treadmills. I've come to the conclusion that this sweating thing — for me, anyway — isn't physical. It's emotional. If I have to give a speech, talk to a cute guy, or be a social butterfly, I'm drenched. So when a friend told me about hot yoga, I thought that, perhaps, this was my chance to really sweat it out where it's completely expected and appropriate — for once.

Hot yoga, also known as Bikram yoga, was developed by the self-proclaimed "Yogi to the Stars" (and viable nut-job) Bikram Choudhury. Bikram is ideally practiced in a room heated to 105 degrees with humidity of 50 percent. The idea is that the heat will loosen your muscles and tendons, allowing for deeper stretches and postures with lower risk of injury. The excessive sweating acts as a bonus to detoxify the body and clear the skin.

Sounds nutty, but I totally buy what they say about deeper stretches because the poses came more easily to me in the heat, and I wasn't as sore as I usually am the next day. But I did leave the experience with a few pointers:

Make sure you show up in your workout clothes. I made the mistake of cruising in right after work, fully clothed in long jeans, Converse, and a nice shirt. As soon as I walked in, I wanted to rip my clothes off it was so hot. I suddenly had compassion for my menopausal mother.

Be careful what you wear. With room temperature at 100 degrees plus, you will be completely soaked with sweat by the end of the workout. And drenched everywhere — if you get what I'm saying. Avoid the horror of crotch sweat by skipping the gray heather shorts and stick with black capris.

Bring a lot of cold water. They won't let you do the workout without water at the place where I went. And it really will save you. Not only does it keep you hydrated, but the cool gulps in between postures is pretty much the only relief you can expect.

Don't let this be your first yoga class. The poses aren't horribly difficult but are definitely for the somewhat experienced. If I had to awkwardly wrench myself into Warrior II for the first time in that heat, I never would've gone back.

On the other hand, if you've been trying to persuade your boyfriend to try yoga and he refuses because he thinks it's for pussies, take him to hot yoga. Not only are there more macho dudes in this class than I've ever seen in yoga before, but the whole thing is so extreme, it can't possibly be for wimps.

And for the love of God (or whomever you're making those poses for), make sure your yoga mat, towels (bring a couple), and feet are clean. The temperature is high, the air is moist, and you can smell everyone within a six-foot radius.

Hot Yoga
6060 N. 16th St., Phoenix
602-222-YOGA
www.hotyogaworkout.com

Bikram Yoga Institute
7620 E. Indian School Rd., Suite 115, Scottsdale
480-946-2116
www.bikramyogainstitute.com

Inner Vision Yoga
1949 W. Ray Rd., Chandler
(480) 632-7899
www.innervisionyoga.com

Bikram Yoga Tempe
1825 E. Guadalupe Rd., Suite 103, Tempe
(480) 777-0939
www.bikramyogatempe.com

 
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