I tried hot yoga for the first time at Fitness on Fire, 19-23 Ironmonger Row, London EC1V 3QN.
The sweating started almost instantly. By the time we finished the first round, it was already dripping onto my mat. They weren’t kidding about the heat. If you can imagine a barren desert, with absolutely no breeze, you’ll start to get the picture.
Lying on my back in a windowless, dimly-lit and narrow room on Old Street, heated to somewhere between 30 and 40 degrees, I embarked on my first attempt at hot yoga. I had taken conventional yoga classes before, but this was different. The infrared heat lamps around the room felt like a small army, kettling us into this tiny sauna.
Advocates say hot yoga facilitates stretching, removes toxins, and raises your heart rate. As for calories, one typical session is said to burn around 300, double the amount of traditional forms of yoga.
I knew I was going to be in for a rough 60 minutes. That much was clear when I found that the rapper 50 Cent had taken to Instagram to grumble of his sweaty experience, saying: “I must have thought it was just going to be a couple of stretches, then that sh*t started moving fast.”
The instructor, Siobhan Champion, told me she has “a background in dance and a passion for fitness.” That much was clear as we moved from the eagle pose through to upward facing dog, to sun salutations, to a plank, to downward facing dog, and repeat, again and again.
Siobhan continued to pace quietly around the studio, passive but firm in manner as she said, “reconnect with your body as you let go,” while offering gentle encouragement and the odd adjustment, mostly to me.
“Embrace the heat,” she added enthusiastically. My skin was beaded with sweat, and it wasn’t long before I was dripping uncontrollably. Downward facing dog soon turned into more of a slip and side routine. Perhaps that was why everyone else had brought a towel with them…
I also started to notice the stench of perspiration infused with perfume that filled the room, which made me feel slightly lightheaded. The only thing worse than being stuck on a mat next to a stinky person is practicing next to someone drenched in body spray. I will choose my spot much more strategically next time.
“Strong, fluid and dynamic” are the words Siobhan uses to describe her hot yoga sessions to newcomers, and she isn’t wrong. They are not traditional “hmmmm” and “haaaaa” classes, complete with an hour of sitting cross-legged and performing a number of meditative breathing routines. This is a proper workout, and one that will appeal to any regular yogi wishing to stretch themselves further.
Before the class, I had been sceptical. For months I had passed off hot yoga as just another exercise fad, comparing it to other fast-flopping fitness trends like the vibrating platform. It turns out I was wrong to doubt.
My not-unfit friend Joe, who had kindly agreed to tag along, approved of the fast-paced nature of the class, telling me “I felt like I was sprinting for the entire time, it was horrible but also really great.”
He had a point. As fiercely as my heart pounded against my chest, I felt weirdly revitalized after the class. Not in that hippy mind, body and soul way. It was simply an enlightening experience – of sorts – to realise that I could do things that I genuinely couldn’t have imagined beforehand.
Before trying hot yoga for yourself, it is important to be aware of the main health risks. Dehydration can occur, especially if, like me, you don’t drink the advised two litres of water before the class. I finished the hour with a thumping headache as a result.
You are also advised to refrain from eating for two hours prior to the class. “I think I could have done the headstand if I hadn’t been such a greedy bastard at lunch,” Joe modestly revealed on our way home.
If sweating profusely in a room with 20 other half-naked yogis still doesn’t cut it for you, there is no shame in using hot yoga as a warm escape during this chilly time of year. That barren desert that I was describing before doesn’t sound so bad now, does it?
You will need: