Early Monday morning, I found myself in an extremely hot room, bending into various shapes, sweating more than I think I’ve ever sweat, surrounded by a selection of other stretchy, sweaty strangers. Glamorous? Not really. But would you believe me if I told you it was one of the best physical experiences of my life so far?
When the possibility of taking a Hot Yoga Class at the Weber Street GoodLife Fitness presented itself, I was a strange mix of nerves and ambition. On one hand, as I mentioned in my last post, I really want to take advantage of the opportunities spring term brings; especially by taking charge of my time and my health. On the other, I had never been to a gym by myself, let alone have I done yoga in 106° F (approximately 41° C) room.
As you may expect an anxious and paranoid person to do, I immediately took to the internet for information. A number of articles I read highlighted the fact that those with low blood pressure should be very careful in the heat, as you are at higher risk of becoming dizzy or fainting. This, of course, totally calmed my being that possesses― as my Doctor so eloquently puts it― “lower than low blood pressure”. But this term is the term I push past my fears and paranoia, and try the things I want to try. So I packed my bag, trekked to the gym, and had one of the best mornings of my entire life.
Entering the foreign land of a GoodLife Fitness facility was like opening a door to a world that shattered everything previously fuelling my avoidance of public gyms. From my (small) selection of past gym experiences (one in a hotel, and one in the CIF here on campus) I was under the impression that gyms can quickly make me feel overwhelmed, and closed in; which leaves me finding comfort in the idea of leaving, rather than motivation to get active. But GoodLife Fitness felt very open and airy.
Finding my way to the Hot Yoga Studio was a simple task, after slight direction from a friendly staff member, and the studio itself is absolutely gorgeous! You first enter through a single door into the Lobby (pictured below). It has two wall units of storage space deep enough for a yoga mat, and tall enough for a water bottle, with lots of extra space. There are also benches, a water fountain and bottle fill station, a sink, and a mirror in this zen space.
Through a second door you find the Hot Yoga Studio. The first thing you notice is definitely the heat, but it is not the harsh or overwhelming heat that I had come to expect from various articles. I would describe it more like a sauna, or a tropical environment, but with much less noticeable humidity.
You open the door and step into a room that instantly feels disconnected from the hustle and bustle of the outside world. The walls of mirrors make the space feel infinite, yet you are still aware of the community, within this safe and open environment, that you have just become a part of.
The Lights within the studio are on dimmer switches and, while I had turned them all of the way up for photo purposes, the class takes place in a soft light. Mirrors enable easy view of the instructor and/or people around you if you are unsure of any poses, and the space allows for a comfortable arms reach between each participant, during both standing and laying postures.
This brings me to my experience with the actual class.
Once you enter the studio, you find a place you feel comfortable and lay down your mat. If you don’t have a mat, there are free yoga mats available in the lobby, as well as any yoga accessories (like blocks and straps) that you may need to modify any of the poses to suit you better. Throughout the practice, modification is encouraged by the instructor to ensure you are getting the benefits of the poses and not any undesired side effects, discomfort, and pain.
My instructor’s name was Erin, (pictured above in the studio lobby in her One-Legged King Pigeon Pose!). She was such a lovely person, who truly did what she could to connect with us all during the practice.
When the class began, Erin brought us all together and moved into some simple breathing exercises and poses. The poses are presented in sequences, some taking place in a seated posture, a standing posture, and whilst laying down. Throughout each sequence, Erin made sure to speak clearly and descriptively as she instructed us through the poses; and when demonstrating a pose she effortlessly moved to an area of visibility to the most people possible (and those who could not see her could easily follow those who could).
While she began at the front of the room, as you would expect an instructor to do, she spent most of the class moving about to ensure each participant got the same level of attention. She would encourage you, make sure you had the pose right, or provide a suggestion to modify if you were experiencing any discomfort.
When poses got more challenging, she showed great empathy and understanding and gave assuring words that warded off any instance of embarrassment or self-consciousness that may have tried to enter your mind.
As the class came toward an end, we were in a seated posture again, and were trying a pose that felt a little silly, but if anyone toppled over or rocked backward and laughed, she told them that was great and laughed with them. You never felt like you were doing anything wrong, even if your pose didn’t look the same as others’.
The class just felt like a beautiful space of connectivity and activity, and I know you might be wondering, so I’ll assure you: the sweat did not produce any sort of unpleasant odour. To be honest I barely noticed it until I touched my leg or felt a drip on my lip when I was upside down in Downward Dog.
While the facility and class are both incredible, I honestly think my favourite part of trying Hot Yoga was the people I had the pleasure of interacting with.
When I first went up to the studio, I was early, and I was unsure of where to spend my time before the class started, as well as where to put my massive backpack. I went out on a limb and approached a woman who had walked beside me on our way to the studio, and she graciously allowed me to stick with her. She even gave me a tour of everything there is to know about the GoodLife on Weber, and let me share her locker during the class.
It was not only my experience with other members that was wonderful, every employee I spoke to was genuine and always had a smile on. In particular, everyone involved in Hot Yoga was incredibly passionate and excited as they worked to make sure we all had a positive experience.
As this was the studio’s grand opening event, they even offered fruit infused water, granola bars, and apples to us following the class. And while this won’t likely be the normal after every class, they made sure to share recipes for the water and have real conversations with everyone who approached the table.
This effort of actually treating members like people, rather than just customers, was also evident in Erin’s instruction of the class, as she spoke to certain participants who had been with her previously at another studio.
So, should you try Hot Yoga?
I had the pleasure of speaking with Cheryl, the manager of Hot Yoga at the Weber Street GoodLife Fitness, and she took the time to share some further information for those reading, and for those curious about the practice. I have presented her words, alongside my experiences, below.
“Hot Yoga is such a valuable practice because the class environment very much feels like you are working alone, giving you time to be at peace and alone in your own mind. For Students, it would provide you with a chance to set aside time to really clear your mind and spend time with yourself. You get the chance to cleanse yourself from the week. Something just kind of releases.” – Cheryl
It seemed to me that Cheryl could have gone on for hours as she shared the benefits of Hot Yoga with me, as we sat upon one of the benches in the lobby, following my class. In addition to managing Hot Yoga, Cheryl also practices often during the week, and went on to say, “If I don’t do my hot yoga for a week, I feel it.”
When Erin ended our class, I found myself sitting on my mat feeling so refreshed. I honestly felt more clear and capable sitting there covered in sweat than I have in as long as I can remember.
“There are the physical benefits of core strength, and muscle toning, but there are also great mental benefits. You can decrease stress, and increase your ability to deal with the week ahead.”
For those new to the practice, or new to yoga entirely, you may be sceptical as to whether it is something you can do, and feel comfortable while doing. I get it! I felt the same way. Some of the poses look hard but are simpler in actual practice, and some of them are indeed challenging! But there is no pressure to bend in impossible ways. Only in ways that work for you.
Cheryl describes GoodLife’s classes as, “Hot Yoga for everybody!” And I can attest to this. The variety of bodies in my class was extremely diverse, and yet I heard nearly all of them expressing great appreciation for the class after it ended.
“We are offering a variety of classes that take place in a variety of temperatures. You can participate in classes that offer a more classic yoga experience through a sequence of poses in the higher temperatures. Or we have hot yoga with flow sequences that involve a higher lever of cardio in a lower temperature.”
If you are interested in trying hot yoga, I am sure you can find a style that best suits your needs and your ability.
But what about the cost? Trust me, this was the first thing that crossed my mind after I finished the class, following the sequence of thoughts: that was incredible. I want to keep doing this. I can’t believe this was a free class…wait, this was a free class. What about after this week?
“The good news is that, with our studio being located within the facility, we are able to offer Hot Yoga for a much more feasible price.”
For GoodLife members, only $5 a week gets you unlimited access to Hot Yoga classes. If you do not have a gym membership, you get the same unlimited access to the for only $65 a month.
“Because of our studio’s location, we are able to cut more than half of the price.”
The Student Perspective: Is it worth it?
Honestly, I am going to 100% try to find a way to do more Hot Yoga in the months to come. Currently, I may not have the funds to make it a scheduled part of my routine, but the moment my budget is stable and I can, I will. If you are interested in Hot Yoga, even in the slightest, see if you can sign up for a free pass to experience it yourself.
I totally understand if you don’t want to spend money, but at least get out there and try things when opportunities arise for free participation. Find what you like, and if you feel as if you need more after your taste, as I do, you can find a way to make it work.
Cheryl said something that really stuck with me, and I want to end this post by sharing it with you.
Life is busy. Can you find an hour that is just for you?”
Whether you can find peace and reflection in hot yoga, or it is something completely different, I hope that you do all that you can to ensure that practice remains part of your life.
Take care of your body, and take time to care for your mind.
I wish you the best in finding your own balance.
I was invited by GoodLife Fitness to attend the opening of their Hot Yoga Studio at their Weber Street Facility. They are offering free classes from May 4th to May 10th for any and all members of the public to enjoy. All experiences, opinions, and statements made are my own unless otherwise stated in the post. I have simply been asked to share my experience with the Studio, and so I have; honestly and openly.