I consider myself more heat tolerant than most. Summer is by far my favorite season and I’m perfectly happy on those sweltering days when everyone is complaining about the heat and pining for autumn. So when I was assigned a class at Rhode Island Hot Yoga, I figured, well, no sweat.
As you can probably already imagine, I was wrong. It was a lot of sweat. An absurd amount, really.
I knew I had underestimated things almost immediately upon arrival. My instructor, Juliana, greeted me at the front desk and asked if I needed a towel. I told her I brought my own. “A big towel?” she asked. I told her I thought it would do the job. It did not even come close.
As someone who only occasionally does yoga, I don’t really have the proper attire. I showed up in my running clothes and figured they would suffice, as they have at other yoga classes in the past. Again, a miscalculation on my part. (I also neglected to bring a change of clothes for after, another big mistake.) I entered the studio and found a roomful of people wearing as little clothing as possible. The guys were all shirtless, and the women were mostly in tiny shorts and sports bras – a few even seemed to be wearing bathing suits. What’s more, most of them had the taut, sinewy physiques of frequent yogis. This was clearly not going to be a relaxing session of light stretching and deep breathing.
Though it may seem redundant to talk about the temperature at a hot yoga class, I really feel the obligation to say it. We’re talking 105 degrees with 40 percent humidity. It’s not like doing yoga in a sauna, it is doing yoga in a sauna.
Rhode Island Hot Yoga was formerly East Bay Bikram Yoga; they changed the name with the opening of their second studio in Olneyville in June. (Their original is in Bristol.) Thus, their classes adhere pretty strictly to the Bikram yoga method, which consists of a 90-minute sequence of 26 poses and two breathing exercises in a heated room. The benefits are said to be numerous: including the usual boosts to strength, balance and flexibility, Bikram yoga is believed to help with chronic pain, inflammation and overall well-being.
The progression is standard and enshrined in the very idea of Bikram yoga. Each class begins and ends with breathing exercises. The time in between is divided into sections of standing, lying, and sitting poses. Each one is done twice, and is held static; there are none of the flowing movements you might find in a gentler yoga class.
Simply put, this is not yoga for the faint of heart. It is intense and challenging. Even the regulars seemed to struggle at times. Bikram yoga is not a relaxing escape from the stresses of the day; it’s a real workout – which makes it oddly appealing. I love the benefits of yoga, but, as a bit of a glutton for punishment, I don’t believe exercise really counts unless I leave feeling like I just had my ass kicked. Rhode Island Hot Yoga kicked mine up and down that studio.
If you decide to try it yourself, just take my advice: bring a big towel.
Rhode Island Hot Yoga
166 Valley Street, Suite 201 • 714-0042
36 Gooding Avenue, Bristol • 217-9010