Five reasons I hated Bikram Yoga:
● The duration: The classes are 90 minutes. In 40 – 50°c heat. That is just psychotic.
● The environment: Maintaining that level of artificial heat all day, plus the extra showers and laundry? Hello carbon emissions.
● Repetitive: The same 26 moves, in the same sequence, over and over and OVER.
● The heat: Did I mention it’s 40°c?
● The rules: Bikram can be gruelling. Limit water intake. Push yourself. Try not to leave the room, even if you’re about to faint.
You might not guess it, but I actually love yoga. And practicing in a warm environment (ideally under a coconut tree on a tropical island) has many benefits, not least helping get a deeper muscle stretch, and eradicating toxins. So I jumped at the chance to try Hotpod Yoga: a new yoga concept where classes take place in a large inflatable pod, heated to 37°c. Totally sci-fi right? With franchises popping up all over the UK and a promise to burn up to 700 calories in an hour’s class, I prepared to take on a week of getting sweaty…
When I arrived at the Hackney class and saw Hotpod Yoga’s energy efficient pod, my first reaction was how comical it looked. A large black inflatable structure with a zip-door that closes like a tent, it bears a striking resemblance to a children’s ball pool or bouncy castle; not the most calming of environments. Once inside however, I was absolutely immersed in the experience. The inner pod is a soothing, glowing space with soft purple lighting and low electronic or R&B music playing. The classes are an hour long and based on Vinyasa (flow) yoga, a style which moves through a sequence of postures, creating a dynamic practice with a focus on breathing into the moves.
The 37 degree heat feels quite gentle at first, making the class effective but accessible for all levels of practice. But don’t think it isn’t a work-out! The heat sneaks up on you so by 20 minutes in, I was really sweating. Catherine was a wonderful teacher, with a really relaxed style, correcting our moves encouraging us to let go of our stresses. When the hour is up, I realise that I have managed to totally switch off my inner chatter for almost the whole class, and I leave feeling centred, calm and energised.
My second session two days later was with Dionne, with a full pod of around 12 yogis, both men and women. Following the first class I felt a nice burn in my core muscles and a deep stretch in my back and sides. This time the sequence of moves is a little different, with each teacher having their own style and allowing for creativity and variation. Dionne is a dynamo and the class is a real cardio workout. The great thing about the pod is that it feels clean and hygienic despite the sweat pouring off us all. And above all there is no pressure to carry on if you need a break or some water, the pod environment somehow makes the classes feel more inclusive and welcoming. At the end of the class it feels like being ‘reborn’ out of the womb-like pod into the cool air of the hall.
Unfortunately there are no showers, so I have to detour home to freshen up before a drink date….my hair and face being utterly inexcusable after the class.
Saturday morning sees me take the final class of the week. Again with Catherine but this time ‘the morning after’ a heavy night. I feel slightly less than enthusiastic at the prospect upon waking, but remembering the buzz I got from the previous classes, I haul myself there.
The session is very focused on the core, and as with my first class we warm up with quite a long sequence of Chaturanga – Upward-Facing Dog – Downward-Facing Dog. The first time I found this a bit of a repetitive slog, but I settle into it much more quickly. I can already feel an improvement in my practice after a few classes and despite my cloudy head I feel really focused and ‘present’. One week of workouts and winning at the yoga game despite the hangover? HotpodYoga gets a definite RIH Recommendation!
Hotpod Yoga currently has classes in Hackney, Brixton, Notting Hill, Swansea, South Birmingham and Milton Keynes. London classes cost £12 for a single class, less for multiple bookings and for classes elsewhere. For more information or to book a class, see the Hotpod Yoga website.