Think you’re tough? Try hot yoga

Bilal Suleiman, Opinion Columnist

When the door of the studio opens, one is immediately greeted with a blast of bass-heavy pop music and warm, humid air that smells faintly of essential oils. The tops of the mirrored walls surrounding the room have a slight fog near the top. Yoga mats fill the room, each one only a few feet from the next. The mats are occupied with warm bodies, all moving and all gleaming with sweat. At the front of the room, the instructor demonstrates a next exercise, a combination of a leg extension with an ab crunch mixed in.  

“Squeeze your booty!” shouts the instructor. “Cause if you don’t….” she trails off. “No one else will!” replies the class in unison. Giggles ensue and the mood is lightened. Welcome to sculpt and shred hot yoga at Haute Yogis in Grand Forks. 

Hot yoga is the latest exercise fad to hit the nation. I started attending hot yoga after the start of the new year to see what all the fuss was about. People have the misconception that yoga is all about stretching and breathing and that it is an easy exercise strictly for women. I assure you that it is anything but easy. Yes, there’s stretching and breathing and yes, a lot of women perform hot yoga. However, if you really think you’re tough and that hot yoga is too easy for you, think again. Not only is hot yoga one of the most brutal workouts out there, it’s extremely beneficial for you as well. 

Hot yoga involves yoga exercises performed in a heated room, usually kept around 100 degrees. The purpose of the heat is to simulate the weather conditions in India, where yoga originated. The heat also helps warm the muscles and allows for deeper stretching. A result of this heat is the natural side effect of profuse sweating. A water bottle is mandatory, as is a towel. Even bringing a second towel isn’t a bad idea.   

It’s an extremely strenuous form of exercise. The combination of heat with athletic movements and stretching is a match made in conditioning heaven. 15 minutes into your first class and it becomes apparent that this is not your typical workout. Newcomers are encouraged to have a goal of simply not leaving the room. Even seasoned yogis can be seen lying on their mats, recovering, during a particularly tough class.   

It’s one of the most difficult workouts I’ve ever performed. No other form of exercise keeps one so close to their breaking point throughout the entire workout quite like hot yoga does.  

Why would people volunteer to put themselves though all this suffering? For Jess Gowan, hot yoga is challenging, yet therapeutic.  

“It’s an hour I get to myself during the day where I don’t have my phone or any children around me,” Gowan said. “It’s Jess time.” 

There are many other reasons to go to hot yoga. For starters, one can burn anywhere between 500 – 1000 calories per class. The heat and sweat help to keep the body’s largest organ, the skin, glowing and healthy. The athletic movements and stretches help to strengthen muscles that may not normally get attention. This in turn helps to improve balance and posture in day to day activities. However, the biggest benefit of hot yoga isn’t physical, but is the mental toughness and connection to spirituality you gain while performing in the heated room. 

Angie Mahar, one of the instructors at Haute Yogis, explained why college students should perform hot yoga.  

 “I think it’s very important for them to focus,” Mahar said.“Getting all your energy (out), being able to let everything go, and then coming back home and being able to study and feel free and focused. And it’s a good mindset too. It clears your body and your mind of toxins, worries, and I think that’s good for all people, not just UND students.” 

Hot yoga is clearly good for your health and wellbeing but is anything but easy. If you’re still skeptical about hot yoga at this point, there is nothing I can do besides challenge you to try a class. We’ll see what you say about the exercise then. 

Bilal Suleiman is a columnist for Dakota Student. He can be reached at [email protected].