A blast of warm, humid air hits your face upon walking into Hot Yoga Milwaukee. The blue concrete ground supports your feet as you remove your shoes as you enter through the doorway. You are surrounded by white walls, a desk and lounge area, locker rooms and the doors to two very hot yoga rooms.
These rooms, which are heated anywhere from eighty to 100-degrees Fahrenheit with forty percent humidity, hold about twenty students of all different backgrounds. Each person is there to detox their minds and bodies.
According to UW-Milwaukee yoga instructor Marquita Edwards Fikes, the goal behind hot yoga is to take the performer back to yoga’s traditional roots. Yoga began under the hot sun of India, where the person practicing yoga performs various stretching poses while controlling their breathing and perspiring rather profusely.
This concept- the origin of yoga itself- has been recreated around the country, as well as some parts of the world. They brought the hot Indian sun indoors, to a dimly lit, temperature-controlled room. Some classes focus on detoxification. Others have transformed this concept into a more cardio-based exercise.
You are greeted by your soon-to-be instructor. She hands you a sign-up sheet and a safety waiver. Hot yoga is not necessarily unsafe, however, some medical precautions must be taken especially for those with heart or blood pressure issues. You are led towards the locker rooms that features multiple showers, various types of lotions, hair products, and hair dryers. A few chat quietly amongst them. Others sit and meditate, or listen to music in their headphones. All are preparing one way or another for the intense session that will soon begin.
One studio instructor, Melissa Armstrong, has been instructing at Hot Yoga Milwaukee since 2010. She is known for her fast-paced classes filled with motivation and care.
“We are here for one reason,” said Armstrong. “We come here with all of the weights of the world. The stresses, the anxieties and the worries that we carry with us every day. We come here to grab onto those things, and let them out.”
This mind and body detox is done by connecting movement with the breath. It is aided then, by practicing yoga in an over 80-degree room.
“You cannot move like this anywhere else,” said Armstrong.
You follow your fellow classmates into the assigned hot yoga room. When you open the door, you hear light, relaxing music playing and the room is dimly lit. You take your first breath of the humid air and find a place to set your mat. Mirrors surround you. Your skin begins glistening with sweat. You stretch, and already you sense your muscles relaxing. You lie down and take in the change of environment.
Milwaukee resident Amanda John has been a frequent visitor of Hot Yoga Milwaukee for nearly three years. She has a background in traditional yoga but enjoys performing hot yoga as well. “No matter what mood I’m in going into it, I always feel good about myself coming out of class,” John said.
Many different classes are held daily at Hot Yoga Milwaukee. They teach Bikram Yoga, which is the original “hot yoga” method with a room temperature of 105 degrees. Vinyasa Flow, which focuses on the breath in a 95-degree room. The slightly more challenging Power Flow, which adds more moves and core strength in the 95-degree room. Yin, which focuses on holding the stretches for a longer period of time in an 80-degree room, as well as Hot Pilates. Hot Pilates is a more fitness-based class linking exercises with our natural movement pattern in a 95-degree room. Almost every class varies in time but runs between 60 to 90 minutes.
These classes are offered regularly and a class schedule is offered online.
Your instructor enters the room and greets the class. Each class begins with either a sitting or lying pose, which you slowly work your way to standing by repeating short stretches. With each new stretch, the pace quickens and the intensity rises.
Hot Yoga Milwaukee has over twenty local instructors, each with varying styles, so it is recommended that students try out a few different instructors and find one or two that suit them best. Each instructor is trained and certified.
The instructor will talk throughout the entirety of the class to help guide and keep the focus on each student. Although the temperatures are extreme, each move can actually be considered safer in these conditions. The high temperatures allow muscles to stretch more fully, allowing a fuller range of motion while ridding the body of toxins.
You notice your skin. It is covered in small sweat droplets, even in places you have never seen sweat before. The middle of your arms are dripping, your back is drenched, the tops of your feet are shining. You return back to the downward dog pose and notice your heels touching the ground. You have not ever been able to do that in your room during your own practice. You feel uplifted and incredibly flexible.
Alisyn Vermey is a traditional focused yoga instructor at UW-Milwaukee’s Klotsche Center. “Hot yoga is not for everyone,” said Vermey. “I like hot yoga and how it is really detoxing, but it is only possible to do a few of those classes a week. I feel like it is harder on my body and makes me a little dehydrated and takes longer to recover. Traditional yoga is beneficial for the mind and the body, and it can be practiced anywhere.”
The classes will indeed be very challenging, especially for those new to the activity. It is almost guaranteed that participants will feel sweaty and slightly sore, but the instructors advice their students to listen to their bodies. If they experience any sharp or severe pain, they recommend a short rest.
Your heart beats quickly and you are feeling strange. You take a minute to drink some water and blot your face. You need a break.
Two major moves are recommended for those needing a moment to themselves. It is not unusual for beginners to spend much of their beginning classes either sitting down, lying on their back taking a “savanna,” or kneeling with their head down in front of them in “child’s pose.”
Yoga, whether done in a hot yoga studio or practiced alone at your house, is known for its mental and physical health benefits. Vermey recommends yoga for everyone but done safely at their own pace and comfort level.
“I believe yoga is such a creative expression because of how you link your breath to every movement,” said Vermey. “I heard before that your yoga mat is your canvas and you are the artist. Trying new poses and new ways to move or breathe automatically makes people more creative.”
The class is near completion. You are tired, thirsty and in awe of what you have just accomplished. The yoga mat beneath you is sticky with your own perspiration. The teacher allows you some time to meditate. You think about what you have just completed: movements you were not aware you were capable of, extreme heat you normally cannot stand and a full body and mind detoxification. You respectfully repeat “namaste” to your teacher, and slowly make your way back to the locker rooms.
Sessions at Hot Yoga Milwaukee range in price, but single classes begin at $20 and memberships range from $50 to $290. Their class schedule can be found online at http://www.yogamke.com.