Get Fit: Hot Yoga

Up your workout ante, and let hot yoga give your muscles a deeper stretch than you ever thought possible.

    Having never tried yoga, much less hot yoga, I had no idea what to expect—other than profuse perspiration—when I took the Hot 60 class at My Hot Yoga (Southern Hills Shopping Center, 3014-C E. Sunshine St., Springfield, 417-888-0130, myhotyoga.net).
Owner Merica Clinkenbeard led me into the studio a few minutes early so I could become acclimated to the balmy 105 degrees. It was surprisingly easier than expected. The dimly lit room had mirrors on three sides and was permeated with the scent of lavender. I fell into deep relaxation as my instructor (and manager of the studio), Alicia Epps, spoke to us much like I’d imagine a mother soothing her newborn baby, telling us to forget our worries and focus on ourselves and our bodies for the next hour.
The class started relatively gently, and I found myself thinking, “This might not be so hard after all.” About 20 minutes into the class, however, I was soaked in sweat. It was then I realized putting on lotion before class was a mistake, because it made holding poses a bit slippery and a lot more difficult. By what I’d guess to be about 45 minutes into the class, I was really feeling the burn. Holding my balance became increasingly tough, and I found myself wishing desperately for the moment when we’d return to lying flat on the floor. Luckily, mere minutes later, we were on our backs, relaxing away our increased heart rates. The instructor got back into “baby-soothing voice,” and came around to put cold, lavender-scented washcloths across each of our faces—a glorious way to end that tough hour of exercise.
I came out of the studio drenched and rather red-faced, but feeling quite rejuvenated. All of my muscles, particularly my hamstrings, felt the after-burn for the next several days, but it was an empowering kind of soreness that reminded me I did something good for my body.
If you’ve never done hot yoga, it might take a few tries before you’re hooked, which is why My Hot Yoga offers The New Student Special: two weeks of unlimited yoga for $20. It gives you a chance to try all the different classes, teachers and times. The instructors strive for your body and mind to have a fresh experience every time. “It’s all your basic poses, but each instructor teaches in a different way and uses different music,” says Clinkenbeard.
Epps says hot yoga is the perfect combination of flexibility, strength training, balance and cardio, and it’s just as wonderful for you mentally as it is physically. Various poses also aid digestion, decrease blood pressure and increase circulation. The heat relaxes your muscles, enabling you to get into poses more easily and keeping your muscles safe from pulling them. At the same time, it gets your heart rate up to a cardio speed. The sweating has a detoxifying effect, Clinkenbeard says.
Many hot yoga regulars are doctors and chiropractors. “When they choose this as their workout, it’s a testimonial of what we do,” Clinkenbeard says. Some people think yoga is slow and doesn’t include enough cardio, but hot yoga gets you the cardio high you might be unable to achieve with regular yoga.
Hot yoga is a format where you can feel strong again at any age, says Clinkenbeard. If you feel strong in the yoga studio, that strength finds its way into other aspects of life. “A high school kid could outrun me around a track, but I could out-plank that kid any day,” she says. “It evens the playing field.” 

The 411

My Hot Yoga
Where: Southern Hills Shopping Center, 3014-C E. Sunshine St., Springfield
When: Check online schedules at myhotyoga.net.
Cost: 1 Class, $15; 5-Class Card, $60; 10-Class Card, $110; Auto pay monthly unlimited, $89 per month; 2012 6-month special, $69 per month
What to bring: Yoga mat, large beach towel to cover mat, small towel for sweat, water, and a change of clothes if you want to take advantage of the upscale and fully stocked (shampoo, soap, towels, etc.) shower/bathroom area. You can borrow a mat and towel for free at your first class, but after that it’s $1 per piece to rent.
How to prepare: Hydrate yourself, but don’t overfill on water. Eat a very small meal (preferably two hours before class) for energy, and wear comfortable, breathable clothing.

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