Hot yoga: Feeling the burn, and loving it

heater temp

It starts off at 90. It gets hotter.

By Akum Norder

"Every single part of your body is strong."

The yoga instructor intoned it in a soothing voice. What a lovely thought. But by the fifteenth downward facing dog it sure didn't feel true. Everyone looking backwards between their own legs could see me on my haunches, sitting this one out.

Still, there's something nice about a good sweat. I could feel it beading and rolling down the side of my face. It felt clean, somehow.

Okay, water bottle down. Back into pose.

I'm not much of an exerciser. And working in a room upwards of 90 degrees made this workout especially rigorous. (A few days later, I would still be feeling it.) It was my first experience with hot yoga. And you know what? It was great.

hot yoga 2 "Hot yoga is challenging and invigorating all at the same time," said Jessica Lustig, founder of The Hot Yoga Spot, 344 Fuller Road across from Stuyvesant Plaza. "It leaves you feeling relaxed but also gives you a burst of energy that lasts for hours, sometimes days."

Jessica, who has been practicing hot yoga for about two years, opened her studio last December. "I was always interested in yoga because it makes your body and mind feel very relaxed and connected. However, I am always trying to exercise and challenge myself. Once I discovered hot yoga I realized I had discovered a way to do both simultaneously -- and I was hooked!"

So what's the theory behind the heat?

First off, flexibility. "The heat's primary purpose is to help heat the body and give the muscles great elasticity. Many people are afraid to try hot yoga because they think it will be too hard or even impossible; the idea of the heat sounds scary. However, the opposite is actually true. The heat helps make a person's body very flexible and relaxed. This is great because it means that getting into the difficult poses and twists yoga is famous for becomes much easier."

People also emphasize their belief in the cleansing effects of sweating and extra calories burned through the added challenge. Practitioners call it more strenuous than other forms of yoga, and a great workout.

Jessica says different people see different benefits in the experience. "I have a woman who comes to the Saturday morning class each week because she finds that when she leaves class she has a ton of energy so she gets a lot done during her weekend. Likewise, I have a man who attends the studio once every few weeks because he finds hot yoga helps his back and shoulders become loose and relaxed, which has improved his golf game."

Maria Granda of Albany has been practicing hot yoga since the studio opened last December. "I have been working out at a gym for the past 10 years or so," she said. "I was also getting into running -- doing 5Ks and so on. But I was starting to get bored with the gym equipment and the endless cold-weather treadmill running."

The early-morning classes at The Hot Yoga Spot fit her schedule, so she gave it a try -- and loved it. Now she tries to do hot yoga three times a week. "I think that hot yoga allows your body more flexibility and relaxation," she said. "I think that it's more comfortable in that you don't have to worry about being cold and you really do stretch out faster."

The day I attended, the room really didn't feel that hot at first. I was expecting tropical heat, but compared to the chilly March air, the room felt great. The studio heated up during class -- and so did I. I did get dizzy for a while. Of course, I get dizzy standing up off the couch too fast, so that's not something I can necessarily blame on the temperature. I drank a whole bottle of water during class.

Hot yoga vs. Bikram

Other studios -- and other forms of yoga -- use rooms that are much hotter. Bikram, for example, is traditionally practiced in a room heated to 105 degrees. Bikram yoga, created in the 1970s by Bikram Choudhury, is a set of 26 poses performed twice in a 90-minute session. Hot yoga, on the other hand, has a less structured definition; practitioners use the term to refer to a variety of yoga practices performed in a hot environment.

Jessica was drawn to hot yoga instead of Bikram because of the flexibility of the practice and the room for creativity it offered her as an instructor.

"I wanted to open a hot yoga studio instead of a Bikram studio because I like that each class is different. A hot yoga class will vary each time based on the instructor, the students in the class and the energy in the room. For example, if I am teaching a hot yoga class and I know all the students in the room have been coming to the studio for a while, I can change up the routine by adding some more challenging poses. ... Bikram, however, is very rigid and has almost no room for change."

Maria, too, likes the variety available in hot yoga classes. "Since starting at The Hot Yoga Spot I've taken a Bikram class and I enjoyed it," she said, "but hot yoga is more creative because it leaves room for the teacher's experience, philosophy and training to come through."

"Hot yoga is a lot less rigid because each class is different," Jessica said. "It is all about moving at your own pace and challenging yourself."

Her studio offers different classes geared to clients' differing levels of experience. It has 17 sessions a week, with plans to add two more classes in April. All are hot yoga, except for one weekly pre-natal yoga class.

Pregnant women are among the people who should not try hot yoga. "Other than that, hot yoga can be practiced by most people," Jessica said -- though she emphasizes that you should discuss any health concerns with your instructor. And, we would add, with your doctor.

At the end of my yoga session, Jessica talked the class through a series of relaxation exercises. Ah! Corpse pose! Now this I could do. I've never been any good at relaxation; my brain's too jumpy. I'm always like, Oh, crap, I forgot to release the tension in my neck and now she's moved on to the face.

Then Jessica handed out cool, scented towels to place on our faces. They were a delicious contrast to the sweat and the heat -- and the coolness gave me something to focus on, to quiet my thoughts and let my muscles sink into the warmth of the floor. Heavenly.

"This is the peace that the universe offers. Settle for nothing less."

She opened the door to the studio, and the first tendrils of cool air curled across the floor.

hot yoga 1

Find It

The Hot Yoga Spot
344 Fuller Road
Albany, NY 12203


I had tried hot yoga before at a local studio and was not happy with my experience so, when I heard about this new studio a few months ago, I decided to give it a try. Jessica was so warm and welcoming when I came in for my first class. The class itself was relaxing while still being a workout. Being that I'm experienced but, still at a beginner level I was nervous about getting lost but, Jessica provided modifications for difficult poses. It's become one of my favorite yoga studios.
I'm so glad you did a post on the studio. It would be great to see some more people at the classes.

ooh..loves me some hot yoga (tried it last year on vacation).

But what I can't figure out is why hot yoga=expensive yoga. Then again, I only pay $20 a month for my gym membership, so there's my frame of reference.

having practiced a variety of yoga, hot yoga and hot power yoga as well, i found that the sameness of the bikram classes allowed me to achieve a level of unprecedented calm and as close to meditation as i've ever come. the predictability of poses has also allowed me to go deeper into my practice without worry about what is coming next, because after a few classes the sequence just becomes second nature! while bikram's unvarying sequence of 26 poses may not be for everyone, it has been a good fit for me!

if you are looking to try bikram yoga in albany, there is a wonderful, intimate studio in albany called yoga for all seasons. all classes are taught by terry cunningham, who has been teaching bikram for over 10 years--she is a wonderful and dedicated teacher. in addition to bikram yoga, she also offers gentle yoga and chair yoga.

Bikram studios are basically franchises. Bikram Choudhury is the Ray Kroc of yoga, and a is a sue happy creep to boot. I wouldn't doubt that Bikram studio owners get some sort of kickback/reduction in fees for recruiting new trainees at 11,000 dollars a pop.

The hot yoga spot was awesome...and the owner has great student specials so it was only 9 bucks a class! There are a bunch of different instructors at the studio which is awesome cause I like taking classes with different ones cause yoga classes are so unique based on whose teaching them. Hot yoga spots awesome, best place ive been to in Albany.

I LOVE The Hot Yoga Spot! Try their Iron Yoga class on Saturdays for a sweaty, shaky challenge! So glad you enjoyed your first hot yoga experience Akum!

omg Iron Yoga there is awesome...ive never seen Iron Yoga at any other studio but its a really cool concept---yoga+weights=kickass workout! They also have really great power yoga and core fusion classes @the hot yoga spot....i dont care which class I go to there, I always leave dripping in sweat! And I am ALWAYS feeling the burn for a couple of days after my class!

I have been practicing Bikram yoga at Yoga For All Season in Albany with Terry Cunningham for almost two years and I have never been happier with a yoga experience. While it's true that a Bikram yoga class is always the same 26 postures it is far from boring or restricting, and actually the sameness of the postures allows you to go deeper into each pose and focus on the mediation benefits of the class. Every class is completely different... based on how you feel that day, the energy in the room, the weather, the other people in the class and a hundred other variables.

I also wanted to say that I think teachers who successfully teach Bikram yoga demonstrate a huge amount of creativity and there is ample room for their experience and personal life philosophies to shine through. And in many ways they probably need to be even more creative in motivating and nurturing their students given that each class is made up of the same 26 postures.
In every class I've taken with Terry I've found new insights and perspectives on not just yoga, but life... and that in itself is a huge benefit to her class and a reflection of her personal style and talent as a Bikram yoga teacher.

I think the fight between bikram yoga isn't important. Each person should do whatever they enjoy most. Some people prefer Bikram and some prefer hot yoga but there isn't one right or wrong way and its not a competition.

I personally prefer hot yoga. I took Bikram a few times and got yelled at by the teacher. I wasn't allowed to drink water when I NEEDED to and I wasn't even allowed to wipe the sweat off of my face. And everyone keeps saying each Bikram class is different based on energy, emotions, etc, but it still IS the same exact poses each time. There is no way to add new poses or change the order around based on preference and experience of people in the class. For me, I don't like that because it was too demanding and stagnant. I enjoy hot yoga because I always feel more welcomed and less intimidated by the people in the class. The few times I have gone to a bikram studio, including yoga for all seasons, I have felt like the women in the room were talking down to me because i do not do bikram 7 days a week. I always left feeling bad about myself when I should be feeling good about myself. Yes, each bikram class feels different because you are different each time, but at the end of the day each one is structured exactly the same way...theres no getting around that! However, I have a friend who enjoys Bikram yoga and being told every single thing she can and can not do by the instructor because she does not have to worry or think about anytihng while she is in class. I think she gets into a deep meditative state because she is not focusing on any small personal things in class.

So, at the end of the day, it is all personal preference. No one is saying one type of yoga is better than the other, there is no competition. People who do hot yoga love hot yoga and those who do bikram love it. It isn't about other people, it is about yourself, so don't worry about what other people think or are saying about it!

Love, love, loveeeee the hot yoga spot. very cool hot yoga studio...its small and intimate and the instructors are awesome. I have been to soo many yoga studios where you show up for class and someone grabs your money and shoves you threw a door, without asking anything about you. The hot yoga spot is NOT like that...I was actually shocked the first time i went to the studio because the teachers were so nice. Every teacher there not only knows my name but knows about me and remembers stuff we have talked about(I was having a bad day one time i went to class and ended up chatting with the instructor about time i came to class he remembered the convo and asked if everythign had gotten better!) The teachers there really go out of their way to show you they care about you and how you are doing/feeling in class.
The owner is awesome. One time I couldnt find my keys and had to call my mom for a ride. She opened the studio and waited with me inside until my mom came ,instead of making me wait outside alone (it was a night class and she was on her way out the door when I realized I couldnt get into my car). Very cool studio, I highly recommend.

I LOVE the hot yoga spot! not only is it so affordable with the student discount, but the classes are great and the location is so easy to get to. I highly recommend the power yoga and core fusion classes with Loren.. she is a wonderful instructor and her classes are challenging but she caters to people of all levels and you feel wonderful after!

I adore this studio. I've been practicing yoga for 8 years and have done it all. This studio really hits the hot spot (pun intended). It is friendly, welcoming and perfect for beginners or advanced practitioners. I highly recommend this studio whether you're just starting or need a good butt kick.

To respond to an above comment: Bikram is a wonderful practice and I don't think the article was in any way talking badly about it. It is just nice, for some people, to have variety in their practice. Though it is a wonderful practice to repeat a sequence daily to see subtle progressions in the body and is also very nice to branch out and have a unique experience each day. Yoga is a personal practice for everyone. No need to offend or defend. Yoga is about balance...wherever you find yours is where your true practice lies. Namaste.

the hot yoga spot is awesome! ive been to about a dozen classes there and i always leave satisfied.As one commenter mentioned earlier the owner and teachers really do care, coming from some of the more high brow studios in NYC this was VERY refreshing. Ive been to yoga for all seasons as well and i honestly prefer the hot yoga spot, the instructors are more creative and i feel the classes are more varied (which i like)

Great read though! you guys picked an awesome studio to feature:)

one of the best classes i ever took. my body felt great, it was great for mind and body. i left feeling relaxed renewed and energized. the heat was a great way to get deep into the body in the cold weather sometimes its hard to get started. the teacher created a supportive environment and her class had everything, it wasn't just a workout, it was REAL YOGA. i would recommend the hot yoga spot to a beginner or a serious practicer, its that good!

I guess this article was posted a few days ago? dont know how i missed it! The Hot Yoga Spot is an awesome studio. I go to UAlbany and live on campus. My roommate and I walk to THYS a few times a week so we can get our yoga fix! Its nice that the studio is so close to school because neither one of us have a car on campus so it is great to still be able to practice. Student discounts make it very cheap (only $8.50/class when you buy a few sessions at once---that price is UNREAL in the yoga world)!

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