After the pandemic closed or reduced capacity gyms and gyms across the country, Margaux Drake let go of her regular yoga practice.
There was no lack of interest in courses offered on Instagram or Zoom. Ms. Drake, a Grand Rapids, Michigan entrepreneur, has completed numerous high-intensity interval training courses online. For her, however, yoga is not just about stretching, turning, strengthening and balancing her head. It's about doing all of these things in a room heated to 90 degrees or hotter.
"The experience of doing yoga in a hot room is powerful in such a way that I'm not sure if people who haven't tried it can fully understand it," said Ms. Drake.
Last fall, she became a bathroom yogi in one of the quarantine's more creative fitness hacks.
Ms. Drake wakes up three times a week, connects a space heater to a bathroom outlet, and turns the shower on full tilt for about 10 minutes. Then she goes to the kitchen for a cup of coffee and closes the bathroom door behind her to catch in the heat.
About an hour later, she returns to the bathroom in leggings and a stretchy top. She lights a few candles, drizzles essential oils near the heater, unfolds her mat, and takes an online yoga class.
"It's not like the studio, but it's as close as possible," she said. "I'm just dripping at the end."
Ms. Drake is one of many Americans who have devoted themselves to hot yoga. They believe that it makes physical exercise harder and allows for deeper stretching.
Some are also drawn to the sweat that can result from taking an exercise class in a room heated to between 80 and 105 degrees Fahrenheit.
"Without the heat, we don't get the same feeling of liberation, that cathartic moment that we don't get with the element of warmth," said Candace Sneed, Atlanta attorney and yoga teacher. Living with her aging parents and college-aged daughter, she fears attending a class in her city where many studios are open could bring the risk of contagion.
Ms. Sneed has set up a yoga room in her basement, in which she puts her body and mind into a meditative state with room heating. "The heating bill goes through the roof," she said.
Diana West, of Draper, Utah, is another heat seeker who first encountered the discipline almost 20 years ago in a hot yoga studio. "Up there with a drug-free baby, the first hot class up there was one of the hardest things I've ever done," Ms. West said. "But immediately I was hooked and hooked."
To restore the hot studio conditions, Ms. West runs the shower to dampen her bathroom, fills her bathtub to bring some moisture into the situation, connects a space heater (“Careful!” She said. “This could end very bad. ”) and rolls a towel under the door to keep the heat out. Then she takes an online course.
Her ability to create a new microclimate in the Utah desert surprised loved ones. "The first time I did it, my husband came in and said, 'It feels like Costa Rica here," she said.
Ms. West only indulges in hot yoga at home occasionally (three times since last March) because she is concerned about wasting resources. "It's a lot of water," she said, even though she conserved in other ways. "I haven't showered as much in the last year as I used to, so hopefully it balances out."
In cities where some bathrooms may not be big enough to fit on a mat, yogis are still finding ways to break a sweat. For example, studio owners in New York are getting creative with the city's exteriors to offer masked yoga sessions that allow airflow and social distancing.
Britton Schey and her husband Wade Helliwell own Verayoga, a hot yoga studio with locations in TriBeCa and Brooklyn. On the roof of the TriBeCa location, Mr. Helliwell built an outdoor tent studio with nine individual platforms and infrared heating over each room. The plan is to open when temperatures approach 50 degrees.
"Every day we have people who turn to us and ask when the roof will open for hot yoga," said Ms. Schey, "and we say," People, it's 25 degrees outside. "
Tricia Donegan is the owner of Fierce Grace, a hot studio on the Lower East Side of Manhattan that has been around since 2004. (Until 2017, the studio was known as Bikram Yoga Lower East Side.) To meet the city's mandates, the studio offers private lessons as well as smaller group sessions in which 14 students (as opposed to the usual 60) have their own practice in the hot room Perform with a space of eight feet between each mat.
However, Ms. Donegan's yoga ethos has always been about making the practice accessible to everyone (including Lady Gaga, who first taught yoga to Ms. Donegan when she was still known as Stefani Germanotta). She's been running hot outdoor classes on weekends even when the temperature is below freezing.
"I want to make this tool available to everyone when people really need healing," said Ms. Donegan. "The heat is part of it."
Last month, 20 yogis gathered outside Baby Brasa, a Peruvian restaurant in Greenwich Village. Like other restaurants in town, Baby Brasa built a terrace on the street (in this case Seventh Avenue) with pretty greenery and heaters that hung from the roof for alfresco dining. But before brunch, the terrace became a temporary hot yoga studio.
For an hour, Ms. Donegan radiated the music, calling out her poses through a mask. "I want nothing more than a sweaty yoga class and this is a great alternative," said Monty Stilson, 63, who took the class.
Fiona Mason and Marios Mantzoukis stood on mats at a careful distance. In their apartment, they said they take Fierce Grace classes online, but on weekends they dress in shifts and place their mats under the restaurant's lamps. "It's out in January and somehow you can still really feel the heat," said Mantzoukis.
The pandemic has been a boon to the couple behind the Hot Yoga Dome, an inflatable tent-like structure that looks like a bouncy castle for adults to play in. Gillian Sky Walker, a self-proclaimed “Hot Yoga Junkie” (and a “Star Wars” fan who changed her middle name to Sky) initially saw the product as a way to help entrepreneurs make Hot Yoga Studios as economical as possible to open.
In September 2018, Ms. Walker and her husband Alex McDermott, whose business is based in Los Angeles, began selling the dome, which could be heated with space heaters, to yoga teachers and studio owners. It costs $ 4,995 (as opposed to the tens of thousands it can cost to build a hot yoga studio, Ms. Walker said) and has room for 12-15 mats.
In 2019, Ms. Walker felt it wise to offer a home version of the dome, not to replace studios but to provide an alternative to hot yoga addicts when life and family were making it difficult to get to class. The smaller versions of the Hot Yoga Dome will be available for the first time in November 2019 and cost between $ 850 and $ 1,500.
You know what happened next.
"I would never have imagined this in a million years," she said. “We had steady growth, but then the pandemic and now we're in serious business. It was crazy. "
Jenn Totman of Leavenworth, Washington, bought a Hot Yoga Dome in December. Avid skiers, snowboarders, mountain bikers and hikers, Ms. Totman and her husband Jim Totman rely on hot yoga to keep their muscles supple. The couple first tried to create hot yoga conditions by placing a couple of space heaters in Mr. Totman's home office. "The heat started playing with his computers," she said.
Then they considered building a yurt outside their home that they could heat, but learned that it would be prohibitively expensive. They found out about the Hot Yoga Dome. "All of our ski holidays were canceled so we said 'Merry Christmas to us,'" said Ms. Totman.
They put the dome on their deck and heated it with four space heaters. (Ms. Totman places a glass of water in front of one of the heaters to generate moisture.) You now use the dome about five times a week for yoga, pilates, or to relax like in a sauna. "We can get it 101 to 104 degrees even if it's 35 degrees outside," said Ms. Totman.
Leavenworth is a Bavarian-style town in the mountains, and its residents are very leaning towards Christmas. As a result, the totman's outside deck has plenty of power outlets for the amazing display of the Christmas lights. This makes the Hot Yoga Dome even easier to use.
I learned that power sources are essential to keep the Hot Yoga Dome hot. Ms. Walker agreed to lend me a dome for this item. (I covered the shipping costs and bought two of the $ 25 ceramic heaters she recommended.)
I checked out their YouTube instructional video which made setting up the dome very easy. The biggest problem I faced while testing the dome in three weeks was figuring out how to keep the power strips that I plugged the heaters into from turning off automatically during my yoga practice, presumably overwhelmed by the fan inflating the structure.
When I think of inflating the dome and turning the heaters on on the lowest heat for at least 30 minutes before practicing, and winding some extension cords around the house, the circuits aren't shorting out and the temperature inside the dome (in my very cold house ) comes to about 90 degrees. I wouldn't mind practicing in an even hotter room, but it's warm enough to train a good Shvitz.