I have wanted to try out yoga in a physical class for the longest time. However, I never thought that my first yoga class would be in a warm, humid room with temperatures as high as 40 degrees Celsius. So assuming that the hot yoga class would be similar to the 10 minutes that I spend on my laptop watching Pinterest's basic yoga tutorials, I went in unprepared. It was 5pm at Two Rivers Mall in Nairobi.
Sonia Birdi, the founder of Hot Yoga Nairobi quickly got me checked in. I was shown into the changing room, allocated a locker and given a yoga mat and a glass of water to carry with me into the studio.
I was on time for the first yoga pose, but I learnt that it would have been much better coming in 15 minutes before to be acclimatised to the heat. The room was already hot with about 40 percent humidity. I felt like I was suffocating already and I still had 60 minutes to go. But I was determined to go through with the workout.
“The heat helps to improve flexibility and lung capacity. It also provides you with an anaerobic workout that gets your heart pumping,” Sonia had told me before I started exercising.
It was a Vinyasa hot yoga class, where participants do stringing postures together so that they move from one pose to another seamlessly while breathing in between.
The difference with this type of yoga and Bikram is that the latter is in a more fixed form and features 26 poses. A Bikram yoga session is 90 minutes long.
The class started with a few breathing exercises, which felt more of guided meditation. I loved it because it kept reminding me to keep my head clear and focus on the breathing and poses.
After about 10 minutes, my body was already dripping with sweat. The only towel that I had carried was too small, it barely spread across the mat, and I did not have an extra one to wipe the sweat off.
For someone who weighs 60 kilogrammes, doing a low-impact workout, I realised I am unfit. I almost toppled over multiple times while doing the yoga poses.
I retreated to the child pose severally when I felt that I could not handle some of the poses for long.
I allowed my body to rest since this was my first time. I felt dizzy too, and this was because I was not as hydrated as I was supposed to be. However, the fact that the entire studio is mirrored helped me a great deal. Seeing how flexible the others were pushed me to keep going. I did not realise how fast the time went by, even after two water breaks. The session finally ended. It was unreal. To be honest, I almost cried because I could not remember the last time my head had been that clear.
Sonia told me that I had been holding in too much, and that this was one of the main benefits of hot yoga. “Hot yoga is an activity I would strongly recommend to people in top management positions especially. I believe it can really make a huge difference if it is incorporated into the normal work life of employees,” she said.
Hot yoga has a number of benefits that extend beyond the hot room.
“It aids in weight loss, detoxification, increased lung capacity, toned muscles, increased flexibility and improved sleep patterns. One also gets peace of mind, increased confidence and a greater sense of balance,” Sonia says.
The studio offers complementary electrolyte water to replenish energy levels, but I was starving by the time I was done taking a shower.
Would I go back? Definitely.
Vinyasa is derived from nyasa, meaning “to place,” and vi, meaning “in a special way.” This indicates that we are not “throwing our bodies around” but are bringing consciousness to each movement in each moment. Vinyasa Yoga connects one posture to the next using the breath. Before You Go For a Class
—Drink approximately three litres of water in the 24 hours leading to a class. This makes the heat more comfortable.
—Come to class on an empty stomach. Heavy meals should be taken about four hours prior, while snacks can be taken two hours before a class.
— A yoga mat, towel and water bottle are available for rent/purchase at the studio in the case one forgets or does not have.
—Get to the studio 20-30 minutes earlier to have plenty of time for registration and orientation.
-Shoes and cell phones are not permitted in the hot room.