Feature: If you can't stand the heat, get out of the St Albans yoga studio
PUBLISHED: 15:00 12 August 2017
Danny Loo Photography 2017
An epiphany struck me while kneeling bent over sideways, one arm reaching under my leg and over my back, sweat dripping in my eyes, muscles shaking, vision swimming, and choking in the 40C heat.
I had forgotten my shorthand notebook.
The Herts Ad had been invited to have a hot yoga lesson at Westminster Lodge in St Albans, taken by instructor Jonny Penn - my colleague Anne and I turned up bright eyed and ready to stretch.
“This is an experience, and it might be overwhelming,” Jonny announces as the class begins, “so if you need to stop, you don’t need to do everything, just take a break.”
That was an understatement and a half. As an exercise-shy yoga virgin who stops functioning past 25C, it was about 15 minutes in when I decided I was going to die any second. Or at least be sick.
Thirty minutes in I sneak a peek at Anne, who has sat down and is just watching Jonny contort himself.
The unusual purpose built room takes about 15 minutes to reach 42C and 100F, and is a safe way to practice yoga - muscles become soft and pliable, and there is less chance of inducing injuries in the sweltering room.
It also promotes sweating and elevates heart rate, making it a relaxed while simultaneously very strenuous workout.
Different classes can focus on different part of the body, with sequences specifically designed to build up to a particular pose and although ours was designed for people exactly unlike us - experienced - Jonny was understanding and helpful, adjusting our bodies without passing judgement.
He has been practicing yoga for ten years, travelling and learning in Malaysia and Spain, before becoming a qualified instructor about a year ago.
“It’s a full body workout, it works everything.
“It always starts as a physical practice and then suddenly it becomes a spiritual practice.
“But people don’t realise that, it’s quite a personal thing.
“It’s amazing, it will take you all places - without getting too hippy!”
After the class, I’m feeling exhausted and grateful for cool air, but great about myself.
Anne looks broken: “I thought yoga would be reasonably easy, but I was wrong.
“About halfway through I thought I would have to stop, but I was too embarrassed to get up and walk out in front of everyone.
“I also forgot to bring a hair tie, and I kept catching sight of my hair in the mirror opposite me.
“The humidity made it enormous.” She is glad she tried it if only to know that “40C is too hot and all I want to do on a yoga mat is sit or, preferably, lie down”.
After a much needed rest and shower, not achey or hurting, I am feeling elated and can’t quite believe I thought it was hard. We stretched in a warm room - why was I making a fuss?
Upon waking next morning, however, it becomes abundantly clear how wrong I was. My whole body hurts, especially muscles in my core, arms, and legs.
It’s obviously done something right - and experienced yogi would get even more benefit from the class, being able to actually complete all the moves correctly and fully.
It was a very impressive facility to have in the leisure centre, well pulled off - which I would definitely make more use of, if I liked exercise.
At Westminster Lodge there is also a swimming pool, climbing wall, spa, and gym overlooking Verulamium Park.
Hot yoga at the leisure centre on Holywell Hill caters for people of all abilities, with mild and warm classes available. There is currently an offer of 20 days worth of hot yoga for £20. For more information, click here or contact 01727 736080.