by Tatiana Boncompagni
Hot yoga and Pilates have been around for a while. But recently, a few owners of boutique studios decided to add some spice to the heat. They had noticed that for many busy type-A New Yorkers, achieving mindfulness while stretching or building strength in a heated room was simply not enough.
“People want to get everything in one class,” said Bethany Lyons, a yoga instructor and a founder of Lyons Den Power Yoga, a heated studio in TriBeCa that teaches an athletic style of yoga. “They want to relieve tension, be physically challenged and get spiritually rinsed.”
Inferno Hot Pilates, a grueling and popular class at YO BK in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, seems to be the perfect example of the new wellness/extreme-workout hybrid trend. Described as a “bridge between yoga and CrossFit” by Gabriella Walters, its creator, the 60-minute Inferno class includes classic Pilates core work — in addition to squats, burpees, mountain climbers or push-ups, all in a 95-degree studio. Ms. Walters also encourages displaying disco balls and playing pop music to create a nightclublike atmosphere.
The party vibe is also part of the draw at Tangerine Hot Power Yoga in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn. The studio’s front-desk area features a bar with stools where, on some event nights, wine and Champagne are poured. Tamara Behar, the studio’s founder, said she wanted to create a “social atmosphere” with the décor.
The Inferno Hot Pilates class at YO BK has become so popular that 10 additional hours have been added to the weekly schedule to meet the demand, said Kate Davies, the studio’s owner. “We can fit 30 in a room, and we’re regularly at capacity,” she said.
And when temperatures drop, she said, classes are even more packed. In other words, the hot classes are particularly hot these days.
Eric Cahan of Brooklyn is not a big fan of winter. So when he can’t escape to his second home in Miami, he settles for the Inferno class, which he said had contributed to his recent stellar health record.
“The days when I don’t work out in a hot room, I feel sluggish,” said Mr. Cahan, an artist, who originally started taking Bikram yoga to improve his flexibility and deepen his meditation. Then he discovered that hot Pilates complemented his hot yoga practice. Most mornings he does one or the other.
“My body craves it,” he said. “It gives me energy. And I haven’t been sick since I’ve started a year and a half ago.”
It’s certainly the heat that keeps Ginger Kearns, a Brooklyn actress, coming back for more. “In the winter, I just can’t seem to warm up,” said Ms. Kearns, who takes classes at YO BK up to three times a week. “You get a little bit of a high being in a hot room. It is such a great mood enhancer.”
Dr. Gregory Galano, an orthopedic surgeon affiliated with Lenox Hill Hospital in New York, pointed out that there are potential benefits to doing intense workouts in a hot room. “It facilitates flexibility and may help prevent muscle strain injuries,” Dr. Galano said, citing a higher incidence of leg injuries among professional football players during colder games.
But on the flip side, he said, doing extreme exercise in the heat places more cardiovascular stress on the body, which can lead to heat exhaustion. “Take baby steps,” he said.
Try telling that to the alpha-exercisers who aren’t satisfied until they have sweat through their clothes and feel like passing out. For them, the hot Pilates-type classes seem more like a solution than a problem.