We’ve all got that friend who swears by hot yoga and you’ve been toying with the idea of joining a class but never quite gotten round to it, amirite? Well luckily I have (so you may not need to).
I arrived at the Old st Fierce Grace venue to find a balmy reception with mostly naked folk wandering around. The décor screamed ‘hipster‘, and I gazed from left to right wondering where my welcome shot of sriracha was.
I sidled up to the tattooed gent behind the counter and asked to join the evening’s class. ‘£17 please. Do you need a mat and towel, they are extra?’ I blinked confidently. At this point my Bikram fanatic friend joined and explained I’d need a mat, two towels and water which came to over £20 – absurd for a single class. Still, I was there to give it a go and so handed over my monthly gym pass equivalent as unbegrudgingly as possible and went to change.
Turn left at the elk-horn chandelier and you’ll find the change rooms. There’s a distinct lack of lockers; just open ‘shelves’, and showers are open-plan in a circle where everyone awkwardly faces each other. If you had any recurring boarding school nightmares, these are likely to be resurrected.
We changed into our skimpy lycra and crossed reception to enter the steam box the recommended 15 minutes early to ‘acclimatise‘. Soon after the instructor joined wearing a mic and talked us through the sequence of moves, gradually getting harder and faster, including leg extensions, head/hand stands and the odd plank.
The first half an hour was challenging but pleasantly so as I felt my muscles succumb to the soggy air and give a little more in the stretches. The second half hour was more of a struggle and the final half hour (yes, each class tends to be 90 minutes) was pure hell; as the room started to close in, I was ever more aware of the train of sweat pouring down my back and off my nose in every downward dog. I felt woozy and disorientated and pushed through with every last bit I could muster. Every five to ten minutes she would open the back doors to cool the air and I’d spend every second of the next five to ten waiting for the next brief gust.
When the class ended I staggered drunkenly to the exit and dragged myself onto a bar stool where I sat, cradling a bottle of water for half an hour trying to console myself.
The experience had literally drained me, and I dreaded the thought of being put back in the dark, clammy room. I don’t think it was the instructor – she very calmly and efficiently lead the class and the regulars knew every pose that followed. I just think there’s something marmitey about hot yoga; you really do either love it or hate it and my verdict is: over-priced and over-hyped.
Good news, then, that research counters the big weight-loss phenomena it’s portrayed as in stating it’s; equivalent to briskly walking for the same amount of time. Where’s my coat?
A few other London locales for you to try (untried):
- Fitness on Fire – EC1 London (price unknown)
- Sohot Bikram Yoga – Soho, London £20 drop-in
- Bikram Yoga London – Canary Wharfy, London £20 drop in
- Hot Yoga Society – London Bridge, London £18 drop in
- Yotopia – WC2H (Central), London £16 drop in
- BYC – Chiswick (West), London £15 drop in
- Hot Yoga South – SW12 (South), London £18 drop in
- Bikram Highbury & Islington – North London £25 for 90min workshops
As I am not a regular yogi, half the strain was trying to work out each move from those around me so perhaps the below chart will help if you’re still (remarkably) keen to give it a go.