Hate the cold and love the heat? Then you’ll love hot yoga! Gayle gets sweaty at a class in St Andrews…
Sweat cascades down my forehead as I stretch into a “sphinx pose” to open up my chest, lungs and lower back.
The studio I’m exercising in is scented with aromatic oils and softly lit by candles. The heating is cranked up to a tropical 33C.
I’m taking part in a hot yoga session and boy, it feels good – especially as it’s sub-zero outside.
Today’s class, run at Hot House Yoga in St Andrews by Keryn Ward, is Yin yoga, a gentle style of the discipline involving variations of seated and supine poses held for two to five minutes.
“Practising yoga in a heated room allows muscles to relax more so that you feel an improvement in flexibility while sweating toxins from the body,” Keryn tells me.
“Your pulse and metabolic rates increase in a hot studio so it burns calories and helps weight loss while improving circulation, immune and lymphatic systems.
“Holding poses for longer encourages muscles to stretch into deeper connective tissues.”
The session lasts an hour and kicks off with everyone lying on mats, listening to soothing music and getting into the zone. The room is dark, so nobody feels at all self-conscious.
There’s a focus on breathing, and Keryn teaches us how to use it to help us move from one pose to the next.
We begin the sequence with some gentle movement for the spine. First up is a supine twist, a great hip-opener, and then we move into seated side bending.
We use blocks to support us in some poses and Keryn encourages us to push ourselves as much – or as little – as we wish.
Other poses include the caterpillar – basically, a forward bend – and the sphinx, for a gentle back bend.
We also perform a shoulder stretch (during which I feel a slight tremble in my dodgy shoulder), the obligatory “downward dog”, and then the “swan” pose for a deeper hip opener.
We finish up with a supported bridge pose, great for the back and done by resting the sacrum on a couple of blocks, and then a fish pose to gently stretch the front of the body, also using blocks.
Finally, we do “savasana”, also known as the “corpse pose” and used for relaxation at the end of a yoga session.
As we lie still, Keryn invites us to scan our bodies for tension and release it.
She then takes us through a wonderful meditation where we visualise standing on a stormy Scottish beach.
Placing lavender pillows over our eyes, to further enhance peace and relaxation, is optional.
The point is to clear our minds of stress and anxiety, to encourage us to relax and take our focus completely inwards. Bliss.
Reluctant to come back to reality, I sit up slowly, mopping my perspiring brow.
As someone who has dabbled in different forms of yoga – I’ve tried hatha, ashtanga, aerial (using hammocks) and even paddleboard yoga – it would be true to say Keryn’s hot yoga class has well and truly won me over.
And if Carlsberg did Friday afternoons, they would probably do them right here in one of her sessions.
Keryn, 32, only found yoga a few years ago, at a time when she was struggling with anxiety.
She came to classes as a client and enjoyed it so much that she booked her yoga teacher training soon after.
“I left the studio after my first class looking a wet, sweaty mess but feeling better than I had done in a year due to the focused, mindful breathing encouraged during practice,” she says.
“My aim is for everyone to leave feeling the same way I did. For many people, yoga is an opportunity to escape their busy day for an hour and focus completely on their mind and body so I want to give them a safe, calming, positive space to make the most of it.”
I leave the class walking on air, sweating profusely and, for the next few days, my abs hurt. I take this as an indication that hot yoga is working wonders! I am a convert!
Hot Yin Yoga classes run at Hot House Yoga Studio, Largo Road, St Andrews on Monday and Wednesday at 7.30pm and Friday at 6pm.
The classes are hugely popular, especially in winter. Other hot yoga classes are available including yoga tone (with weights), power yoga, and hot Vinyasa flow. For more details and to book, see www.hothouseyogastandrews.com