Todd Vogt shares with Jenna Lynne Roberts about the history of hot yoga at Yoga Union, and the benefits of a heated practice.
How did you get into hot yoga?
Hot yoga is how Yoga Union got started. It was primarily a hot yoga studio in the very beginning. It was why people came to Yoga Union and it really got it going. Hot yoga wasn’t something that we wanted to put all of our emphasis on, but we definitely could see how it was benefitting people, myself included.
I hadn’t always lived the most mindful life. I had probably accumulated a tremendous amount of toxins in my body. Also, being a stiff kind of guy, hot yoga was a powerfully transformative practice for those first three or four years of practice.
What do you feel are the hot yoga benefits?
Well, the psychological benefits of hot yoga are huge. People go and get that runner’s high from the endorphin rush, and that is a powerful motivator to keep up a healthy practice. So, there’s this intrinsic thing built in that when we exercise hard, we feel better immediately. And hot yoga gives you that, probably more than any practice that I’ve engaged in.
For the physiological benefits of hot yoga, I’ve seen people lose weight; it just falls off of them. Also, it’s extremely detoxifying. So if you’ve lived a hard life, or have been drinking a lot or if you’ve been a smoker, hot yoga is an extremely cleansing practice.
In terms of just gaining flexibility, your body is obviously a lot more pliable in 100-degree heat. Hot yoga just makes you more malleable. It doesn’t take long to warm up and then you’re in the poses.
How has hot yoga adapted into the growth of Yoga Union?
It has never just been a hot yoga studio. They had Vinyasa classes and such even way back then. It has always been a place that honors diversity. Maybe a hot yoga class is great for me, and maybe I should try your kind of practice. That can change from day to day, so I think having a facility where you’re allowed to change is great.
What do you define as the difference between a hot yoga class at Yoga Union versus a CorePower yoga or a Bikram Yoga class?
Generally, the word hot in there just means that the room is going to be hot, it doesn’t tell you what you’re going to be doing in your hot yoga class.
A Bikram class is 26 postures taught, each one twice. You do the pose, stop, do the pose again. You do that 26 times, same sequence every time. It’s scripted out, really, so it’s a set thing.
Whereas, in our hot flow yoga courses, you’ll never get the same one twice. Even one hot flow teacher is not likely to teach the exact same hot yoga sequence twice.
Another difference is that, instead of stopping between poses like in Bikram, we just move and flow, that’s why we call it hot flow, from one pose into the next. So it gives the class a sense that you’re on a journey, you’re embarking on this hour or hour-and-a-half-long adventure with yourself, which I love. It’s fascinating.
Then there’s value also to having a set sequence. Bikram classes are very organized. It works very well for people who have a difficult time staying motivated. It can be great to do your 26 postures and just get that done.
We like to have fun, and I think that our hot flow yoga classes are more creative. I don’t know any teacher who wouldn’t rather have some creative faculty involved in their hot yoga class versus doing a system.
One other thing about our hot flow yoga classes is that they are not Vinyasa classes. In this modern time, a Vinyasa class is a more upper-body-oriented practice with downward-facing dogs and chaturangas and plank poses. Vinyasa practice has it’s home base in downward-facing dog.
In our hot yoga flow practice, we keep people off their hands generally. It’s a standing, balancing practice, with the home base being tadasana, mountain pose, just standing at the top of your mat. We get people in hot yoga who either have a wrist injury or a shoulder injury or just are more interested in building lower-body strength than upper-body strength. I think our hot flow practice caters more to them if they enjoy the heat.
For someone who is taking their first hot yoga class, what recommendations would you give them?
I would say, try not to eat for a couple hours before you come to your hot flow class. Bring water with you. Make sure you’re dressed in yoga pants and a top that will be comfortable when they’re soaking wet and drenched in sweat.
And just know that, it doesn’t matter what the teacher says, you take care of yourself. You can take a break, you can leave the room, you can drink water. All those things that some hot yoga teachers have told students that they can’t do, you still can, you’re in charge of your body.
Hot Flow Classes are currently offered at Yoga Union six days a week. See the Schedule for details HERE