Brooklynites are discovering the benefits of very hot yoga

for The Brooklyn Paper
Share on TwitterTweet
Share on Facebook

Get our stories in your inbox, free.

Like The Brooklyn Paper on Facebook.

Despite chilly, gusting winds outside, the temperature is rising inside of Hot Yoga People, in Fort Greene. In fact, it is rising in yoga studios throughout Brooklyn.

At HYP, co-owner Anita Ruderman greets yogis and yoginis (male and female yoga students, respectively), with a warm smile and words of encouragement. Thirty minutes earlier, she turned up the heat inside of the studio in preparation for her morning class.

"You need the perfect combination of temperature and humidity to conduct a hot yoga class," said Ruderman. The heat allows for deeper stretching and produces more sweat, which enables the body to release more toxins, she explained.

Although yoga is a 5,000-year-old practice, hot yoga is a fairly new phenomenon and hot yoga centers are very new to Brooklyn. While there are several different types of yoga involving various poses and postures, hot yoga follows a set series of 26 Hatha poses and two breathing exercises. The main difference between hot yoga and other practices is the heat.

"The heated room allows the body to become more flexible at a quicker rate," said Laura McCracken, owner of Every Breath You Take Hot Yoga, in Park Slope.

After encouragement from his Guru, Bishnu Ghosh, in Calcutta, India, Yogiraj Bikram Choudhury, the founder of the worldwide Yoga College of India, brought yoga to Beverly Hills, Calif., in the mid-1970s. There he spent five years developing his own series of 26 classic postures with Western doctors. Slowly, the temperature rose and the series came to life.

"The system is designed to work every part of your body, so that it is a full-body workout," said Aiko Nakasone, co-owner of Bikram Yoga, in Brooklyn Heights.

The 26 poses work every muscle, joint, ligament and internal organ in the body. Each pose is performed in a specific order to fully open and strengthen the body. For example, pose 15 cannot reach its maximum extension without having already executed the first 14 poses. The flow of the poses creates a balance between the mind, body and soul.

Carrie Brownstein, 31, of Fort Greene, has been practicing hot yoga at HYP since Ruderman opened the studio in November 2002.

"I like hot yoga because it really loosens me up," said Brownstein. "It’s also an amazing workout. I attended other yoga classes before coming here, but I left feeling like I still had to do some type of cardiovascular activity."

Hot yoga classes run for 90 minutes and cost between $16 and $18 for a single class. (Class cards are also available for discounted prices.) Temperatures usually range from 95 degrees to 105 degrees, but can reach as high as 110 degrees. Instructors coach students through each pose verbally, but never demonstrate the actual pose, because instructors must be able to monitor students’ posture at all times.

Practicing hot yoga has many benefits including: muscle tone, weight and stress reduction, injury recovery, and an increase in flexibility and energy.

"As all of the organs work together, strengthening the immune system, hot yoga also reverses the aging process," said McCracken.

Although hot yoga does not cure chronic ailments such as diabetes or osteoporosis, it can help to relieve some of the symptoms, explained Troy Myers, co-owner of Bikram Yoga.

Pregnant women or people with high blood pressure should consult their doctor before practicing hot yoga. Also, yogis and yoginis should not eat anything for at least two hours prior to the class to avoid nausea.

For certification, Bikram - and some hot yoga - instructors attend Bikram’s college in Beverly Hills.

"We went through an intense nine weeks of training with two classes per day; it was life-changing," said Nakasone, who attended the training with her husband and partner Myers. Besides daily classes, instructors attend lectures and learn the specific dialogue to use once certified.

While Bikram Yoga students practice on a carpeted floor, both Ruderman and McCracken have hardwood floors throughout their studios to eliminate odor.

"Bikram likes carpeted rooms, not hardwood floors," Nakasone said. "It’s a liability issue, we sweat a lot. We practice in a stinky room with smelly bodies to find actual peace and calm in all places. Finding calm is easy in the Himalayan Mountains, but try finding calm in New York City."

The best part about hot yoga is that all people, regardless of age, size, or fitness level, benefit from its practice. There are no set levels of ability. Every day is a new day.

"The beauty of hot yoga is that you could practice it for 30 years, and even though the series is the same, the practice is always different," said Ruderman.

But there’s more to yoga than hot yoga, and other forms have health benefits, too.

"Any yoga practice is good for the body," noted Repose owner Jane Weintraub, whose Bay Ridge studio does not offer hot yoga classes. "At Repose, we concentrate on holistic well-being, body strength, flexibility, reducing stress and creating inner peace."

"The difference between hot yoga and other forms of yoga is that it is a specific 26 postures and two breathing exercise in a heated room," said Nakasone. "Other than that, all yoga is wonderful and works all aspects of the mind, spirit and body."

So grab a towel, comfortable and light-weight clothing, lots of water, and join the heat wave spreading throughout Brooklyn.


Bikram Yoga is located at 106 Montague St. between Henry and Hicks streets, second floor, in Brooklyn Heights. Single Bikram class: $18. For more information call (718) 797-2100 or visit

Every Breath You Take Hot Yoga is located at 327 Seventh St. at Fifth Avenue, second floor, in Park Slope. Single hot yoga class: $18. For more information, call (718) 832-5070 or visit

Hot Yoga People is located at 659 Fulton St. between Ashland and Rockwell places, second floor, in Fort Greene. Single hot yoga class: $16. For more information, call (718) 237-2300 or visit

Repose Yoga is located at 8325 Fifth Ave. at 84th Street, second floor, in Bay Ridge. For more information, call (718) 238-0174 or visit

Today’s news:
Share on TwitterTweet
Share on Facebook

Get our stories in your inbox, free.

Like The Brooklyn Paper on Facebook.

Reader Feedback

Nov. 24, 2007, 2:53 pm

Enter your comment below

By submitting this comment, you agree to the following terms:

You agree that you, and not or its affiliates, are fully responsible for the content that you post. You agree not to post any abusive, obscene, vulgar, slanderous, hateful, threatening or sexually-oriented material or any material that may violate applicable law; doing so may lead to the removal of your post and to your being permanently banned from posting to the site. You grant to the royalty-free, irrevocable, perpetual and fully sublicensable license to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, perform and display such content in whole or in part world-wide and to incorporate it in other works in any form, media or technology now known or later developed.

First name
Last name
Your neighborhood
Email address
Daytime phone

Your letter must be signed and include all of the information requested above. (Only your name and neighborhood are published with the letter.) Letters should be as brief as possible; while they may discuss any topic of interest to our readers, priority will be given to letters that relate to stories covered by The Brooklyn Paper.

Letters will be edited at the sole discretion of the editor, may be published in whole or part in any media, and upon publication become the property of The Brooklyn Paper. The earlier in the week you send your letter, the better.