Every now and then when I’m in need of a detox, I invest in a 20 day special offer at one of London’s Bikram Yoga centres.
Many centres carry this ’20 day challenge’ where you’re encouraged to attend a hot yoga class every day for 20 days. I don’t think I’ve ever managed to do 20 days in a row (partly due to not having the time, partly due to how much it takes out of you), but if I can manage between six and ten 90-minute sessions, I generally come out feeling rejuvenated, more flexible and really quite happy with with myself.
Bikram Choudhury is obviously the dude who invented this famous yoga phenomenon and there’s been much controversy this year surrounding the ethics of his teachings.
But putting his alleged malpractice aside, the hot yoga followers believe that practicing yoga in 40.5 degree heat actually has many health benefits, including the following:
– improved muscle suppleness, flexibility and therefore decreased risk of injury
– strengthens the heart and lungs and improves lung capacity
– helps improve general fitness, increase stamina and burn calories
– detoxifies, removing harmful toxins from the body
– helps calm the mind and beat stress and anxiety
– helps with backpain
– helps aid insomnia
You might be able to relate to some of these benefits. I generally feel that the very strict nature of Bikram helps aid anxiety and stress in that it really focuses your thinking. There is someone speaking instructions into a microphone in a very authoritative way and the class is repetitive, following a very disciplined set of 26 Hatha yoga postures. As a result, it forces you to feel very focussed. I also agree that the heat helps with muscle suppleness and is a great accompaniment to any kind of marathon or athletic training – after all, tennis champion Andy Murray is said to be a convert.
So, after my experience with Bikram, I decided to try out one of the alternative hot yogas based in Clapham to see how it compared.
While Bikram yoga involves heating the room up to 40.5 degrees, as far as I know, Clapham Hot is based on a slightly cooler 33 degrees.
If you’ve ever been to Bikram you’ll also know they are extremely strict in terms of how they operate. You must not leave the room at any time and if you feel nauseous or light headed and unable to do a posture, you must either sit cross-legged or lie flat in the Savasana position. You must also only sip water if and when the instructor tells you to.
Bikram classes generally take place in large mirrored rooms in purpose built studios with no windows so there is no distraction.
Clapham Hot was very different.
Hidden in the far end of Stonhouse Street just two minutes’ walk from Clapham Common tube station, the studio is actually fitted into a converted house.
Upstairs you have two rooms where you get changed, and downstairs you have one shower room and one yoga studio which has windows looking out onto a courtyard.
The temperature here is a much cooler 33 degrees. There is no instructor with a microphone, but instead she will talk you through the postures as she is carrying them out herself.
So far, I’ve been to a hot yoga and a hot yoga pilates session both at the Clapham Common studios. Both were very fast paced in that the instructor speaks very quickly so it takes quite a bit of concentration to keep up.
I have to say, the classes here seem to go straight into very quick movements rather than warming you up with stretches which I would personally prefer. But as the class goes on, you do find the heat helps you loosen up quite a bit.
I’ve never been a bit fan of traditional yoga. I like exercise that makes you sweat and makes you feel like you’re giving your heart a work out.
That said, if you’re a bit intimidated by the thought of Bikram, one of the less intense classes like Clapham Hot is probably a good way to test the waters.
I found that after 20 minutes or so you’re on your way to working up a sweat and the classes here are 60 minutes rather than the 90 minutes at Bikram. So it’s fairly easy to fit this into your day and it doesn’t make you feel completely wiped out which Bikram sometimes can.
Clapham Hot runs Hot Yoga, Hot Pilates and Hot YogaPilates sessions as well as traditional (non hot) yoga and pilates across their studios in Clapham Common and Clapham North.
The postures in the yoga class are very similar to what you’d cover in Bikram, including the traditional poses like the Half Moon Pose, Triangle Pose, Tree Pose, Cobra, Locust and Full Locust pose.
As for the Yoga Pilates class, we generally covered more fluid movements and lots of sequences of movements like the ‘Down Dog’ which worked the back and upper body muscles, with lots of work on the core too.
Overall, I did at times, miss the hotter, more intense experience of the Bikram classes. But overall, I thought these classes were relaxed, less intense, and a very friendly approach to what I still feel is a great way to practice yoga.
The only criticism I’d have is that the space in the studio is very limited and being a small set up, there’s only one shower room here meaning you might have to queue afterwards, otherwise, it’s a sweaty journey home.
However, if you ever get to try it, give Clapham Hot a go.
While many sit on the fence when it comes to hot yoga, I still feel you get out of it what you put in. For me? A more relaxed state of mind and great muscle flexibility to accompany my running.
Tell me what you think,
Until next time x
Clapham Hot Studio, 122a Stonhouse Street, London, SW4 6AL, www.claphamhot.co.uk