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Wednesday, November 30,2011

Downward (hot) dog

Warm up your muscles — and everything else — in the steamy studios of East Lansing Hot Yoga

by Carlee Schepeler

Michigan may soon turn into a frozen tundra once again.
But take one step inside Patricia Sutherland’s new hot yoga studio, and
you might soon forget there’s any such thing as winter. The 900-square-foot room heats to 105 degrees and 40
percent humidity during classes. A full-length mirror covers one of the
walls.


“It’s helpful to be able to see yourself, so you can
focus on the poses and what’s going on with your body,” said
Sutherland, a self-described hippie.


“I was driving 60 miles to do hot yoga in the Detroit
area a couple of times a week. It was on those trips that my business
partner (Lansing accountant Tom Anton) and I talked about how crazy it
is that there was no hot yoga studio in the Lansing area.”


Anton and Sutherland struggled to find an appropriate
retail space, but finally found it in Trowbridge Plaza, next to Subway.
East Lansing Hot Yoga opened on Sept. 28.


More than a million people practice hot yoga in 850 studios around the world.


Sutherland, 51, has been practicing yoga since she was in
her teens, but first tried hot yoga about 12 years ago. It has always
been a family affair: She started taking her son and daughter with her
when they were still in elementary school, and they still regularly
practice.


“Whenever we traveled, we would seek out the hot yoga
studios,” she recalled. And before Sutherland’s noon class last
Wednesday, that came full circle when a traveling yogi stopped in for
class as she was passing through town. 


The studio comfortably fits around 30. Evening classes
tend to have the biggest turnout, so beginners might have a more
worthwhile experience in the 6 or 9 a.m. classes, which typically
attract 10 people or fewer.


“It’s almost like one-on-one training,” Sutherland said. “It’s the perfect way to start your day.”


Almost 30 classes are held per week, and a free class is
offered every Saturday. A $5 class is held Tuesdays at noon with lower
heat, so beginners can transition into full heat if they prefer.


“We don’t recommend (hot yoga) for preganant women,”  Sutherland said, but otherwise she encourages anyone who is interested to give it a try.


“It seems to help people with all kinds of conditions, so
long as they listen to their bodies,” she said. “If a person has to sit
down, that’s OK — we encourage that.”


She advises  people
not to come to class with a full stomach — a light snack beforehand is
preferred — and to arrive well-hydrated. Students are encouraged to
wear light, comfortable clothing, (Teachers haven’t yet had anyone pass
out — and they’d like to keep it that way.)


About 60 percent of the turnout is typically college
students. The teachers say that hot yoga benefits anyone involved in
intensive sports, because it increases flexibility that many athletes
may lack.


One of Sutherland’s regulars is a runner who underwent surgery and is now able to run four miles again without stopping.


“It’s 100 percent due to the hot yoga, because our focus
is so much on the breathing,” she said. Unlike other sports, she says,
yoga is nearly impossible to overdo.


“Your muscles are more tense in cooler weather,” said Laura Hagler, one of the studio’s primary teachers.


“Only after about half an hour of warming up are your
muscles warm enough and supple enough to start doing the poses as you
should.”


A typical class begins with breathing exercises and a few
sets of standing poses. While all skill levels practice together, the
more advanced people are often so focused that they don’t notice what’s
going on around them. 


“Once you’ve tried it with heat, you don’t want to go back,” Sutherland said.


East Lansing Hot Yoga


924 Trowbridge Road, East Lansing


Offering 29 60- or 90-minute classes per week


For prices and times, visit www.eastlansinghotyoga.com


 (517) 337-0399

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