Less spirituality, more sweating - Hot Pod Yoga is where those wanting a lean body should do their downward dog
I really don’t like yoga. We’re not temperamentally suited. I get bored, SO bored, that during classes I turn into a compulsive clock-watcher, my thoughts preoccupied by all the things that I’d rather be doing, right then, at that precise moment, instead of the wretched crow pose. (I realise that it’s exactly this kind of fidgety, distracted mindset that’s best cured by yoga. But, whatever.)
I’m also not very flexible (can you tell?) and find even the simplest moves challenging, which is hugely discouraging, especially for someone who is naturally ‘sporty’. Also, call me shallow, but I exercise for results, for visible changes in my body. An Ashtanga session – as I do it, at least – feels like it burns a millimetre of fat.
And while we’re here, another admission of superficiality: most yoga teachers doubtless have enlightened spiritual lives, but they don’t often have aspirational bodies. I want to exercise with someone I want to look like. Frankly, there aren’t a lot of hot bods at Bikram. Speaking of which, part of my aversion to yoga surely stems from a Bikram class in a sweating, sardine-packed, malodorous room during which a man did that ankle grabbing pose about six inches from my face, and his testicles slipped out his pants. Pretty hard to recover from, frankly.
My problem is I’m still thinking of yoga as ‘exercise’ when actually it’s a spiritual practice. (I would argue a 30 minute run or a spinning class is just as good for your Chi or Zen or heart centre as a 90 minute yoga session. I know, I know, it’s not a competition.) But I live in London, I’m vain, I want a rock hard stomach. Enter Hot Pod Yoga, an inflatable, roaming yoga studio that has popped up in the basement of a prep school in Notting Hill. I attend a Dynamic Yoga session on a Saturday morning, arriving five minutes early to find the previous class cooling down outside the pod (it looks like a huge cocoon). It’s a terrifying sight; each person is bright red in the face, and drenched in sweat. Far less terrifying, and actually rather exciting, is the sight of the teacher, Dionne. Specifically, her thighs, which are lean and muscular and deeply aspirational. (Told you I was shallow.)
It’s 37 degrees inside the pod, and dark, like a Mexican sweat lodge. But actually it’s quite calming, with plenty of space between the seven assembled yogis and their mats, and plinky spa music on the stereo. However, I am wearing exactly the wrong thing: long leggings and a t-shirt. This is legitimately a shorts and crop top situation (it’s mercifully dark). Within seconds of starting I’m pouring with sweat - even, weirdly, from my ankles. We do a series of familiar routines, adapted sun salutations, that chair pose that burns the thighs, a plank section, several hundred downward-facing dogs that make me feel as if my head might explode. All the while, Dionne encourages and laughs (with us not at us), and is generally more charming and bendy than anyone has the right to be.
The class is challenging, and frequently impossible – a chin stand? - but I’m not bored. Also, my heart rate is at cardio levels, which has to be good. Or not. Afterwards I feel as if I have sweated every molecule of water in my body, but oddly refreshed. It was torture, but in a good way. I might, might even go back.