Turning up the heat on traditional workouts.
- Open Air
- May 20, 2018
- by Jacqueline Hinchcliffe
From the blind, dim sunlight cuts through the dense layer of steam. The golden hour approaches, and class is almost ready to begin. Herbal fragrances fill the air, clearing the mind and body, relaxing tense muscles and alleviating any stress the day may have caused. In a soothing voice, the instructor calls out simple poses and guides each person to focus on the flow of his or her body from pose to pose.
Empower Yoga and Fitness offers daily hot workouts such as Pilates, yoga and cardio. Located at 1 Broad St. in Plattsburgh, brave yogis sweat out toxins through exercises in the triple-digit temperatures.
After acquiring Plattsburgh Hot Yoga in 2014, triathlete and personal trainer Mary Duprey and friend Julie Reidy rebranded the company into Empower Yoga and Fitness. Eventually, Meghan Lannon, who had been practicing at Plattsburgh Hot Yoga, took over Reidy’s position and currently runs the studio with Duprey as a co-owner.
“I wanted to offer more health to the community, and I wanted downtown to be more vibrant,” Lannon says.
In addition to the yoga studio, Duprey trains athletes on a monthly basis and participates in triathlons and half marathons. Lannon, a clinical social worker, works with mentally ill veterans. Both women serve their communities during the day and into the night when they teach their specified yoga classes.
Duprey and Lannon create tailored workouts for their clients’ different needs and preferences. They currently host a range of high-intensity cardio workouts and simple beginner sessions such as hot yoga (Bikram), Warm Yoga, Bikram-Vinyasa fusion, Hot Pilates, Warm Pilates, Hot Hatha Yoga, Vinyasa and Yin Yoga. Their classes aim to promote individual spiritual growth and physical fitness. They also offer $5 classes three times a week for those on a budget.
For those seeking a more challenging yoga class, Duprey recommends taking their 90-minute Bikram classes in a heated room ranging from 95 to 108 degrees Fahrenheit. Bikram consists of 26 poses that focus specifically on breathing and posture. The heat detoxifies the body and clears the mind while improving mood and flexibility. Balance and endurance are tested as students are remain upright for the first 45 minutes of the class.
“Bikram takes a lot of focus and concentration,” Duprey says. “You’re holding the postures for usually about a minute.”
Contrasting to the advanced nature of the Bikram yoga, there is Yin yoga—which is a slower style of yoga that challenges participants to hold simple and calm postures for up to five minutes for a deeper stretch. Lannon explains how in this style of yoga, the lymphatic system is used, which can be beneficial to the body as well.
For Alyssa Hennessy, self-proclaimed hot Pilates addict and college student on a budget, a core-strengthening and body cleansing workout for $5 was a no-brainer. She tries to attend Hot Pilates at least twice a week.
“Having previously done multiple yoga and Pilates classes before,” Hennessy says. “I figure a class that incorporates Pilates and heat would be a unique way to get a good workout in.”
In a 96-degree Fahrenheit room, Hennessy was instructed to lie on her back with her legs, head and shoulders off the ground while moving her arms up and down, rhythmically inhaling and exhaling. Just when she thought her workout had ended, the squats and push-ups commenced. It was also suggested that no matter how much she sweat, to avoid wiping it away. Lannon describes it as the body’s “natural air conditioning.”
“I sweat so much during the class that I feel detoxified after,” Hennessy says. “My muscles felt sore, but in a positive way.”
Pilates concentrates on working the abdominal muscles with core and lower back specific exercises. Along with core-strengthening, Pilates improves muscular endurance and flexibility.
Another intense class that targets the hidden six-pack is Hot HIIT (high intensity interval training). These classes incorporate more challenging exercises than a typical yoga class. Participants burn extra calories by running in place and break a sweat while doing mountain climbers and push-ups. Due to its core-based nature, planks and other abdominal exercises are added into the mix. Unlike Pilates, these are the more commonly known tummy toners.
Anyone seeking a flowing yoga class, as Duprey describes it, might also enjoy Hot Hatha yoga. The class encourages harmony of breath and movement and lasts an hour to 75 minutes. The instructors warm up the body and then build to a 15-minute span of intense movement in the heated studio.
“The heat and the steam really add to your ability to stretch and allow you to get deeper into the posture,” Duprey says.
Hatha focuses on holding each pose, breathing correctly and preparing for the meditation that follows. Turning up the temperature allows the body to sweat more than it would during a traditional Hatha class. These techniques can ease anxiety, increase oxygen flow and expand lung capacity. Focusing on breathing is important in not only Hatha yoga but all forms of yoga.
“Postures come and go, but the breath is the practice,” Lannon says. “The breath is what holds you to each moment.”
For hot yoga first-timers, Duprey suggests trying a warm class first because the most intimidating aspect of these classes can be the heat. Every other Monday, the studio offers aroma yoga, which utilizes essential oils to create a calming atmosphere. The room is kept at a moderate 90 degrees Fahrenheit.
“The restorative qualities of the oils help in opening up the chakras—the energy bodies—that we have throughout the body,” Lannon says.
Different essential oils and postures are used for each individual chakra. For the heart chakra, jasmine and lavender may be paired with the cobra pose. Peppermint, sandalwood and frankincense are used to open up the crown, solar plexus and sacral chakras.
Overall, both Duprey and Lannon want to help the community. They team up with local businesses and create a space for people to practice such as the local baseball team. They also strive to give college students a place where they can feel connected beyond their classes and their campus.
“We collaborate to help strengthen the sense of community,” Lannon says.
Feeling fully relaxed and re-energized, yogis leave class with clear minds and limber bodies.
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