Like a mild summer’s day in Saudi Arabia. Yes, it’s a breezy 38°C.
Ashtanga Vinyasa focuses on breathing and the movement between the asnas (poses). It’s more about controlling your heart rate than proving who has the most toned thighs; the aim is to relax and focus.
Fine Yoga Beijing teaches basic and advanced Ashtanga classes way out in suburban Shunyi. While stretching, you notice that the heat lets you move more easily. It’s like someone has just oiled your tendons.
For the first half-hour of the basic class, we focus on improving core muscles with sitting and lying-down poses. For the second half, we practise standing-up yoga positions and are instructed to stretch our legs and arms in a variety of testing positions.
After an hour of stretching and working on improving my somewhat lousy balance, I am instructed to lie down and relax for ten minutes. It’s difficult not to fall asleep; every muscle in my body feels like liquid. I stumble out of the class more relaxed, but neither exhausted nor achey. This is a mild intro to hot yoga and all the better for it.
Basic Ashtanga: 5.30-6.15pm Tue & Fri; 1-2pm Thur; 10-11.15am & 4-5pm Sat. 110RMB per class.
Somebody crack open a window, it’s 40°C in here!
Pipes line the ceiling of this Bikram yoga class, each spewing enough steam to pump the temperature up to hellish levels and fog every mirror in sight. Not make-up friendly, perhaps, but it’s handy, since you really don’t want to see yourself sweating like a junkie.
Bikram yoga consists of 26 positions (24 postures and two breathing positions), including the half-moon, aqua, eagle and rabbit pose. The purpose of the humidity, aside from warming up the muscles, is to encourage more detoxifying sweat. The idea is to improve circulation, reduce stress and lose weight – and it’s certainly intense enough to achieve the last two.
For the first half-hour, we’re instructed not to drink water, which isn’t as arduous as expected. After stretching, you can drink as much as you like. For a beginner, the mixture of heat and humidity is overwhelming and I find myself sitting out a few of the asnas. But newbies needn’t worry: instructor Huiping Mo will always come and help out those she sees flagging.
After an hour and a half of practise, my clothes are soaked through with moisture. Not only that – I’m exhausted. This class is fun, but pretty intense.
6.45-8.15pm Mon & Wed; 5-6.30pm Fri; 10-11.15am Sat. 150RMB per class; 660RMB for five classes.
Like the hellfires of Hades, this is a devilish 42°C.
Victor, Om Yoga 42’s Hatha instructor, studied Sivananda yoga at Sivananda Kutir, an ashram in Northern India. And despite its title, this class draws heavily from that training, focusing on Victor’s own 12 asnas, which emphasise breathing and positive thinking.
Stepping into the wood-floored classroom, I quickly wish I’d worn looser clothing; it’s so hot! The extreme temperature really does help the muscles and improve flexibility, but we’re also reminded to be careful – it’s easy to push too hard.
For the first half-hour, we warm up with breathing and stretching exercises called prayana. In the following hour, the emphasis is on abdominal and other core muscles, concentrating on different poses at each point in the class. I keep to the less-advanced versions; however, the classes’ slow pace and the varying levels of difficulty on offer make it worthwhile for yogis of every level.
At the end of the class (after the obligatory collective ‘Ommm’) we’re invited to sit around for tea before showering, which offers a chance to chat with the instructor. Afterwards, I walk away feeling ultra-relaxed – plus my skin feels supple and healthier. This is a good option for yoga lovers of all standards.
8-9.30pm Mon; 6-7.30pm Tue; 10-11.30am Thur & Fri. 350RMB per class.