After finishing the London Marathon a few weeks ago, I’m prioritising restoration in this recovery phase. For me this is both a mental and physical process, and I’m doing my best to tune in to what my body needs.
Physically I know I’m pretty worn out, and my body is very tense and tight from all the running on concrete (and nowhere near enough stretching and strength work in my training!). Mentally I’m conscious that after my last marathon I found my mood dropped once it was all over, so I want to make time for things that bring me joy and fulfilment, without tiring my body out any further.
With all that in mind, there was one activity I knew would tick all of my boxes! Hot Pod Yoga. It’s a fairly unique experience, so I thought I’d do a blog to introduce you all to it. If you’ve not heard of it before, I promise it’s a world away from standing like a tree in a cold church-hall listening to pan-pipes and trying not to giggle.
What is Hot Pod Yoga?
In technical terms, it is a Vinyasa yoga class inside a pop-up inflatable structure (the pod) that is heated to 37 degrees, set to dim lighting and immersive music. Or in my own words, really nice flowy yoga in a kind of lovely, giant, purple womb.
You don’t need anything fancy and your yoga mat is provided. The only thing I would recommend investing in is a special towel which covers the mat. I didn’t have this the first time and ended up sliding around quite a lot once I was sweaty which made it quite tricky! They sell these at the class, or I’m sure you can get them cheaply online. Otherwise you just need a bottle of water and a small towel to wipe the sweat away.
You can wear whatever you’re comfortable in. I like to just wear a sports bra on top, because it does get pretty hot. Don’t worry about feeling self-conscious as it’s dimly lit and everyone is very immersed in their own practice. I started off wearing shorts (with the assumption that this would be cooler!) but found my legs got really slippy, so now I wear leggings. Otherwise bare feet, hair tied back off your face so it doesn’t get stuck to it, and you’re good to go! The men usually wear shorts with a vest or T-shirt.
As an aside, don’t worry about it being sweaty – it smells amazing in there. Bergamot, lavender and orange to be precise!
What actually happens?
Once you’ve left your things (and your day) outside, you enter the pod through a round zipped section, which you shut behind you. Then you’re in a completely different world.
I like to get there early so I can start to relax in the space. I usually choose a mat right at the front; it sounds counter-intuituve but I find I’m less self-conscious when I can’t see the other people in the class. Also I’m still a beginner so its useful being able to see the teacher easily. By the way, when I say beginner I mean can barely touch my knees kind of beginner!
I start by lying flat on my mat to acclimatise to the warmth and prepare myself mentally by trying to calm my mind. I usually find it really challenging to switch off my brain, but this is such a different environment it’s a lot easier. After a few classes you’ll find your mind is conditioned to switch off for that hour.
After an intro you start with a gentle warm up and begin to really focus in on your breath, usually with some cat-cow movements in line with some deep inhalation and exhalation. This is one of the elements of Vinyasa flow yoga I find really relaxing as all the movements are performed in line with your breathing. Slowing your breathing naturally lowers your heart rate and helps calm your mind.The classes usually combine a similar set of movements which allows it to become familiar, but each teacher is different in their style.
The classes are suitable for all levels. According to my physio, I have the flexibility of a 70 year old, so I do find them quite challenging. But there are blocks available to make some of the movements easier, and often I will return to child’s pose or something easier if I’m struggling. There are different options for each movement and it is always emphasised that this is your practice, and the most important thing is to do what feels right for you on that day.
You finish in Savasana pose which is flat on your back, palms upwards and feet to the side, sometimes for five minutes or more which is actually my favourite bit. When I look at my Garmin after the class my heart rate always drops really low during this section – lower than when I’m asleep – which I think reflects just how still my mind has become. It is worth saying some teachers will come round with Savasana Oil (totally optional) to put on your forehead during this time. I love it, but I did jump out of my skin the first time!
Why is it so different?
There are a couple of factors for me that make Hot Pod so special. First is the heat. I was quite nervous about the temperature initially, but actually it’s not too hot when you aren’t doing cardio. I am seriously stiff, like a lot of runners, but I find the warmth gives me just a little extra flexibility. This allows me to do some movements I simply can’t do normally which makes it much more enjoyable (and accessible). So don’t be afraid of the warmth, particularly if you’re a beginner.
But more than anything it is the whole experience. Stepping into the pod you do quite literally leave the world behind; there isn’t anything else I’ve done that is quite like that. It feels like a very spiritual, ancient yoga practice set in a completely urban reinvention that is exactly what I’m looking for. Trying to improve my strength and flexibility is a big motivation for me in trying to build yoga into my routine, but Hot Pod Yoga offers a lot more than that. I go for my mind as much as my body, and when I step out of the pod I feel so much calmer and balanced. It sort of re-sets my brain a little.
At £12 a class PAYG it isn’t the cheapest, but it offers so much for the mind, body and soul that for me it is completely worth it. I’m really excited about having the time to explore new things now my marathon training is finally finished, and I think Hot Pod is going to play a big role in replenishingand strengthening my body, whilst keeping my mind on track. I really hope reading this might have encouraged a few of you to give it a go, I’d love to know how you get on – or what you think if it’s already something you’ve tried before!
Check out their website at www.hotpodyoga.com to find out a bit more. There is a great introductory offer of £15 for three classes to see if it’s for you. This isn’t a sponsored post or anything, I genuinely love the class.
ALL images copyright hotpodyoga.com – it’s not the sort of place for a selfie!