New to Hot Yoga? Everything you need to know before your first Hot Yoga class.

Jennifer Hersch tells you everything you need to know before your first Hot Yoga class.

Over the years, I learned some useful tips both as a teacher and student. I’ve been in the hottest studios, I’ve practiced with few people up to 500 people in class, experienced every kind of heat, worked through injuries and different practices in the heat.

Let’s face it. Your first hot yoga class can feel intimidating. Even every hot yoga teacher remembers his or her first experience. I remember mine in a small Bikram studio in SoHo, New York City. I climbed the winding stairs to find a small, carpeted room with no windows and intense heat. My only memory of the whole class is seeing black in camel. And then that amazing feeling after class where I couldn’t wait to try it again.

Twenty years later, and I’m still at it.

However, I know the first class can feel intimidating and we all worry about what others will think. The beauty of hot yoga is that no one cares. It’s like giving birth. Everyone is just focused on getting through the class that they don’t care what they look like or those around them.

Below I answered the typical questions we get from new students. Take a read, relax and don’t worry. It will all be fine.

How do I know which class to take?

Hot Detox 26 (Bikram): This is recommended for students with little yoga experience who prefer moving slowly through poses without a lot of continual movement. It’s for beginner to advanced students (I’ve done it for 20 years), but since it is a more static practice it makes it easier for newbies to catch on to postures while getting used to the heat.

It’s also great for students with upper body or wrist injuries since we don’t do postures on the arms. Likewise, the series can help students with knee injuries.

Done by many athletes for cross-training.

Elementals Earth: Great first hot flow to try if new to Elementals or flow in general. It’s a  slow hot flow class designed for students who need activation of muscles, release of neck tension and core strength. Of our flows, it is the best to start with if you are new to hot flow as it moves slower than Fire or Water. Set sequence changes every term. All levels.

Elementals Water: This is for students who love to flow as we work in circular movements to heal the body through more spiral moves. We have many signature yoga moves we do in this series which you can pick-up over time. A definite try for hot flow lovers. If you are new to hot yoga, start with Earth and Hot Detox then give this a go.

Elementals Fire: An intense hot flow that incorporates Pilates core strengthening. It moves quicker so may feel slightly tricky if new to hot yoga. We also work with the barre as a yoga prop to go deeper into backbends and flexibility training. All levels, but newbies may want to do the other classes first then move on to this one. Great for those who need core strength and want to work on inversions and backhanding.

Elementals Space (Yin)This class is more about meditation and finding relaxation as we work deep into more yin-like poses. The room is warm, but not hot and you use yoga bolsters on the floor the whole time. It’s for days when you just want to tune-out and relax.

How do I prepare for class and what should I bring?

Hydrate. Make sure you drink enough water throughout the day including electrolytes. This means you come to class prepared to sweat.

Avoid eating 2-3 hours before class. Make sure you eat earlier in the day, but you don’t want a full stomach for class as this can make you feel sick during the class. Clean foods and liquids.

Electrolyte tablets in water. Newbies can put electrolyte tablets in their water for class as this helps with hydration. If you find you get headaches or dizzy in class, often it’s because your electrolytes are low due to sweat. This is often true with strong guys who sweat a lot. Nuun tablets are good as they are all natural.

Water. Bring large chilled water bottle/s. You will want enough to drink in class and possible splash over your face during class.

What should I wear?

You will sweat like never before, so think swimsuit material. Men typical wear shorts or bathing suit. Newbies often come with a shirt but then realise you want to take it off during class. If you really want a top then make sure it’s breathable.

Women often wear lightweight leggings or shorts, a sports bra or light tank.

Which class is best for shoulder, wrist, arm injuries?

Hot Detox 26 is the best for anyone who cannot bear weight on their arms or wrists given we don’t do typical yoga poses like downward dog, chattarunga, vinyasas or arm balances.

Which class is best for knee injuries?

The Hot Detox is probably the best for most knee injuries. The series was originally put together by a yoga guru to heal his students knees. Always tell your teacher if you have issues and they can give you modifications.

You can take the Elementals Flow classes too, but may need to pad your mat for knee lunges and tell your teacher for other modification.

Which class is best for complete beginners?

It depends on whether you like to flow or prefer a more static practice where we move slowly from one pose to another. Hot Detox 26 is usually the best for complete beginners as we hold each posture for a period of time and then slowly transition into the next one. You don’t need to worry about a fast moving class where you have to catch continual movement.

Elementals Earth is also good for beginners as it’s a slow hot flow. We do flow between movements but it’s not a faster tempo like Elementals Water or Fire.

If you are looking for more of a yin-type class that is more meditation and relaxation based, try Elementals Space.

The idea is to begin with a practice like Hot Detox and then slowly move into the Elementals Flow classes given they are designed to complement each other.

How many classes should I take a week?

This depends on your goals. The more classes you do in the beginning, the quicker your body gets used to the heat and you see faster progress. This means at least 3x a week.

If you are doing other classes at SOMA and integrating hot yoga intro your training plan, aim for 2-3 classes a week.

And to really dedicate yourself to what transformation hot yoga can give you physically and mentally, try 4-6x a week.

I get headaches after class. What is this from?

It usually means you have not hydrated well enough. This means water and replaced electrolytes. Make sure to drink during the day before class and after class. Newbies often need water during class too.

Sometimes it also comes from your initial detoxification. When the body starts to detox through intense sweat and yoga poses meant to purify the systems of the body, you can get headaches in the first month or so.

Meet Tommy - In 5 weeks reached his first 2018 goal

Meet SOMA member, Tommy Daskus

I know Tommy best by sweating next to him in Dr. Theo’s always epic Monday Hot Detox, 6pm.  After Christmas, he decided to become a SOMA House member and finally put into action what he’d talked about for so long: lose some weight but more importantly increase his feeling of wellbeing.

He joined and jumped right in to all classes before finding his best integrated training plan. We measured his total body composition 5 weeks ago and again last Friday.

The results? Dropped 2.7% body fat (6.9% down from 9.6%) and increased muscle composition by  2.4kg.

The numbers are great, but we care more about his overall mindbody wellbeing. So we spoke with him more to hear about his experience.

What was your personal goal this last month?

My main goal was to lose some of my body fat, and increase my feeling of wellbeing. After 8 weeks of consistency, I have had good results from 9.6 body fat it dropped to 6.9. My second goal I have achieved was to move from the back row to practice in the front, which I am enjoying it so much. The next one is The 30 day Challenge.

What is your typical weekly workout?

During my first month at SOMA house, I have tried out everything from the class menu, for to be able to understand what works best for me, and to pick the classes I love the most, so I can plan my weekly workouts. Monday is my favourite work out day starting with BARRE Ballet Blast and straight after jumping to the hot room for YOGA Hot Detox 26. Tuesday – YOGA Elementals FIRE + PILATES and straight after YOGA Elementals SOUL. Wednesday would choose between TRX, YOGA or CYCLE (in depends on my body and mind), Thursday – YOGA Elementals EARTH, Friday – my favourite YOGA Elementals WATER with Jennifer, Saturday  – YOGA Hot Detox 26, Sunday – rest day. This is the best workout for me and I could see big changes after one month sticking to my plan.

Did you change diet as well or just different work out?

Whenever anyone asks me about the diet, it makes me laugh. I always eat what I want to eat, never count the calories. I am a big fan of Chinese take away, potatoes, biscuits and ice cream. It is genes, as I was born in a sports family: my father is ex professional footballer and mum – ex gymnast.  The combination of my weekly work out is the answer for the results I reached.

How do you balance with work?

Working in retail can be difficult, but I made a commitment to get up early and do the early shifts, so I can make it to the classes. Practicing yoga 5 times a week helped to calm me down in stressful situations with difficult clients and I noticed that I am much calmer in handling those situations stress free since.

Unexpected changes?

I always struggled with Bikram practice. There were times I walked out in the middle of class. Once I was asked to leave the class, as I was having a panic attack. This is so funny now to remember. The day I tried out Dr. Theo’s Detox my mind unexpectedly changed. His way of teaching, excellent music choice made the big change for me.

What is different about SOMA that makes you want to come?

There are many things. I been to different studios around the world, SOMA is my top one. The variety of classes and workouts, the owners of the studio practicing and sweating next to the students, excellent teachers, friendly receptionist, cold face towels, best mango smoothie, cow shed products, waterfall in the hot room and one and only studio when you enter the yellow Labrador Obree comes to meet and greet you. You just feel like at home.

What’s the biggest injury challenge you overcame? What helped?

12 years ago, I was involved in a car accident, which left me with broken bones, slipped disc back pain and difficulty to walk. Strong painkillers was my only solution until I discovered yoga 5 years ago. Hot Yoga helped me to get of the painkillers in 3 months, and back to my normal body with zero pain. It just proves that yoga not only going to make you strong and flexible, but also it can fix you.

When do you feel at your best?

During the yoga practice, I leave the day behind and enjoy the moment of stillness and calmness of my mind.

Most challenging posture?

Standing Head to Knee my most challenging posture, as I do not have a strong back muscles, but I am working on it, and hope that one day this pose will be my most enjoyable pose.

Most enjoyable posture?

Side Crow is the posture I enjoy the most. It helped me to strengthen the arms and improve my balance.

Toe Stand – being a long distance runner previously, I had loads of problems with my knees; practicing Toe Stand helped to strengthen my knees and took the pain away complete.

Can Hot Detox Reveal the Secret Character of your Partner?

Can Hot Yoga reveal the secret character of your partner, co-worker or even yourself?

Yes, is the answer.

It’s a well known secret to experienced Bikram or Hot Yoga teachers that the practice of 26 postures in the heat can tell you a lot about a person especially the things they want to hide most about themselves or are not even aware of yet. Because it is a set sequence that requires precision, there is no hiding. It’s like practicing scales for a singer. I always say it is my yogic metronome. I will practice Elementals Flow, but come back to Hot Detox to check-in and see what’s going on at my base.

I’ve always told potential employers or new dating couples that they should bring their respective person to class and I will tell them what they need to know.

So for Valentine’s Day my gift to you is this – I reveal insights for unmasking yourself or your potential partner/employee.

5 Poses & What They Say About Character Traits

1. Standing Bow (ability to commit)

The one minute hold for Standing Bow is a test for one’s ability to commit to a pose and not give up. Those of us who still need to “dance around the issue” will usually dance around a pose that demands exact focus, determination and commitment.

As an example, my husband, Theo, has never come out of Bow early in over 10 years. He mastered the pose’s higher purpose rather than what people think is an advanced bow with extreme flexibility. So, I had insight into his ability to commit and stick with something/someone through thick and thin.

2. Awkward Pose (determination and drive)

This pose is about bulldog determination. You can see students who really love going deep into something and sticking with it. If they get right into it, really extend fully through the arms, stay completely still and have that look of utter focus, you know you’re with a person who will drive your relationship or work projects.

3. Standing Head to Knee (patience, focus and ego)

This is a signature Hot Detox pose as it reveals the mind’s ability to stay strong, focus and balance all at the same time. It’s also the one which teachers have the most pet peeves as we always say not to kick out unless the standing leg is straight. Yet, almost everyone ignores this cue as they care more about what the pose looks like. Hence, the ego. So, the student who goes to their true posture edge calmly and stays for the whole length of the posture is someone who can stay cool under pressure. They don’t need to look the part, but are confident with their own true abilities.

4. Hot Detox Triangle (leadership potential)

This closing master pose of the standing series works every muscle in the body. It also comes when the temptation is there to quit. The student who stays strong, does not fidget and leads the rest of the class into the pose, has leadership potential. I love seeing front row students taking this pose with strength, precision and using 100% of their bodies to extend themselves into the pose. They also try to give energy and inspiration to those who may be newer which means finding consideration.

5. Camel (emotional sensitivities)

Camel comes right at the end of class when we’re suddenly asked to open up the whole front of our body and take a backbend. Admittedly, for beginners, the first classes are usually too much. I’ve seen many  students suddenly burst into tears or have an overwhelming feeling of other emotions ranging from joy to anger. Camel can be one of the most honest moments in class. How comfortable are we to open up, reveal ourselves without fear. How comfortable are we with communicating our emotions?

Regulars will notice that your relationship to this pose changes through the years depending on what’s going on with your life off the mat. It will feel easy for awhile and then suddenly difficult again. If this happens, take an honest look at any communication issues, heartbreak or other self-esteem issues.

Fidgeter vs. Non-Fidgeter

Can’t stop moving, fixing your hair, looking around? Means possible issues with commitment or avoidance of unhealthy emotions. When we can’t stand still or keep our minds focused on one thing without distraction, we have yet to begin the journey of self-realisation.

The eyes may be the window to the soul, but the body’s movement patterns are a window to the habitual mind. If your new partner can’t stand still in class, you may find similar patterns in your relationship like changing plans a lot, always having to look at the phone over dinner, gets bored easily or needs to constantly socialise as doesn’t want or even fears the quiet solitude.

Blames Others Easily

The heat can be enough in the room to bring out our worst tendencies. That is the point. It is easier to meditate in a comfortable room, but who are you when your buttons are pushed and you are made to feel uncomfortable? Over 20 years, I have seen students get angry at the teacher, get upset with students next to them and complain about how other students “ruined” their practice.

Back in the day, the teacher’s name was never published on the schedule. Students were not to be attached to liking or not liking a teacher. Instead they were to come for the practice and the teacher was to be irrelevant. How many of us could do this today in the yoga world?

In the end, a liberated student knows that at all times, you are in control of your experience. If someone else can throw you off balance, it’s your problem, not theirs.

If you find yourself or partner complaining or getting angry after a class, ask yourself if there is a tendency to also look for blame in the work environment or personal life. Is it always someone’s fault? Do we need to justify our anger with what we consider valid reasons?

If so, ask yourself what was really going on underneath your anger? Are you feeling frustrated about something else in your life? Are you feeling unfulfilled?

Selfless or Selfish?

We are very strict about students leaving early from a hot yoga class. Did you ever stop to wonder why? Outside of a true emergency, there is no reason to leave the room unless you decided to give-up. We often are encouraged to think of a yoga class as only me and my mat. However, a more experienced practitioner realises that you are practicing solitude but you are also practicing with people.

Sweating together with other people for an hour is an opportunity to become aware of how your behaviour, energy, attitude affects those around you. Again, the heat by making one feel uncomfortable pushes a button and deep seated tendencies come out. Some students quickly shut off, say to themselves I hate it and leave thinking little of the effect on other students’ practice or the teacher.

On the other side of the spectrum, a student who moves so the person behind them can see in the mirror, or knows how to adjust movement if close to a student or offers water to someone struggling is a sign of a considerate person who is thinking about other while having his or her own practice.

In the end, one’s yoga practice is an amazing experience to share with a loved one, friend or colleague. It provides a shared understanding of the joys and difficulties inherent in the journey of self-realisation. There is no judgment only awareness of tendencies and ultimately what we can learn from them.

Let the practice be a continual mirror of self-reflection and unveiling.

Term Week 4: Speed Training

Your SOMA training this week

Speed training is used by athletes to give them an advantage over their competitors. Build explosive power and the ability of the body to respond quickly and masterfully and you succeed at crossing the finish line first. Whether novice or professional, speed training helps you build better agility and mastery of quick functional movement.

Read on to understand the logic behind your SOMA training this week.

What is speed training? 

Speed training is used to build quickness and explosive power. It involves the increase in muscle power through both speed in beginning and finishing a movement. We try to use explosive force behind each repetition which improves the athletic need to do quick power movements or get ahead in a race scenario.

Our TRX, Barre and Cycle classes will provide exercises or drills that increase agility and speed in movement and exercise technique. The power and fast twitch muscle ability increase over time as well. Several exercises in speed training involve the addition of weighted resistance or speed enhancers to force fast twitch muscles into overdrive, past the normal point of exertion that normal exercises cause.

The benefits of speed training:

  1. Assists in fat loss
  2. Increases the power and fast twitch ability of  muscles
  3. Increases your agility in movement and ability of body to respond to exercise stress
  4. Through exercises like jumping, skipping or hopping motions, athletes gain better performance and  muscle memory for “game time”.
  5. Build muscles too difficult to target through other training methods
  6. Improves ability to accelerate

So why you are doing classes this week, notice how your body feels different than the previous three training weeks. It is the culmination of the work you have done so far. And notice how something like a bicep curl is done differently albeit an intervals, strength, endurance or speed week.


Barre Leg Workout: The Ballet Jump vs. Fitness Jump

Barre Leg Workout: The Ballet Jump vs. Fitness Jump

Students often ask how to get dancer legs: those long, lean defined muscles that allow for power, speed and grace.

The key is to learn how a dancer’s leg workout differs from your typical gym leg workout. I am passionate about educating people that a dancer’s workout  provides an alternative to regular HIIT.

The fitness industry convinces people that the only way to get a “good workout” is to lift weights and do bootcamp classes with such equipment as kettle bells. They are based on a military style so build the body in that way.

For women who want a more feminine body or men who need to cross-train and balance leg muscles, they need barre. I created barre classes that give you a killer workout without bulking muscles.

Here are barre tips to use in your normal fitness regime. It is used by our members who are weight lifters, do CrossFit, runners, cyclists, hot yogis and dancers as well.

Tip 1: Plié rather than Squat – Protect and strengthen lower back while working gluts and inner thighs

A typical gym squat is done in parallel position and the bum sticks out to the back. In a plié, the body is kept upright, with the core engaged. You work all back muscles to elongate the spine. The legs are turned out which means instead of primarily working the quads, you work the adductors and external rotators under your bum as well as open hips. A plié is a whole body sculpting exercise – legs, back, core – for lengthening muscles rather than bulking.

Tip 2: Straighten Your Legs in Jumps – Prevents bulky legs

Think of your typical gym box jump or Cross-Fit type jumps where knees are kept bent. Or a jumping jack with knees bent. The legs never have to straighten which means the muscles are not elongated.

In ballet and our barre classes, we demand strength in the legs through muscle elongation. This means that students power through the legs to achieve a moment when both legs are straight in the air. This constant repetition of power from plie into straight leg jumps in the air shapes leg muscles like in the video.

 The key is to learn how a dancer's leg workout differs from your typical gym leg workout. I am passionate about educating people that a dancer's workout  provides an alternative to regular HIIT.

Jennifer, SOMA Founder & Coach

Tip 3: Roll through the Feet in Jumps – Protects joints and tones legs

Fitness jumps are done with trainers on and people land on the whole foot. You’re doing this if you hear yourself land. In ballet, no shoes are worn and students must learn to roll through the feet. When you push off the floor for a jump, use the ball of the foot against the floor to power your body in the air.

When you land, think “toe, ball, heel” catching yourself like a car spring. This is like a BMW spring rather than a Ford Escort shock absorber for your joints.

Notice on the video, the soft landing each time.

Tip 4: Point the toes – Works the whole body and strengthens ankles for athletes

In a ballet jump, point the toes in the air. It looks it’s only the foot, but it involves the entire leg and body. To properly point the foot, the dancer extends the whole body towards the ceiling and points the foot in the opposite direction so the body is like a stretched rubber band.

You then work the back, the core and legs. Don’t simply curl the toes under.

In summary, 1) plié with bum underneath you engaging core muscles and lengthening spine, 2) jump in the air and make sure the legs are straight and feet pointed, 3) land softly “toe, ball, heel” to protect the joints.

Top of the Leader Board - Hitomi Kato-Moore

Inspiring Women. Since 1 January, SOMA member Hitomi has taken 46 classes which puts her at the top for most classes completed this month. Typical weekly workout includes Cycling, TRX, Hot Yoga and Barre.

What’s your secret to making time for training?

I’ve put training in the same category as drinking water, it’s my human necessity. Just as I don’t question taking big gulps of water when I get thirsty, I don’t make training ‘a thing’.

Favourite class/es?

Cycling! Soul Yoga! Hot Yoga! And And all of Vanessa‘s classes she adds so much soul to every class!

Most challenging part of training?

For me it’s about respecting the pose, movement. Doing things properly instead of rushing through them. I really struggle with Savasana because I want to be the first one in the shower!

How does your body and mind feel after training?

Pure love! Self love, life love, all beings love.

Most surprising result of training?

That I am more powerful than I think … whenever I push myself past what my mind limits me too I think ‘jeeze I’m powerful!’

 I've put training in the same category as drinking water, it's my human necessity.

Hitomi Kato-Moore