by Grace Pastoor
The tail end of a Minnesota summer can leave people searching for ways to escape the late-season heat. But while the thought of 100-degree temperatures and 40 percent humidity makes most flee to air conditioning, the students at Lily Pad Yoga actively seek just such a muggy environment year round.
The hot yoga studio opened five months ago, and has attracted a core group of students, according to Lily Pad owner Natalie Welle. Much like at a regular studio, participants attend classes, during which an instructor guides them through different poses. But at Lily Pad, this is all done in a room engineered to be as hot and humid as the tropics — something Welle says provides added benefits.
“Heating the muscles helps with flexibility, to make it more enjoyable,” Welle said. “Once you get up into the higher temperatures it also intensifies. I find it brings the mental aspects of yoga to the forefront.”
To create the heat, Welle had an engineer design the heating system, then hired a local company to install the system. The airflow passes by an ultraviolet light in order to sanitize it and the water used to create the high level of humidity is filtered. Another company installed the studio’s heated floors. Welle then went searching for teachers.
Currently, the studio has two other teachers: Shayna Connell and Gabrielle Congrave Baggenstoff. Each teacher has a different style, Welle said.
“I spoke with Shayna about yoga and I liked the way…she spoke about it, and then Gabrielle’s classes were awesome,” Welle said. “I really trust them.”
Aside from bringing hot yoga to the Bemidji area, the three teachers have another goal: create a yoga community within the city.
“People who go to one studio know each other, people who go to one teacher’s class know each other, but there’s not a real community where all the teachers are involved and all the students are involved,” Congrave Baggenstoff said. “I see this as the beginning of a real yoga community where teachers support teachers, students support students, where there’s more crossover.”
Hot yoga appealed to the second teacher, Shayna Connell, in part because of Minnesota’s cold winters.
“I feel like the heat is kind of therapeutic, especially up here in northern Minnesota,” Connell said. “Just to be able to have a place to get that good, clean hot sweat is great, I love it.”
Those interested in trying hot yoga are able to sign up for a free week of unlimited classes at lilypadyoga.com. The studio offers a variety of different packages and gives 10 percent discounts to college students, Native Americans, people with military IDs and people ages 62 and older.
For those intimidated by the 100-degree heat, Lily Pad also offers beginners’ classes at 85 degrees.
“I would say you can always come up with an excuse not to try something,” Congrave Baggenstoff said. “You never know, you might have tried 10 different kinds of yoga and hated them all, and this might be the one you like.”