Health Care

Heat wave: Hot yoga a cool trend

Regular old run-of-the-mill yoga can be pretty intense, as any practitioner can attest.

But a group of hard-core yoga students in Wichita is ratcheting up the intensity by several degrees with a practice called "hot yoga."

The class is being offered at Siva (pronounced "Sheeva") Power Yoga, a studio at 535 W. Douglas in Delano.

The class, which meets on Tuesday and Thursday nights, is 70 minutes long and takes participants through 26 yoga poses, all performed on a heated floor in a humid, 95-degree room with no moving air.

It's an intense class designed to detoxify and de-stress its students, said Adrian Tartler, Siva's owner, who started leading a session of hot yoga two weeks ago.

"You really walk out feeling like a million bucks," he said. "You feel energized. You feel like you're new."

Tartler's hot yoga classes, which he calls "Hot Fusion," are loosely based on Bikram yoga, a style created by Bikram Choudhury in the 1970s. Those classes are practiced in Bikram studios across the country, including some in Kansas City and Lawrence.

Bikram classes include the same 26 poses, but they are 90 minutes long and are taught in rooms that are 105 degrees with 40 percent humidity.

The theory behind hot yoga is that it detoxifies the body and allows for more complete stretching and stress relief. It requires participants to focus on their movements and on their bodies.

"It feels intense," Tartler said. "It's all about detoxing the body, strengthening and toning the body and strengthening and toning the mind."

Tartler's Hot Fusion yoga is not as strict or as intense as Bikram's. In addition to shorter classes and not-as-sizzling temperatures, he encourages his students to listen to their bodies and take a break if they feel they need to. They're encouraged to keep water bottles nearby.

But the class isn't for everyone, he said. People either love it or hate it, and it works better for students whose jobs aren't overly demanding or stressful.

Melissa Gronau is a fan of Tartler's hot yoga class. As a social worker, she encourages her clients and co-workers to try it.

"It's important to be able to let go of what stresses you had going through the day," she said. "I feel euphoric when it's over. I feel so much energy."

At a recent class, 20 students lined up in two rows on Tartler's heated floor.

The air was stifling, and early evening light was streaming in from the windows facing Douglas.

Tartler put on music — contemporary slow pop — and led the class through a variety of poses, some twisty, some on the floor, some standing.

Within the first 20 minutes, the students' skin was glistening. Some of the male students quickly started forming puddles around their mats.

Tartler, who is a licensed chiropractor, says he discovered yoga after a tumultuous divorce 11 years ago.

He'd been living in California but relocated to Phoenix, where he began serious yoga training. During a retreat, he met his future wife, Whitney Rodriguez Tartler, a Wichitan in Arizona visiting her sister.

"Yoga completely saved me," he said. "It grounded me and it gave me a way to build myself up again."

He opened Siva, named for a major Hindu deity, in January 2009 and has gained a large client base with his $5-a-session approach. Students are asked to pay $5 when they arrive at class. Various packages are available, too, including a $69 one-month unlimited membership.

Siva offers 20 classes a week, some taught by one of Tartler's three assistants. Beginners are welcome at any class, he said, including at Hot Fusion, at Flow and at Candlelight Flow, which is offered from 8:30 to 9:40 p.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays. The only class that's designed for more advanced students is Power yoga.

Siva is not the only free-standing yoga studio in town. There's also Yoga for You at 7230 E. 29th St. North and Yoga Central at 402 N. Hillcrest. Many local gyms and fitness centers also offer yoga classes.

InnerWorks Holistic Health Center at 3425 W. Central also offers a heated yoga class, but the poses are different and the room is heated to about 80 degrees.

Tartler, who provides the heat for his class from his gas heater and a heated floor he had installed, has plans for making the sweat more efficient.

He's going to add some radiant heat panels, and he hopes to add humidifiers to his collection of yoga props.

Some students report that the class has helped them drop pounds, but that's not Tartler's main goal.

"The intent here is to help people transform," he said. "If they want to transform their bodies, fine. But they end up transforming their minds, too."