On first glance, the matte-black metal squares lining the ceiling of the yoga studio seem like a bit of industrial design. They give the place a warehouse feel.
But this is no architectural flourish. The panels actually radiate far infrared heat, a state-of-the-art technology that warms the bodies of the students at Hot Yoga Om in downtown Fort Walton Beach.
The studio, which opened in 2015, is one of the newer options for people interested in the benefits of hot yoga, a mind and body wellness trend that has swept across the nation and is now gathering traction in Northwest Florida.
“It combines the power and relaxation of yoga with those panels, which heat the body from the outside in,” says Laura Tyree, owner of Hot Yoga Om and the longstanding Dragonfly Yoga studio nearby. “That’s a recipe for healing if I’ve ever heard one.”
Some hot yoga studios use regular space heaters to crank up the temperature, heating the air and creating stuffy, muggy rooms. At Hot Yoga Om, humidity is kept really low, around 20 to 30 percent, and the panels make the body feel like it’s getting warmed by the sun, instead of standing in front of a radiator.
“You can definitely tell the difference immediately,” says Paris Hollnagel, one of the studio’s instructors who began teaching one class to try it out, but quickly became devoted to the practice and now teaches five times a week.
The far infrared heat travels three inches into the skin, warming muscles and tissues and increasing blood flow. The reported therapeutic and health benefits are wide-ranging—it can help your heart and blood pressure, immune system, arthritis, diabetes, pain, sleep, skin, weight management and even with reducing risk of and healing from cancer.
The heat also gets the body warmed up faster, so those looking to increase strength or flexibility can reach those points quicker.
“Once you come to a hot yoga class, it’s very impactful,” says Hollnagel. “Even if you’re not moving very fast, the heat is doing some of the work. You can just relax into it. You leave feeling so energized.”
Eight teachers offer classes at Hot Yoga Om in a variety of styles and heat levels. Classes range from 95 to 105 degrees. Devoted students and newcomers travel from all across Northwest Florida to attend and the studio has developed a strong community.
Before a recent class, students greeted each other in the lobby, which features a changing room and water station. They talked about developments in their lives and how they were feeling that day.
Tiffany Moore says that sense of community is one of the reasons she drives in from Navarre to attend classes. She has also noticed improvements in her running endurance, a boost in her mood and feeling more centered and balanced.
“It literally transformed my life when I started going on a regular basis,” she says.
It’s this type of overall mental and physical health and supportive community that owner Tyree seeks to bring to people in Northwest Florida, whether through her yoga classes and yoga teacher training at Dragonfly Yoga, the far infrared heat therapy at Hot Yoga Om, or her massage and deep-healing practices.
“I feel like it’s my job on this planet and in this community to help people heal,” she says.
To learn more about Hot Yoga Om or to sign up for classes, visit hotyogaom.com.