COEUR d'ALENE - As Kim Sherwood leads the yoga class, she speaks of being centered, of breathing, of stretching and of clearing the mind.
"Find that connection," she says.
Her clients do as instructed.
Hands reach, legs lift, backs bend, trunks twist.
"Engage those muscles," Sherwood says.
And so it goes, for an hour or so, Sherwood guides students through a flow of motions that she says will detoxify the body. It will lead to flexibility, to strength, to inner peace.
It will do all this at 90 degrees.
That's how hot it is in Parkside Fitness.
This is the way some like it.
"Movement with the heat is going to build your flexibility and strength as you get deeper into the pose," Sherwood said.
"As you twist, you compress, you stretch, you lengthen, that's detoxifying," she said. "You add the heat, you sweat, there's additional blood flow to muscles and joints."
And all that, she adds again, leads to flexibility, strength, healing, detoxifying. Yoga in general, Sherwood says, can help people with lower back pain, anxiety, stress. They can lose weight and gain muscle tone.
Heat can increase the benefits.
"A lot of people come to yoga for different reasons and they find they end up transforming their body," Sherwood said.
"People find this amazing clarity of the mind that helps with stress and anxiety," she said.
Mollie Wing of Coeur d'Alene has taken hot yoga classes on and off for three years, and recently returned on a regular basis.
"Even when you're not feeling great, you leave here energized. You leave here focused, you leave here relaxed. It really is a full body and mind experience."
Yoga is low impact, and a nice change from her high intensity workouts, such as running, Wing said.
Hot yoga, pushes her boundaries. When class ends, there's that sense of satisfaction, of knowing she went a bit beyond those self-imposed limits.
"People think you're just standing there stretching for an hour. It's one of the hardest workouts I've done," Wing said.
Yoga, she said, has changed her body.
"It focuses so much on your core, so it's helped my back 100 percent," she said
Hot yoga has been around a long time, Sherwood said, and is gaining popularity in North Idaho. It's huge in Scottsdale, Ariz., where she lived before moving to Coeur d'Alene.
There, she taught hot yoga classes at 100 to 102 degrees, with 60 percent humidity.
Folks came out soaked in sweat. It's not as hot here, but still, 90 degrees is warm.
Sherwood's hot yoga is different from Bikram yoga, when poses are held for longer periods of time and there are usually specialized breather techniques.
Hot yoga as taught by Sherwood, is a continuous flow from one pose to another, with variation added in each class. Mix in music and light and despite the heat, it can be downright fun.
"It's really taking off," she said.
Sherwood teaches classes on Tuesday mornings and Friday evenings. Other studios around town also offer hot yoga.
Hot yoga might not be for everyone. One needs to be well hydrated and be able to handle the heat. For instance, someone with a heart condition should be careful before dropping in for an hour-long yoga class in a heated room. Test the waters, first.
Still, yoga can be for everyone, Sherwood said.
"That's why there's so many different kinds," she said.
Sandy Ambrose of Hayden was in for her fourth session of hot yoga on Tuesday.
"Starting out hot, it helps you to move better," she said.
Ambrose believes her flexibility and range of motion are better with hot yoga. An hour-long class is time well spent.
"You add the heat to it, it makes it easier," she said.
Sherwood has a degree in exercise science and has been a personal trainer. She is a former restaurant owner, was a business consultant.
"Now I teach yoga," she said. "It's quite the transition."
Sherwood has had seven surgeries - four knee, two wrist and one foot. That might sideline most folks.
Not so for Sherwood.
"I found yoga, out of all exercises, is the one I can do without hurting myself," she said.
"Yoga is definitely a way of life. It works for me."
Basics, benefits of Hot Yoga
According to HotYogaBenefits.com, practitioners of the style believe the heat extends the ability of the ligaments, tendons and muscles. Immersing yourself in Hot Yoga practice is said to:
• release toxins
• improve flexibility and range of motion
• increase the chances of weight loss
• develop muscle tone
• build the immune system
Proponents of the practice also believe that it reduces the symptoms of certain chronic illnesses, such as thyroid disorders, arthritis and circulatory problems.
Evolution Yoga Studio, which specializes in Hot Yoga classes, says it's critical to keep the body hydrated before, during and after practice. Drink water, not caffeinated beverages. Along with the recommended eight-to-10 glasses of water daily, yogis practicing this form must consume enough water to replenish the body because of the extensive sweating.
Hot Yoga is not advisable for those brand new to yoga or pregnant. Beginners may find concentrating on learning proper form difficult in the excessive heat. Expectant mothers experience a rise in the body's core temperature to levels that may compromise the well-being of the baby.