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Yoga in Columbus: Heating up and Changing Gears

Nancy Alkire Nancy Alkire Yoga in Columbus: Heating up and Changing GearsHeidi Bell and Angie O’Brien who co-own Harbor Studio.
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I have been yoga-ing in Columbus for over 2 years and seen a whole lotta moving and shaking going on — not to mention my going from size 14 to 8 – YES! Columbus has a growing yoga scene that visitors and Columbusites should explore. My current passion is hot yoga, and here is list of yoga studios that I found consistently heat their classrooms to hot temperatures.

The Hottest Yoga Spots for Flow Yoga

Balanced Yoga
Harbor Yoga

The Hottest Spots for Bikram or Bikram-like Yoga

Balanced Yoga
Bikram Hot Yoga Columbus
Wellness Forum

Honorable Mentions

Morning Mysore at Yoga on High
Thank Yoga
PAI Yoga
Grow Yoga

And not really yoga, but plenty hot

The Sodegren Method at Melt Hot Fitness
The Tracey Gardner Method

Hot yoga classes like Baptiste Power Yoga are usually defined by temperatures 80 to 85 degrees F at the start of a class. A Bikram or Bikram-like yoga is supposed to be at 100+ F. Balanced Yoga and Wellness Forum are the only yoga studios I found in Columbus with ceiling-mounted, radiant heat panels that adjust room temperature quickly. Although a vigorous Vinyasa flow program can generate enough internal heat for a good sweat, I think that if you are plunking down $10-plus for hot yoga, it should be hot!

Best Yoga Studio for Hot Flow in Columbus
Balanced Yoga in Clintonville is the only yoga studio I found in Columbus offering many types of hot yoga in a consistently well-heated classroom. They have a dedicated hot yoga studio with radiant heat panels that provide solid heat. Classes range from 80 to 105 degrees F. depending on the program, and the instructors turn down the humidity or heat if either becomes excessive. Balanced Yoga’s hot yoga room is large, has a clean bamboo floor, and there are “airlock doors” to keep heat in the studio. There are no mirrors to make one self-conscious. The lighting is subdued and easily adjusted. Balanced Yoga has a very popular power yoga program based on Baptiste Power Yoga taught by Cleveland Yoga-trained Greg Fisher and Nicole Klasa. They also have many other high-quality, hot Vinyasa flow programs and several Bikram-like classes (see below).

Balanced Yoga’s hot yoga studio also has many amenities lacking in other yoga places around town. Studio manager, Andy King, has created a really nice, large lobby with comfy seating great for gathering before a class or cooling down after one, and they usually have free tea and fruit. There is a sink handy to the yoga room for water bottle filling. Balanced Yoga also has lots of free mat storage, two roomy single-toilet restrooms and a small changing room. Mix of street and off-street parking. Amenities: 9.5. Workout: 9-10. Overall score: 10. $15 drop in fee.


Other Studios Excellent for Hot Flow Yoga
Harbor Yoga in downtown Dublin offers rocket-speed power yoga classes in a room generously warm enough for a good sweat, usually 84-96 F. Angie O’Brien, Heidi Bell and the other energetic teachers are very welcoming to beginners and regulars alike. There are hot yoga programs mostly, but also they have a non-heated Slow Burn class. Strong music and instruction. Harbor Yoga has a lovely single toilet restroom inside the classroom and a small changing/coat room. Historic Dublin parking in a large lot behind the studio. Reserving a place online is highly recommended. They loan lululemon’s thickest black mats for free. Amenities: 8. Workout: 10. Overall score: 9. $15 drop-in fee.

Heat and Humidity in Harbor Yoga.

Heat and humidity in Harbor Yoga.

V-Power Yoga also does a vigorous flow yoga program that will tone your arms in no time, and they a good hot room usually 78-92 F. Their Warehouse District studio has large windows that let in natural light through a hazy covering and a clean, hard floor. Although the website separates classes into several levels the programs are rather similar. The music is upbeat. Two single-toilet restrooms; one has a nice, clean shower. Also, there’s a very large upstairs space for changing and mat storage. Street parking. Mat rental $3; towel rent $2. $15 drop-in fee. Amenities: 8. Workout: 10. Overall score: 9.

Thank Yoga in the Short North does not advertise their courses as hot yoga, but I think that all classes at this studio are warmer than some advertised in this town as heated. The studio was usually 80 degrees before a class, and with 20 students in about a 30 x 40 square foot room, it heats to near 90 quickly. Josie Schweitzer and her team of teachers are very good at giving a yang-rich flow program in just an hour. Very nice wood-lined room and natural light from three sides. Two small restrooms. Street and some off-street parking. They do not accept cash. Amenities: 8. Workout: 9-10. Overall score: 9. Free loaner mats. $15 drop-in.

PAI Yoga has lululemon ambassadors Chan Hemintranont, Kara Lough and Michael Murphy teaching in a lovely studio at the back edge of Trader Joe’s mall in Dublin. PAI Yoga has turned up the heat since I visited last fall, so the few hot classes that they have on their schedule are consistently over 76 degrees F and can often get over 80 degrees. Every class I attended was a very well-taught flow course. Two pleasant single-toilet restrooms. Lots of strip mall parking. (Note: at the time of this article’s submission, PAI was building a new facility in Gahanna.) Amenities: 9. Workout: 8-10. Overall score: 9. Current price is $13 for drop-in.

Grow Yoga in Grandview has grown their hot yoga program! Sally Roberts now has three hot yoga classes a week on the schedule. Grow Yoga has a wonderful practice space and a good amount of warmth, 80-85 F. Sally Roberts is a great teacher and long on the Cbus yoga scene. Two single toilet restrooms; one with a shower. Amenities: 8.5. Workout: 9. Overall score: 9. $15 drop-in fee.

Taylor Hunt practicing Ashtanga in Mysore, India. Photo courtesy Taylor Hunt.

Taylor Hunt practicing Ashtanga in Mysore, India. Photo courtesy Taylor Hunt.

I owe Yoga on High a big apology for saying previously that they do not take heat seriously. I discovered that the morning Mysore class is a consistent, balmy 80 plus degrees F. Mysore is an Ashtanga Yoga practice, so it is not easy (see immediately below). The heat at YoHi in the non-morning Ashtanga classes and other courses advertised as hot or heated is variable, — in the 70’s at the beginning of most classes and they usually rely on a room of sweating students to get the temperature over 80 — but the courses I took were all solidly taught. YoHi also has some cooler variations on hot flow such as Slow Burn and Hot Fusion. Separate men and women’s multi-toilet restrooms. Generous off-street parking for the Short North. Amenities: 8. Workout: 8-10. Overall score: 8. Mat rentals $2. $16 for drop-in.

•Ashtanga Yoga•
If you ask hot, young yoga professionals what they themselves practice, you often hear, “Ashtanga.” In my humble opinion, Ashtanga is to yoga what Michelangelo is to art: muscular, supple, and possibly life-changing. Ashtanga is a series of increasingly strenuous poses interspersed with many yoga push-ups, and it is the font from which American power yoga programs sprung. In a Mysore class, students go through the Ashtanga program at their own pace under the guidance of an experienced teacher. Ashtanga teachers are not shy about pulling, pushing or squatting on students to get them into poses. There is no music but breathing with sound is encouraged. Ashtanga yoga is not for the feint of heart, but if you are under 40 or a very experienced yogi like Jerry Marcom) and want to try some serious yoga, an Ashtanga practice is really something.
There are excellent Ashtanga instructors such as Joannie Delph and Michael Love teaching around town, however, Taylor Hunt who usually conducts Morning Mysore at Yoga On High regularly goes to India to study with the lineal descendents of Ashtanga’s founder, K. Pattabhi Jois.

Jerry Marcom in Firefly pose. Yoga On High.

Jerry Marcom in Firefly pose. Yoga On High.

Burn in Gahanna advertises a hot yoga class, but it never went over 77 when I was there and regular students said that that was an unusually warm class. Music = loud. They do a good job of separating the cycling activities from the yoga room. Two attractive single toilet restrooms. Amenities: 8. Workout: 8.5. Overa1l score: 8. $15 drop-in fee.

Go Yoga offers “heated” classes at 4 locations around Columbus. I would recommend the classes at the Powell location for hot yoga as they usually pumped the heat up to get over 80 degrees at the start of classes. At the other Go Yoga locations, I had some OK flow classes, but they were not very warm, 67-72 F. The Upper Arlington space seems particularly difficult to heat, and I notice they have “Chill Flow” on their schedule. Go Yoga also has scheduled classes in the Vita Corazon fitness center west of Dublin; you have to be a member to take those. I went twice, and the heat was missing. Amenities: 8-9. Workout: 7-9. Overall score: 8. $5-15 drop-in fees.

At the newly opened Seven Studios in downtown Columbus the temperatures ranged from 70 to 77 F among the 3 hot yoga classes I took. I found the studio was warmer in an ordinary yoga class that followed Insanity Boot Camp. Seven Studios owner is inspirational, and the instructors are similarly upbeat. One nice single toilet restroom. Located in the strip of storefronts on the East side of the City Center parking garage at 275 S. Third St. Metered street and pay lot parking nearby. Amenities: 8. Workout: 8. Overall score: 8. $15 drop-in fee.

L-Flow Yoga in Gahanna offers one class advertised as 80 degrees, and it was 78-82 F both times I was there. Natalie Kristine teaches this very beginner friendly class in a yoga studio with a nice ambiance. One single toilet restroom. Amenities: 8. Workout: 8. Overall score: 8. Mat rental $1. First week free, then a $16 drop-in fee.

Local yoga guru Joey McNamara has one class a week in “industrial Grandview” at the Feverhead dance space. His goal is 84 poses in 2 hours. This is hard-core yoga in a garage with a padded floor held together with duct tape. Many of his students are highly proficient yogis, but Joey is totally helpful to beginners. Class is currently Sunday from 5pm-7pm. Amenities: as I said, it is garage. Workout: Off the chart. Donation class; $5 is a suggestion.

Too Hot for You? Check these out…I love hot yoga for many reasons (Among other things, a great hot yoga class combined with an exfoliating scrub afterwards is almost as good as an $80 facial!) but some people are turned off by higher temps. I have noticed many studios like OHiYoga, Harbor and YoHi now offering “hottish” titles like Slow Burn and Hot Fusion. From the several classes labeled such that I attended around town, these are Vinyasa-flow programs for about a third the class with some long-held lunges, planks or whatever the instructor selects. The rooms may or may not be heated above an average temperature. Balanced Yoga also recently introduced their “Yoga Blitz” series; these are one-hour classes from 6 to 7AM on M,W,F done in the hot studio at 80-85 degrees. Truthfully, a well-conducted Ashtanga Vinyasa flow yoga program done with enthusiasm generates a good amount of internal heat no matter what the title of the class is.

Hot Bikram and Bikram-like Yoga in Columbus
Balanced Yoga offers several variations on the Classic 26 yoga series, which I personally prefer (see below) over the official Bikram yoga program. Like Clintonville itself, the classes are eclectic and easy-going. Some have music, some do not. Some shuffle poses around, some don’t. There is an interesting class called Expanded 26, which includes inversions, Ghosh poses and other things outside the Bikram canon. All the Balance Yoga instructors are helpful and encouraging without nagging. Temperatures top 100 F. The lighting is usually relaxed to a pleasant dimness, there are no mirrors, and the bamboo floor is very clean. If you want a clean, hot room and the static poses of a Bikram-like program without the Bikram micromanagement, Balanced Yoga is a very pleasing studio. Two roomy single-toilet restrooms and a small changing room. Mix of street and off-street parking. Amenities: 9. Workout: 8-10. Overall score: 9. $15 drop in fee.

Becky Hoffman has done a superb job creating Columbus’ only official Bikram Yoga studio at 947 West Third Avenue just off 315 south of Fifth Ave. Bikram Hot Yoga Columbus is a large and beautiful studio that is clean, cheerful and welcoming. The physical plant is generous, and the Bikram yoga does not disappoint. Based on my research and a Bikram class I took in Pittsburgh, the instructors present the Bikram banter accurately. The temperature was always 105 degrees F, and there are large fans to keep the air moving. The requisite carpeting is advertised as antimicrobial. There are large mirrors at the front of the room. Separate men and women’s changing area/restrooms with sinks thoughtfully set up for easy water bottle filling. The amazing high-end showers are worth a visit alone! The entrance is actually not on Third Avenue but on the south side of the building next to a large parking area. Amenities: 10. Workout: 8. Overall score: 9. $15 drop-in fee.

Wellness Forum in Worthington has the closest thing to Bikram that is not an official Bikram program, and it also has radiant heat panels that are very generous with the heat. Classes were at 105 degrees consistently. The studio room has large mirrors on the front and sidewalls. There are separate, clean men and women’s changing room/bathrooms with a shower in each. Lots of strip mall parking. Strict no cell phone policy (curiously, the official Bikram people are more reasonable about this.) Amenities: 8. Workout: 8. Overall score: 8. $15 drop-in fee.

You may ask: “Why do the Bikram-style programs score low in Workout compared to flow yoga?” It is because my physical therapy acquaintances and I believe that flow yoga classes are a better overall exercise program. Granted, I like the way some of the poses open up my arthritic joints, and there are days I crave it for some reason. But by-the-book Bikram with its micromanagement of everything from finger-pointing to when you can drink water, seems a bit un-yoga. Bikram yoga has its adherents, but I personally prefer the more relaxed Classic 26 classes at Balanced Yoga or better yet the various hot flow yoga programs around town.

Not Hot Yoga, But…
Melt Hot Fitness off Cleveland Avenue north of 270 has lululemon ambassador Kelly Sodegren leading a very tough yoga/Pilates-based workout called The Sodegren Method. Her routine features a balance-training prop called a Bosu and an exceptionally dark room that really challenges one’s balance. Well-heated studio, 85-90 degrees F. Very clear instruction and well-chosen music. Two nice single toilet restrooms. Strip mall parking. . Amenities: 8. Workout: 10. Overall score: 9. First class free then $15 drop-in fee.

If you want something hot and unique to Columbus (for now), check out the Tracey Gardner Method on the western edge of New Albany. “This is anti-yoga,” Tracey says. Her exercise program has a mix of isometric motions, some fast flow and plenty of planche-style pushups. The heat was a solid 85 degrees plus before the start of classes I took, and there are steam machines to pump up the humidity. Loud, upbeat music, and a night-club-dark studio with a clean, concrete floor. Two spa-nice large restrooms. Strip mall parking. $5 mat rentals. Amenities: 8.5. Workout: 9. Overall score: 8. Mat rental $5. $15 drop-in fee.

Merrelli.com comes up in Internet searches for hot yoga but it is neither. Jimmy Merrelli mashes up power yoga, dance and parkour moves on the fly and styles it a “Men’s Workout” but he says that girls may also attend. Loft-style room on the second floor of 143 East Main Street near Fourth St. The workout schedule varies with Jimmy’s day job. Single-toilet restroom in the hall. Street parking only. Amenities: 7. Workout: 8-9. Overall score: 8. $5 a class (cash only).

In summary, if you want the official Bikram hot yoga program of mirrors, carpeting and such, Bikram Hot Yoga Columbus will fulfill your expectations and has amazing bathrooms. Wellness Forum has almost a Bikram program in a Worthington location. For a more interesting script in a studio that’s plenty hot, the Classic and Expanded 26 classes at Balanced Yoga are excellent and interesting. If you love Vinyasa hot flow, Balanced Yoga’s many classes, especially the Baptiste programs, are great and done in proper heat. Many of the other hot flow classes around town are worthwhile especially those from Angie O’Brien, Chan Heimentrout, Michael Murphy, and Heidi Bell. Josie Schweitzer’s Thank Yoga is a neat little place that gets pretty warm. A really challenging hot workout program can be done at Melt with The Sodegren Method, and for something else off the yoga path, the Tracey Gardner Method is an orgy-dark, hot good time.

Special thanks to Tom Payne whose search for hot yoga in Columbus equal to TriBalance in Chicago inspired me to explore the yoga scene in Columbus.

I went at least twice to promising yoga studios that came up in Internet searches for “hot yoga Columbus Ohio,” and I took as many classes from different instructors as my work schedule allowed. I focused on yoga studios, rather than reek centers or gyms, because I want a “yoga home” with a variety of yoga classes for my many moods and not a gym full of machines that had a little yoga. I gave scores in categories important to me then averaged to get an overall rank for the studio. Amenities include not only ambience, heat and parking, but also access to water and restrooms. (If you do hot yoga with a 53-year-old body and bladder, you quickly become obsessed with water in and water out.) Workout combines my impression of the instruction, the intensity I felt during the class and how I felt climbing stairs the next day. Workout scores may have a range since some studios have multiple classes and instructors themselves vary intensity from class to class.

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