Feel the heat with Zumba and hot yoga

Aissa Boodhoo-Leegsma
November 22, 2012
This article was published more than 2 years ago.
Est. Reading Time: 4 minutes

Fitness trends go in and out of fashion. Jane Fonda and Russell Simmons created an aerobics frenzy and Billie Blanks knocked us on our butts with his Tae Bo. The home exercise tape that focused on your individual performance was where it was at. But a whole new wave of fitness trends have reset where our fitness priorities now lie.

It’s no longer about just breaking a sweat. It’s about having fun while doing it, or looking sexy or reflecting on your daily life. Whatever it’s about, it’s definitely about more than just getting fit.


I was recently introduced to Zumba and hot yoga, both of which I am slowly becoming addicted to. When it comes to Zumba, it’s important to acknowledge that I was the first person to chide or mock my friends who initially jumped on the Zumba bandwagon. I was partially right; you can definitely take a Zumba class and end up looking goofier than your 5 year old cousin doing the hokey pokey, but just because your hips don’t lie (and move) as sexily as Shakira’s , that certainly doesn’t mean you should write off Zumba.

Zumba was first developed in the ‘90s by Alberto Perez, and became mainstream in the US in 2001. It was developed as a dance-fitness program that sought to integrate moves from samba, salsa, merengue and even Bollywood and belly dancing. My first experience with Zumba confirmed that it truly is a smorgasbord of dance styles rolled into one class.

My first class was packed with female attendees and as soon as the instructor and the music started booming, it was hard to not get into it. Zumba instructors are well known for their over-the-top energy and shouting that reminds you to have fun and let loose. While this ambience can be a lot at first, the music is the best of soca and reggaeton and keeps you smiling through the surprising amount of soreness you feel after “getting low” so many times you’re about to fall over.
Still not convinced Zumba is worth a try? Baring the dance skills you will inevitably have picked up and the smile that will be plastered on your face as you leave the class, it is worth noting that most people burn between 500-900 calories during a one hour Zumba class. But really, as its motto states, it’s less about exercising and more about “joining the party.”
Maybe you don’t feel comfortable breaking it down publicly? Or maybe you just seek more serenity in your workouts? Then hot yoga might be the exercise trend you should try out.

Hot Yoga

During my first time in hot yoga, I quickly learnt that it is completely acceptable and expected that by the end of class you will be dripping sweat from every pore.
Hot yoga is typically affiliated with Bikram yoga, a practice pioneered by Bikram Choudhury. Choudhury aimed to replicate the hot, humid conditions of India in yoga studios in order to increase the flexibility of participants while they moved through poses.
In hot yoga (specifically the Moksha variation) the room temperature is typically kept at 40 Celsius with 35% humidity. While city-dwellers might gawk and compare this to an average summer day in downtown Hamilton, I would challenge them to exercise vigorously for up to 90 minutes in this weather.
Hot yoga provides participants with the opportunity to vastly increase or enhance their existing flexibility while also developing a significant amount of muscular strength required to hold poses for long periods of time. Hot yoga also promotes proper breathing techniques to enhance your workout and help you efficiently exercise.
So while you may be petrified of sweating profusely in a room full of people, don’t worry, you’re not alone.
Seasoned pros cover their mats with towels to absorb sweat so they don’t slip and most people also bring a small face towel to wipe away those pesky pearls of sweat. The instructor’s soothing voice helps guide you through the exercises even when you just want to give up and fall over.
One of the best (and most crucial) parts of yoga is its focus on meditation and providing a calming experience for both your body and mind. Hot yoga is no different, except the warmth provides a comforting environment for your body, especially in the winter. But in my experience I also found that while the heat is merely an external constraint, you are so focused on your practice and moving through the heat that it becomes very difficult for your mind to wander, and thus it is much easier to think and be in the moment.
If this seems too much like new-age mumbo jumbo for you, I would implore you to rethink your preconceptions of yoga. As students, we’re often totally immersed in campus life and constantly interacting with classmates, friends and housemates, but how much time do you truly have to reflect on yourself and your decisions?
So while you may not buy into the spiritual component, or may not be interested in increasing your flexibility, having a refuge from a busy, crazy world is something that every student could do with.
As the weather gets colder and we move closer to exams, it becomes easy to hide away in your house or the library and forget to exercise. But in the winter you should do just the opposite. You might not be able to exercise outside, but you can certainly find a way to get warmed up. My recommendation, join the Zumba party or sweat up a storm at hot yoga, either way, you’ll feel the heat.

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