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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Turn up the Heat

Yoga alone improves strength, flexibility, and balance, but by adding heat and the guidance of a qualified hot yoga instructor, it can protect muscles, relieve stress, and promote happiness.

It was 2001 when Nicole Tibbs, founder of Yoga 101, 2800 Lincoln Ave., brought hot yoga to the Tri-State area. Her goal was to create a joyful environment filled with instructors who push students without exceeding their physical limitations.

From the moment you walk into the Yoga 101 studio, you feel a calm energy and warmth that fills the air and creates a haven of peace and relaxation almost foreign to daily life. It is difficult to ignore the clear connection between students and instructors and the positive effects practicing yoga together has on them. For most of the instructors, connecting with students is why they love teaching.

“My favorite part is seeing when a student hits a milestone,” says three-year instructor Elizabeth Hiett of Evansville. “Suddenly you see them hit a pose, and their face lights up. It is almost like being a parent; when you see a child accomplish something great, you get just as excited for them.”

Hot yoga is performed in a studio heated around 105 degrees with up to 35-40 percent humidity and releases tension in the body, reducing blood pressure. The heat allows students to get into deeper poses promoting detoxification of the body and a cardiovascular workout. For Kathy Freisinger, an instructor and former nurse, yoga teaches her to enjoy life.

“I was always in a hurry to do everything, and I was always looking for the next thing to keep myself busy,” says Freisinger, who lives in Evansville. “Yoga slows me down. I don’t want the years to fly by anymore. I want the days to last every day I have health.”

However, yoga does more for her than just slow her down. It makes her happy.

“When I’m in that yoga room and I’m teaching, I feel such a positive energy and aura,” says Freisinger, notorious for playing blues and soulful music during class. “I feel really connected to everyone in the room with me. If I have things in my life that depress me, I come to the studio, and that is where I find my peace.”

For Hiett, who has three sons, yoga has helped her reduce stress as a mother and take control of her life.

“I can control myself at home with stress,” says Hiett. “Yoga breathing has helped me breathe through things. Just a forward fold, touching your toes, helps you think a little bit more clearly.”

Yogis have different reasons for starting yoga. Some start to enjoy an activity with a friend. Others go to have quiet alone time. For Jenni Juhl of Newburgh, Indiana, who became a co-owner of Yoga 101 with Michael Wagoner of Evansville in 2008, she started yoga to get back in shape.

“I started taking yoga because I wanted to get back in shape after having a baby,” says Juhl. “I looked at it from completely an exercise standpoint, but it creates more of an awareness in your body, so now it also is a way for me to shape my attitude about nutrition for my body as well as reflect and meditate.”

Yoga 101 offers hot yoga classes every day of the week that are open to both new and experienced students. On Saturday mornings, there is an introductory class for new students. New students also can attend the Yoga Hour and Yoga 101 classes. Only the silent class is for more experienced students.

“Definitely never feel intimidated to come as a new student,” says Juhl, who has been practicing since 2001. “Many people come in feeling like people are going to watch them, but we cultivate an awareness and atmosphere of acceptance.”

Students of all physical abilities should try yoga despite what they might have heard or expect, says Juhl. If there is any curiosity in yoga, then students are welcome to come in at anytime regardless of where their fitness level is at.

“There is a misconception that you have to be flexible in order to practice,” says Juhl. “That is completely untrue. You practice to get better.”

This summer, the hot yoga studio held a 40-day yoga challenge to encourage students to set goals and achieve them. Students participating in the challenge strived to attend 40, 50, or 60 yoga classes in 60 days. The charts on the walls tracking the students’ progress showed just how close-knit this studio is.

“We are like a family,” says Hiett. “We want our students to feel like this is their second home. They are loved, nurtured, and cared for. The environment is quiet, loving, meditative, and supportive.”

For more information about Yoga 101, call 812-454-0524 or visit evvyoga101.com.

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