Fitness Around Albany Series: Hot Yoga Detox at The Balance Loft

Fitness Around Albany is a new mini series here on the blog where I write about my experiences at a variety local studios around Albany, NY and the Greater Capital Region.  I started this series as a way to connect with local instructors, studios, and fitness enthusiasts in order to get to know the Albany fitness community.  These are not sponsored posts, however I did receive permission from the studio owners to write about my experiences here.  All of the studios in this series offer free first-time sessions, and/or have free-class coupons in local flyers or athletic stores.  I plan to add to this series as I discover more classes in the area, and my hope is that if you are local or visiting, you can use these posts as resource for a variety of great class options!  Let's get on with the fitness!

The Balance Loft signage

Welcome to the first post in the Fitness Around Albany series!  Recently I got a chance to visit the yoga and personal training studio The Balance Loft in Troy, NY.  This little studio is located in the historic district of Troy on a scenic stretch of shopping, restaurants, and other local stores.

When I entered the studio, I was immediately greeted by studio owner Kelly and instructor Adam at the reception desk.  The studio had a very calm atmosphere with scents of eucalyptus and other relaxing aromas.  After chatting with Kelly and Adam for a bit, I checked in for the class and put my things in the cubby area in the back of the studio.  There were no lockers, but the studio itself is locked during classes, so no one is able to come in while the instructors are teaching.

reception/waiting area complete with cucumber mint water!

reception/waiting area complete with cucumber mint water!

cubbies to keep your things

cubbies to keep your things

I grabbed my yoga mat, water bottle, and sweat towel and headed into the yoga studio (pictured below).  When I walked in, the studio was dimly lit (much more soothing than the picture below).  It was quite warm, but the air was calming and not very humid so I could actually take deep breaths and feel relaxed.  Previous hot yoga classes I have gone to have been incredibly humid and the air a bit stifling.  I was pleasantly surprised that this wasn't the case here.

the yoga studio (with bright lights on for the picture), heated with infrared heating lamps to 100˚F

the yoga studio (with bright lights on for the picture), heated with infrared heating lamps to 100˚F

The studio itself is heated using Far Infrared heating elements in the ceiling that warm the objects in the room directly, but not the air in between (source).  This is an ideal way to heat a yoga studio and actually has many health benefits including positive effects on metabolism, increased white blood cell count, and therapeutic effects on joint pain (source).

Adam started the class of 4 with an introduction to what we could expect, asked us if we were new to yoga (I was and still am) and told us that he is a liberal yoga instructor meaning that we should allow ourselves to explore each pose and do our own thing as well.  We started the class with some deep breathing on our backs and slowly worked our way up to some stretches on the mat.  We progressed into some holds, all while focusing on our breath, which I have since discovered I really need to hone in on.  I cannot for the life of me remember any of the names of the poses we held (again, new to yoga here!), but I do remember some of them being quite challenging and taxing on the muscles.  

One thing I loved about Adam's style of teaching was he allowed us to be beginners.  He made me feel okay with not having perfect balance, falling out of poses, not being flexible, etc.  One of the major take aways from his class for me was when he said to allow your body to be stronger and more flexible on one side versus the other and to not hold both sides of your body to the same strength and flexibility standards.  Most of us are naturally stronger and more flexible on our dominant side, and sometimes we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to perform the exact same way on our non-dominant side.  It was a nice reminder that sometimes that's not possible, and that's perfectly okay.

yoga block & strap we used in class

yoga block & strap we used in class

Toward the latter portion of class, we progressed into a few binds, which I found I really enjoyed. (For anyone completely new to yoga, a bind is a pose that links the hands together while also twisting the torso and upper body.)  My usual fitness routine consists of a lot of strength & resistance training (including the classes I teach), so purposefully stretching my body felt really good.  My favorite bind was Marichyasana, which I couldn't do fully without the assistance of the yoga strap.  The bind challenged my incredibly tight hips, opened my chest, and definitely stretched my shoulders.  

After practicing a few more binds led by Adam, we started stretching again and ended up in Happy Baby Pose (another great one for my hip flexors).  He let us explore different variations and stretch any other areas we needed to on our own.  I loved this portion of class not only for the stretching (which I don't do nearly as often as I should), but also because he let us BE with ourselves.  Yes, it might sound cheesy, but experimenting with what feels good for you, what your limitations are, and what ways you can challenge your body are all great self-exploration practices that this class really allowed.

sitting waiting for class to start

At the very end of class, Adam came around with a cooling eucalyptus face towel which felt AMAZING after sweating profusely for an hour (proof below!).  We ended class in traditional Savasana (lying on your back, arms by your sides, legs out straight and completely relaxed), took a few deep breaths, and toweled off.

Perhaps it was the instructor, or the small class size that day, but this yoga class opened my eyes to a completely positive experience with yoga.  My previous experiences were okay, but they didn't leave me feeling as calm, centered, and positive as this one.  I learned a lot about both yoga itself and where my strengths and weaknesses are.  My big take aways from my practice are that I need to work on synchronizing my breathing with my movement, taking deeper breaths to begin with, and that I need to stretch big time.

Sweaty after-class selfie
sweaty selfie #2.jpg

I'd like to give a HUGE thank you to studio owner Kelly, and instructor Adam for allowing me to take part in their class, and for introducing me to a practice of yoga that I genuinely enjoyed.  For more information about The Balance Loft, you can visit their Facebook Page and follow them on Instagram.

Readers: chat with me!  Do you practice yoga?  Have you ever tried a hot yoga class?  What are some poses or binds you love or give you trouble?  For readers in the Albany area, have you ever been to The Balance Loft before?  If not, will you try it?

My First Yoga Experience

I did it.  I took my first-ever (and second-ever) yoga class.  I have always been hesitant to take a yoga class, not because I didn’t think it would be a great experience, but because the only yoga I’d ever heard about involved a lot of chanting, “om-ing,” (which, to me, just sounded like a lot of people humming together - not really what I want in my workout) and mental exercise that didn’t really work the body.  I’ve read great things about yoga, though, the main points being it’s a nice complement to an intense exercise regimen and it enables you to learn relaxation techniques to use in everyday life.  Don’t get me wrong, none of those are bad, but yoga just didn’t seem like “my type of exercise” if you know what I mean…

Well, I was proven wrong.  And happily at that - at least with the second class I took.  The first class, called “Power 1,” had quite a slow pace compared to the typical exercise classes I’m used to (cardio-kickboxing and strength training).  For that reason, I felt like I didn’t really get too much of a body workout from it.  I barely broke a sweat and certainly didn’t tax any muscles.  However, I can see how a class like that can calm the mind over time, and be a nice way to add some less-intense, but still active exercise into a weekly routine.  

THE FIRST CLASS: NOT REALLY MY THING (UNTIL IT WAS OVER...)

In the beginning of Power 1, the instructor had us talk to our neighbor (someone we didn’t know) and discuss our favorite movie.  I see what he was going for, but I wasn’t really a fan of that type of “meet ’n’ greet,” especially at the beginning of an exercise class.  I wanted to get on with the exercising, already!  He had us “meet him” in child’s pose after the movie discussion and walked us through some mental exercises using movie analogies from those mentioned earlier.  Again, when would we get to the exercise??  We finally started with some slow breathing techniques and various stretches, progressing into slightly more difficult moves like chatarunga and chair pose.  Each sequence was done at a slow pace to start, and increased speed once the instructor felt like the class understood what their body was supposed to do.  Toward the end of class, he had us lie down on our mats and close our eyes, guiding us through a visualization on how well we had done that day and how much better we should feel inside and out for having made it to class.  I DID feel good for having gone and tried something completely new.  I did NOT, however, feel like I gained a new awareness about myself or had any “spiritual awakening,” as his words suggested we should.

At the end of the first class I stayed after to take a few pictures and noticed one of the other students practicing headstands and handstands (which were both very impressive).  I asked him if he’d mind showing me how they were done (the "yoga" way, not the "gymnastics" way, which I'm used to), and he very kindly spotted me while I tried them…

Left &  Middle: Headstand Progression; Right: handstand, spotted

And for fun, he had me do this:

THE SECOND CLASS: MUCH MORE MY SPEED

The second class I took was WAY more intense and definitely more up my alley in terms of muscle groups used and exercises performed.  That class was called “Power Sculpt,” and it used hand weights to amp up the intensity of the yoga poses.  We had a new instructor, female this time, and you could tell she was pumped to teach.  Her excitement was palpable and really made me energized and anxious to get the class started.  She began with some easy, fluid moves just to warm up our muscles and then got right into the good stuff.  Within about 10 minutes of starting class we were already doing an AMRAP (as many rounds as possible) of 5 narrow-arm pushups, 5 burpees, and 5 squats.  I was feeling pretty good by that point and definitely had a good sweat going (oh, did I mention the room was heated?).  After the AMRAP, we progressed through some classic yoga poses (chatarunga, warrior 2, reverse warrior, triangle pose, chair pose, etc.) using the hand weights.  This definitely taxed the shoulders after a while, even using 3- and 4-lb dumbbells, and my god did it make you sweat!  Toward the end of class she had us calm our heart rate and breathing using the same relaxation techniques that the first class did.  She also waved a towel over us to cool us off slightly, which felt ah-maz-ing!  At the end when all was said and done, my muscles were pleased, I was absolutely drenched, and felt like I just completed a very difficult workout.  It felt great!

THE TAKEAWAY:

All in all, I liked my experience in both classes.  The first class was a good introduction to the practice of yoga, where I was able to learn the basic poses, lingo, and breathing techniques used in a more relaxed environment.  The second class was definitely more my type of workout: a little bit of strength training with the weights, a little bit of stretching and relaxation, and a LOT of sweat.  Bottom line: I'm open to trying out more yoga classes in the future, but for now, I think I'll stick with my usual exercise routine. :)

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON YOGA??

Are there different styles that you like or dislike?  Any poses that you love or hate or have yet to master?  I'm really curious about your opinion on the topic!!  Leave a comment here, or message me on social media!  Can't wait to hear your thoughts!

Left : close up of all of us;  Top Right : Us in front of the studio mural;  Bottom Right : close up of my dad, my aunt and me.

Left: close up of all of us; Top Right: Us in front of the studio mural; Bottom Right: close up of my dad, my aunt and me.