Jonna Schwarz is adding heat and steam to the stretching, posing and breathing of yoga, making a saturated and intense exercise experience.
Schwarz, a certified yoga instructor and personal trainer, just opened Hot Yoga in Hamilton.
“The room is heated to 105 degrees and 40 percent humidity and that just allows your body to open up,” Schwarz said. “If you think about stretching without doing any kind of warm up, you know it is tight. This just warms up all of your muscles - your whole structure - so that you’re able to stretch deeper without pulling anything and it detoxifies.”
Schwarz said she learned hot yoga while a runner at Gonzaga University.
“My dad was doing yoga and he suggested it to me,” she said. “I ran by this little studio with a sign that said ‘Yarrow Hot Yoga.’ I always liked warmth and decided to check it out. They had a special $30 for 30 days – I did it and went every single day, then I couldn’t afford to do it and started to work for her in trade for the next two and a half years.”
Schwarz is an American Council of Exercise (ACE) personal trainer. She started with hot yoga in 2010, loved it so much she earned her certification as an experienced registered yoga teacher (E-RYT) and has taught more than 10,000 hours. She is in a 500-hour training with an instructor in Bozeman, and is always learning.
“I’ll graduate from that this summer,” Schwarz said.
Hot yoga is physical with challenging poses, but Schwarz said it is perfect for a wide range of athletes from novices to advance yogis.
“This is the first class I ever took,” she said. “I was in there as a runner with tight hips and tight hamstrings thinking ‘What in the world is this?’ It is totally right for beginner or advanced because the postures are accessible and there are fuller expressions of each posture that come with practice.”
Hot yoga is 26 postures, two breathing exercises, and is the same around the world.
“The style is the same whether you go to China or in Hamilton,” Schwarz said. “It doesn’t matter the state or the country, it is all the same. You can dive into the practice, and because it is familiar, you can meditate and move and not think about anything.”
Even though it is the same each time, boredom is kept at bay by personal challenges and growth.
Schwarz lived in Hamilton for a year without hot yoga when she decided to redo the garage in her back yard. Hand-digging a trench for electricity, adding double wall insulation – rock wall and hard foam - old barn wood for finishing, infrared heaters that are quiet and eco-friendly, steam machines and a soft floor.
Yogis bring their own mat to place on the floor and add a towel on top to absorb the sweat.
Meditation is part of the experience.
“I’m such a thinker, I can’t stop even at the end of the day,” Schwarz said. “I consider it a moving meditation because you’re moving your body, but not thinking about anything because it is so intense in here. The instructor never stops cuing and it is physically intense so you don’t have time to think about anything.”
Schwarz compared the hot yoga experience to athletes who lift heavy weights or have extreme workouts.
“If you run, ski or snowboard, you’re so in the moment that you don’t think. That gives your mind a break and for me that is meditative,” she said. “I think a lot of people are finding that it is a reprieve when they come here.”
Word of mouth, Facebook events, and a website have given Schwarz a big response. Even with people paying in advance to reserve their space, her classes at 5:30 p.m. on Mondays and Thursdays filled up for January in two days. She responded by adding 4 p.m. classes on those days and all four classes are nearly full through February.
“It’s a good problem to have, but it is expensive to heat,” Schwarz said.
Schwarz’s Hot Yoga studio is just south of Hamilton on Skalkaho.
For more information on classes, contact Schwarz by email at email@example.com.