Hotjooga: Finland’s answer to Bikram

I was in Helsinki recently and I was keen to get to the heart of the Finnish capital, to discover what really made it tick, to unearth its intricate history, delicate politics, and carefully designed social framework. Naturally I did this by booking into some yoga classes online.

Not before I’d found a suitable concrete turtle to land a crow on. Obligatory guerilla yoga pic taken on holiday? Tick.

This would have been impossible without Google offering to translate everything for me. But I simply ticked the box that said ‘always translate Finnish to English’ and away I went, surfing the Finnish web like a local. A local who’s not so hot on prepositions, admittedly, but there we go.

There was plenty to choose from. Everywhere seemed to offer Hotjooga, which is roughly translated from the Finnish, ‘Hotjooga’ (thanks, Google). A warm class in a cold city appealed to me, so off I went. I had to explain before class that I was happy to follow along even though I didn’t speak Finnish (this last being an embarrasing rediscovery every time I got off Google and into actual Finland).

The room was hot. So were the teachers. PAH! Who knew I’d pull a LAD joke like that? Anyway, it’s staying in. Woooiiii woi. Carry on.

At first I was apprehensive because of the heat; it reminded me of Bikram yoga, which isn’t my thing. I’ve been to a couple of classes, I’ve done the recommended five in ten days or whatever, but I didn’t like the room heated beyond 45 degrees, or the way the teacher kept telling me I had no knees. I do have knees, and they’re important to me, so back off, yeah?

Here’s a Bikram class, where everything’s been done to reproduce the conditions of factory farm.

Turns out Finland has better way of doing things.The hotjooga room felt a little bit cooler than a Bikram room, but it was still pretty much sauna-temperature. Sauna, by the way, is the only Finnish word you know. Guaranteed. That and hotjooga. So if saunas are a Finnish thing, I thought, standing there beginning to sweat before class had started, where better to dabble in a bit of sauna-based yoga?

I flicked out the mat and class began. It was a slow flow, so lots of warm up, then a simple standing sequence and some deep seated stretches. We did downward dog, which seems obvious, but you won’t find it in Bikram’s sequence. The hotjooga flow was the sort of thing that wouldn’t normally make you break a sweat, but in a hot room I was there with it dripping from my nose. It felt great. One teacher lilting along in Finnish – ‘Uxy’ for inhale, ‘Cooksy’ for exhale. Another gave adjustments, which was brave given how sweaty and slippery everyone was getting.

Before I knew it we’d crossed the finnish line, class was over. The whole thing was 90 minutes, but I didn’t  notice the time go. The heat felt just right. There was none of the dizzyness or nauseousness of the Bikram classes I’ve been to. No one had to lie down to stop freaking out. The teacher didn’t yell at me to get rid of my knees. I felt great afterwards, not chronically dehydrated. All good, then. Trust the Finns to give hot yoga a little Finnesse.

Yeah it’s definitely time to finnish up with the Finnish puns. That was the last one, promise. The main thing is, after class I skipped out into the sunshine feeling all cleansed and bouncy, which was lucky because the next day we went to Tallinn (capital of Estonia, and stag parties) and drank loads of mead in a medieval-themed pub. Woooi oi.

Too much mead at the Tallinnt show.

Copyright © 2013 Galen O’Hanlon.

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