On a steaming hot day this past August, I did something that could fairly be called masochistic: I took a hot power yoga class. Yeah, because I was clearly not content enough to be a sweating human-shaped puddle just walking around the streets of Brooklyn on my own, I decided to—of my own accord—contort myself into a variety of positions not necessarily meant for a person in possession of all of their bones in a small room in which the temperature was set to 95 degrees and the humidity set to 40 percent. And, oh, yeah, it was also filled with other people and their sweaty, contorting bodies. Yeah, calling it masochistic is making more and more sense, particularly considering this fact: I loved it.
The class I took was at Tangerine Hot Power Yoga, a tiny studio in Downtown Brooklyn, that could accurately be described as an oasis, particularly since those are usually in the desert and (have I mentioned this part yet?) it was very hot inside. I was invited to take the class and, truth be told, I’m invited to do a lot of things that I never wind up writing about, because many of them wind up being… not that great. But this was different, instructor (and also owner of the studio) Tamara Behar led the class through an intense hour that managed to be both exhausting and energizing. (It was sort of a cyclical thing, luckily it ended on an “energizing” note.) And while I was initially a bit intimidated by the prospect of doing yoga that was not just “hot,” but also “power,” what I found was, even though I got a lot of sweat in my eyes (N.B.: headbands are a good idea), a non-yoga-person like me would be just fine. But you don’t just have to listen to me. I talked with Tamara Behar from Tangerine to find out what it is about hot yoga that is so appealing, and what she likes about having her studio in Downtown Brooklyn.
What brought you into the world of yoga? How long have you been involved in your practice?
I was living in Chelsea and Om Yoga opened up a couple blocks from my house so I thought I would check it out. I ended up practicing there for a year. I’ve been practicing on and off since 2000, but much more seriously since 2007.
What is it about hot yoga that particularly appeals to you?
I love to sweat!
Is there a difference between hot yoga and hot power yoga? And does it have to do with how much sweat gets into your eyes???
Oh, yes it is! And unfortunately has nothing to do with how much you sweat! Hot power yoga is the practice of moving from one pose all lead by your breath. We practice a balance of strength and flexibility and specifically focus on moving from the core of our bodies. Temperatures are set to 95 degrees with 40 percent humidity.
How did you settle on coming to Downtown Brooklyn?
I’ve lived in Cobble Hill for over 10 years and dreamt of having a studio in the vicinity. Real Estate is obviously a huge challenge anywhere in NYC so the fact that we found a space on the street level right next to the A/C/G trains and other major subway lines feels like a miracle. Our location is such that people who live in Cobble Hill, Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, Prospect Heights (I could go on and on!) can all get to us with ease.
What do you like about this neighborhood?
The neighborhood feels more like a cool town than a big city. I walk everywhere with my dogs. The community here is super casual… I can go to dinner in my yoga clothes!
When I took a class, it was an extremely hot and muggy day, so it seemed kind of counterintuitive to do hot yoga. And yet: I loved it! If anything, it made going back outside easier. I guess this isn’t a question so much as it is a comment on how hot yoga shouldn’t be scary. Is that what you’ve found both with yourself and your clientele?
Yes. Practicing hot yoga in the summer will keep you cool throughout your day. It’s the best kept secret!
What would you say to a yoga newbie—or a hot yoga newbie—if they’re nervous about coming to a class?
I would say it’s normal to be nervous when you are trying something for the first time. Come with an open mind and know that this a practice. For the most optimal experience, it’s best to be hydrated and have a small banana or coconut water a half hour before class.
How would you say you’ve incorporated yogic principles into your life in general?
I practice being transparent with my friends, family and the people that work for me. This means that I am a work in progress. I practice. I struggle a lot, make a lot of mistakes but I own ALL of it. Sharing my imperfections is what connects me with others.
What aspects of yoga are important to surviving the typical, hectic Brooklyn life?
Gosh, so many! The people that come to our studio (myself included) are super hard workers and incredibly driven. We are really good at it. Where I think we fall short is knowing how to slow down, practicing stillness and stop distracting ourselves from the present moment.
What’s coming up next for you and the studio?
I’m so excited to have master teachers Elena Brower and Dana Flynn come to the studio to share their beautiful and intelligent teachings this fall and it’s my mission to bring more teachers like that to the studio. Our very first Teacher Training is beginning this October and it will be an honor to share the teachings of yoga with this inspiring group. I am very fortunate to have fulfilled my dream of having a studio in Brooklyn and I would like to help others fulfill their dreams; whatever they may be! If I can do it, anyone can.
Tangerine Hot Power Yoga: 225 Schermerhorn Street, Downtown Brooklyn