On a Friday at 6:30 in the morning, I lay on a yoga mat inside YO BK. The temperature of the room was 95 degrees. At that hour, the heat alone, consuming my body inside and out, was a shock. But soon, every centimeter of my frame would be wrung to the point of exhaustion: twenty seconds of work, ten seconds of rest, eight times in a row, for an hour, targeting every conceivable muscle cluster on my body. This was the calm before the storm.
Inferno Hot Pilates began in Las Vegas in 2012. After a serious knee injury, ex Hungarian athlete, Gabriella Walters, sought a low-impact, high-intensity workout that relied on the weight of the body alone to get her in shape. Not finding what she wanted, she created hot pilates, which combined the exercise principles of its namesake, but added to it the heat of Bikram Yoga, and Tabata interval training—bursts of exertion interspersed with shorter periods of rest.
While the hot pilates trend has taken off around the country, YO BK is the only New York City studio to offer it. Currently, eight classes are held weekly, and YO BK founder Kate Davies keeps adding more. “We’ve had yoga students who are not excited that it is not yoga all the time,” says Davies. “But, honestly, it’s so incredibly popular that we have to keep doing it.”
That morning, our instructor Natalie started the tunes—mostly dance hits from the 90s—the disco ball started turning, and we began rep-ing away. The following 60 minutes of exercise targeted our arms, back, stomach, butt, quads, calves, and every inch in between. Natalie coached us through controlled repetitions that required us to flex and breath in and exhale deeply; by the third or fourth go of one exercise, the task felt nearly impossible. At the same time, I was enjoying a sweat detox not dissimilar to the sensation of working out in the shower, and the way I flexed my inner legs was making me aware of thigh muscles I didn’t know I had.
Later, on the phone, Davies exuded, “Isn’t it a fun class!” Which were not the precise words I would have chosen, but I understood what she was getting at. “It’s so hard, but I think it’s so much fun,” Davies continued. Combined, hot pilates offers the best of each of the practices it borrows from—the malleability and elevated heart rate from the heat of Bikram yoga, a cardio workout from intervals, precise muscle toning from pilates movements, detoxification from copious sweating, and, most exciting of all, an after burn: even when you leave the studio, your body tears through calories more rapidly than usual, throughout the rest of the day.
Following a growing movement, Davies says Inferno hot pilates aims to provide a good time as much as exericse. “There are 7am dance parties, which are like blackout club experiences,” Davies explained, as one example of this evolving workout scene. “In Williamsburg, people are young and have tough jobs and are looking for something that is fun to do but is also beneficial. If you can find that through an exercise class, great.”
Hot pilates has already spread rapidly throughout the rest of the country, and Davies says it’s only a matter of time before the same happens here. “It’s more fun and memorable and special to create an experience,” she says of the exercise’s intensity, added to a party-time vibe—and it’s also a gateway to the ultimate prize: living in the moment. “It really keeps your mind on the exercise, and music, and what you’re doing in that point in time,” says Davies. “You’re not going to think about stress from the kids or work day; you’re just there, and present, and working hard.” ♦
YO BK; 20 Broadway, Williamsburg
Photos by Jane Bruce