News For these folks, it's never hot enough

For these folks, it's never hot enough

Philadelphia Daily News, July 21, 2005

Some people can't get enough of the heat.

One late afternoon this week, as 90-plus temps had turned most Philadelphians into a molten mass of ill-tempered goo, a couple of dozen smiling hard-bodies eagerly bounded up a few flights of steps to a room where the thermostat is perpetually set at triple digits.

Smiling and unnervingly at peace with themselves, they stretched, panted and tied themselves into knots on the matted floor of a sizzling room.

Welcome to the Bikram Yoga College on the third floor of 1520 Sansom St. in Center City. Temperature reading on the Daily News Official Digital Thermometer: 115 degrees.

That's a tad warm even for Bikram standards, which call for temperatures of 40 degrees centigrade, or about 105 degrees Fahrenheit. But what do you expect when you've got a 100,000 BTU Whirlpool gas furnace blasting on a day when the so-called outdoor heat index was already red-lining at 102?

Not that anyone (except for one decidedly overdressed People Paper reporter) was complaining.

"It's just great for bringing my stress levels down," said Tom Dameron, 42, a Bikram student from Bridgeport, N.J. "It's very meditative."

Bikram, named for its India-born founder Bikram Choudhury, is a structured series of 26 yoga strength and stretching postures performed under intense heat to provide a total body workout. Students practice in light outfits (no shirts for men), bare feet and a radiant glow of sweat.

According to instructor Joel Pier, who owns the Center City facility, the sauna-like temperature protects against injuries and "helps get the circulation going."

Sweating heavily and on the verge of heat-induced collapse, one might also note that a cold beer also "helps get the circulation going."

But we digress.

Instructor Chris Fluck paced the students through the postures. "One more sip of air," he urged, "now hold it."

At first, the heat seemingly burns the lungs. But any pain is quickly dampened by the puddle of sweat that instantly collects in your crotch.

"It's not as hard for the body to adapt to the heat as you think," Pier said. "Humans live on earth in an awful lot of hot places. The real problem is going from air conditioning to the outside. We're a little too pampered."

Two doors down, at the Nodding Head brewpub, they pamper visitors with a glass of fresh ale properly chilled to just under 50 degrees.

As the chant goes in yoga class, "Ommmm... beer."


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