Since I decided to cut back on running over the summer, I redeemed a Groupon I bought a while back for a month of classes at Gaia Flow Yoga. I had heard of Gaia because they were a featured studio at Lululemon's weekly free yoga and I really enjoyed the instructors that came to teach. I actually did not realize until I showed up at the studio that all of the classes are hot yoga classes. Gulp! I was skeered and very glad that I'd brought a towel.
The staff at Gaia is super friendly, all of the instructors I encountered took the time to learn my name. Every class starts out with core work to prepare for practice. I really am bad about not doing any core strengthening exercises on my own because I figure most of the yoga I do works my abs. At the end of the month, I feel like my abs are a lot stronger and since you use those core muscles so much to hold yourself in poses, it makes sense to spend extra time on them.
After abs, the instructor introduces themselves and often asks new people to introduce themselves. They also ask people to share any "good news" and then talk about the weekly sadhana, or theme. The theme is a yoga principle that you are to focus on for the week, such as purity or responsibility. The instructors tie that idea into your yoga practice and your daily life.
Then comes the flow part of class. I attended a few different types of classes, focusing mostly on beginner levels (Gentle Flow and Desert). Although I'm not a "beginner" yogi, I felt like I needed time to get used to the heat. The studio is usually somewhere between 92 and 96 degrees and you will sweat! I have never sweat so much doing any other workout. It is absolutely necessary to bring a towel and most people have a yoga towel that they put over their mat. I thought about getting one and ultimately decided not to spend the money, but it would be helpful to keep your hands from sliding. Gaia has towels available for rent, but I just brought my own.
I did take one more advanced level class called Mountain that focused on balance postures and the instructor put us all against the wall to do handstands and standing splits. It was definitely the most challenging yoga class I've ever taken! My muscles felt like Jell-O afterwards. In a good way. :)
Overall I had a great experience at Gaia and I wish that my budget would allow for me to be a regular member. I might do some drop-in classes and I will definitely keep an eye out for any good deals they might have in the future.