Hot yoga classes during a heat wave

A week into Southern California’s punishing heat wave, on an afternoon when all-time temperature records were being broken around the state, Siraad Dirshe emerged from a workout in a room that had been heated — intentionally — to 100 degrees.

“I like the sweat,” the 34-year-old writer from East Hollywood said, a dewy sheen giving her face that coveted “glazed doughnut” look. “My sister was here this weekend visiting. She came with me on Saturday and was like, ‘You’re insane.’”

But Dirshe never misses her twice-a-week sessions at the aptly named Heated Room, a fitness studio in Beverly Grove that combines elements of yoga, Pilates, cardio and weight training. If she hadn’t taken a class, she said, she would likely have opted for a three-mile run outside.

Dirshe barely even needed water, hoisting a nearly full Nalgene bottle — filled at the start of class with ice, now completely melted — as proof.

“Sometimes it makes me a little nauseous drinking the water while I’m working out,” she said, “so I tend to just like take little sips.”

Mersedeh Nour, who’d attended the same Tuesday class, comes to Heated Room even more frequently: five times a week.

“It just gives me the feeling of working out in a sauna, so it’s gonna burn more fat,” the florist from West Hollywood said, standing on West 3rd Street afterward in long black tights, a black tank top and black Balenciaga slides topped off by thick gold necklaces. The chains remained around her neck for the 50-minute workout: “I never take them off.”

Nour, 35, said she’s just one of those people who “love to be hot.”

“I never complain about heat,” she said. “I don’t mind at all.”

In the sweat-loving milieu of hot yoga, the two aren’t outliers. Classes at Heated Room have been full or near full since the ongoing heat wave began, with check-ins totaling 730 over the last week — a minuscule dip from a weekly average of 750 in August, the studio’s best month since opening a year ago, owner Raamy Fares said.

“Honestly, I’m surprised,” Fares said after taking a class himself Tuesday evening called “Heated Full Body Burn.” “When it’s very, very hot [outside], like 100 degrees like it was two days ago, it’s hard for me. I prefer to stay home and not work out at all.”

The studio did make some adjustments Sunday and Monday to compensate for the scorching triple-digit weather: “We actually lowered the heat a little bit — we put it to 95 instead of 100,” Fares said. “It was less hot in the room than outside.”

It’s even steamier at Hot 8 Yoga, where class temperatures typically range from 105 to 110 degrees and humidity is cranked up to 40%, said Tim Oakes, director of sales and marketing for the Beverly Hills-based chain.

“We’ve actually seen an increase in attendance in the last week,” Oakes said, attributing the uptick in part to a 30-day challenge being held at the company’s nine studios, all in California. But also, “our clients are obsessed with the heat,” he said, citing a host of purported benefits including increased flexibility, more efficient oxygen flow and better sleep and endurance.

(Exerting oneself in a hot environment, natural or artificial, also carries significant health risk. To avoid heat stroke, L.A. County officials advise reducing physical activity during peak heat hours and drinking plenty of fluids and electrolytes.)

“Regardless of any heat wave, they’ll come,” he said. “Practicing in the heat helps you acclimate to these extreme outdoor temperatures as well, so I think our clients are actually not noticing the heat wave as much because their bodies are used to dealing with it.”

Hot 8 Yoga class

Yoga students at a Hot 8 Yoga class in Brentwood last week. The company said it has seen an increase in business during the current heat wave.

(Kerttu Karon)

Hot 8 Yoga doesn’t save money on heating during periods of extremely hot weather, Oakes said, because the studios rely on their gas-powered systems and humidifiers to create a carefully controlled environment that can’t be replicated by simply letting the rooms warm up on their own.

Hot yoga has been popular in L.A. for decades, and toasty group workout studios can be found all over town: Sweat Yoga, White Heat Yoga, Hot Yoga Los Angeles, Hot Pilates and Valley Hot Yoga among them.

Not every studio has found its business immune to the weather. With outside temperatures hovering around 94 degrees, a lunchtime hot power yoga class at Sweatheory in Hollywood on Tuesday was nearly empty save for a private chef who walked over from her home nearby.

“It’s hit or miss right now because of this major heat wave,” an employee at the front desk said.

Then she offered a free cayenne-pepper-infused shot.

“It’s to activate your body and make you sweat more during your session,” she said brightly. “You might want to chase it with water.”