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Five Minutes With: Hot Yoga Teacher, Holly Wong

Working up a sweat doesn’t have to involve pumping iron in the gym – there’s always yoga. We spend five minutes with full-time yoga teacher Holly Wong from The Yoga Room to find out what it’s all about. Brace yourselves, things are heating up.


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What is hot yoga?

Hot yoga is – as its name suggests – yoga done in a hot room. The temperature varies from studio to studio, but it’s generally between 30 and 40°C. Hot yoga is actually a general term that encompasses several styles of practice (as opposed to Bikram Yoga – more about this later!). I teach several variations of it, including Hot Flow – aka Hot Vinyasa (a dynamic, flowing practice), Hot Yoga (slower-paced, more static compared to Hot Flow with the same sequence of poses taught every week), and Warm Stretch (long stretches in a mildly heated room).

What is the concept behind hot yoga?

Hot yoga is often associated and considered synonymous with ‘Bikram Yoga’, which was founded by Bikram Choudhury. The concept behind Bikram Yoga is to replicate the heat and humidity of India where yoga originated, which is believed to help the body purify and detox. A traditional Bikram class consists of a series of 26 postures, including two breathing exercises and this sequence never changes, whereas generally, hot yoga is a version of the physical Hatha practice performed in a heated room, and teachers are free to teach their own sequences.

What are the benefits of hot yoga over other types?

Needless to say, you will sweat a lot in a hot class! The hot environment is meant to encourage “sweating out the toxins”. Other than the detox effect, being in a heated room is said to allow deeper stretching and improve blood circulation. Some even say that hot yoga leads to more stress reduction. Personally, I think that it’s a greater mental training as I try to maintain my awareness on the sensation of the movements and the breathing rather than thinking “oh my god, it’s so hot I want to get out of here”.

Who does hot yoga most benefit?

The practice of yoga is a deeply personal – some might find that hot yoga is beneficial for the body and mind while others might not. Some might find that hot yoga helps with their injuries and pains, others might find that it aggravates them. I would suggest that pregnant women and people with diabetes or any sort of cardiovascular problem, including high blood pressure, avoid practicing it. If you don’t fall into the above categories, and are interested in trying it out, go for it and see for yourself. It has to work for you as you can only reap the benefits of yoga (hot or not) through regular, consistent practice.

Do you have to be an advanced yogi to handle the heat of hot yoga?

No you don’t, but I would suggest beginners start with taking Hatha yoga classes in a non-heated room so they gain more awareness of their body and mind without the additional distraction. When they’re comfortable with it, then perhaps start with milder styles of hot yoga, such as Warm Stretch and Hot Yoga. I wouldn’t recommend taking a Hot Flow class unless you’re already comfortable taking a Vinyasa Flow class in a normal temperature room.

Is hot yoga the most popular kind of yoga in Hong Kong?

It might be. I don’t have the stats to go so far as to say that it’s the most popular kind here, but hot classes are definitely popular and are often full. I find that most Hong Kong yogis fit into polarized camps when it comes to hot yoga – they either love it or hate it – however hot yoga lovers say that it helps them get rid of bloating, improve flexibility, and quiet the mind.

Is it better for women to remove their makeup first? #pandaeyes

Yes, definitely! Always go to yoga with a clean face. If you’re a serious yogi, you would know that the first tenet of niyamas (positive actions and attitudes towards personal refinement) is saucha (purity or cleanliness), which begins with physical cleansing of the body. Some yogis go as far as taking a shower before every practice. If you have no clue or don’t care what saucha means, wash your face anyway. It’s better not to risk having makeup clog your pores and run into your eyes!

Has anyone ever fallen asleep in your hot yoga class?

Only during the final resting pose, Savasana (phew!) Technically, you’re not supposed to fall asleep during Savasana, but my students work hard and the room is warm, so I forgive the soft snoring and let them enjoy their well-deserved rest!

Have you ever had anyone pass out in a hot yoga class?

Can’t say I have! *touch wood* but it’s funny you ask this as it reminds me of the first ever hot yoga class I went to. I was with my mom and sister and it was about 15 years ago when we didn’t know a thing about it. We showed up with T-shirts and sweatpants. After class, my mom fainted and my sister had to vomit! The teacher gave my mom water and kindly stayed with her until she recovered.

What is your advice to anyone considering hot yoga?

One of the most important lessons that yoga has taught me is to listen to my own body and instincts. This applies to all forms of yoga, but it’s particularly pertinent in a challenging environment like a hot room. If you don’t feel 100% well, drop the ego, and rest. Drink water if you need to hydrate yourself properly. In most circumstances, it’s better to stay in the room so the teacher can keep an eye on you, but leave the room if you absolutely need to. You know your body best.

Want to give it a go? Check out The Yoga Room website and find out more. Holly also teaches hatha, yin, gentle flow, prenatal, and yoga therapy classes.


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