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In a toasty, cabin-like space, sauna yoga helps sweat out the kinks

In a toasty, cabin-like space, sauna yoga helps sweat out the kinks
The benefits of the sauna are said to include skin purification, shedding weight and even sweating out L.A.’s smog. Instructor Ash Lanzilotti is on the right. (Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)

Yoga with goats, yoga on a wobbly paddleboard, yoga hanging aloft from aerial silks… Has Los Angeles reached peak yoga?

How about yoga in an infrared sauna? This is the concept behind Sweatheory, a wellness facility known for saunas available by the hour that also offers intimate yoga sessions in a toasty cabin-like space. The cedar room heats up to approximately 100 to 115 degrees using infrared light-based heat for vinyasa flow classes and gentle yin yoga.

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“It helps muscle rejuvenation and joint problems, and it’s amazing for injury prevention,” Sweatheory’s creative director, Olivia Doneff, told me.

Doneff explained that the benefits of the sauna include skin purification, sloughing off calories, and even sweating out L.A.’s curse — our nonstop exposure to smog.

Aura

Feeling masochistic after a wine-soaked weekend, I attended Hot Power Yoga, one of the most challenging Sweatheory classes in Los Angeles. I expected it to feel like being trapped in a black Honda Civic on a scorching summer day in the Valley. Instead the temperature initially felt like a warm bath.

Lanzilotti, left, and creative director Olivia Doneff.
Lanzilotti, left, and creative director Olivia Doneff. (Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)

Yoga mats lay stretched out for half a dozen bendy 20- and 30-somethings as blue chakra lights illuminated a crystal and salt wall. We could have been inside a steamy stained-glass chapel as the attentive, septum-pierced instructor Ash Lanzilotti’s soothing voice washed over the room.

“This is your new home, and it feels so safe, and comfortable,” she told us. “If something makes you feel bad, you move away from it. If something makes you feel good, invite it into a part of yourself.”

Effort

About 20 minutes into the class, sweat began to pour. Did I feel like I was under a hot Coachella sun? Yes, but without the damaging UV rays. Did I feel suffocated? Barely. I went at my own pace, easing into each pose with every breath. The heat made me feel like it was easier to breathe more deeply.

“The yogic breath is meant to generate heat from the center of your body outward to create energy,” Lanzilotti explained later. “Radiant heat does the same thing…. Once your body is heated up, there’s more blood flow through your muscles, and it helps you move and build strength.”

My limbs are hardly elastic, and Lanzilotti was able to guide novices like me, as well as advanced yogis, with ease.

Style

At the end of class, eucalyptus-scented towels appeared, and we were directed toward a bland-tasting mineral supplement water shot.

The Sweatheory lobby glowed with natural light, and green plants were suspended above us.

“We try to be ... the calm in the storm of Hollywood,” Doneff said.

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For those who want to further “detox,” there’s a shot bar with injections of vitamins and IV drips that Sweatheory promises will chip away at hangovers or weight loss. I was told it takes two minutes to get an injection.

When I was offered one, I was feeling so relaxed from the yoga session I was half-demented, and found myself saying, “Why not?”

A well-manicured nurse in blue scrubs appeared and injected glutathione, vitamin C and other supplements meant to improve my skin, hair and nails into my bum as she told me this is a usual practice for the models, actors and gym rats that cycle through.

I left Sweatheory feeling light — and concerned over whether there are actual benefits to the vitamin shot — but assured that yoga in Los Angeles has clearly not peaked.

Sweatheory

Where: 1503 N. Cahuenga Blvd., Los Angeles

Cost: $25 per class.

Info: (310) 956-2307, sweatheory.com

READ ON!

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