Hot yoga keeps it steamy, spiritual

Lewisberg, West Virginia junior Tiff ani Walton takes a moment to calm herself before beginning a session of hot yoga at Hot Yoga Bowling Green. The studio, founded by Tony and Anice Bishop, has been in operation since 2007. William Kolb/HERALD

Madison Martin

Hot yoga is “a holistic approach to exercise, health, wellness and just simply state of mind,” according to “Yoga Daddy.” The business he co-owns with his wife, Hot Yoga Bowling Green, aims to help people from all walks of life come to a positive space that focuses on enhancing their well-being.

Tony Bishop and his wife, Anice, or “Yoga Mama,” spend most of their time instructing and managing their thriving business. 

Although that may sound less-than zen, he said that’s not the case.

 “We work about 75 hours a week and love it,” Bishop said.

Bishop had practiced a wide array of physical activities in the past, like cycling, weight-lifting and kung fu, but after being injured because of the martial art, he started to search for a way to rehabilitate and stay active. He found this in yoga.

“Yoga itself is about 5,000 years old,” he said. “…It really assists you in mind-body-spirit. If you’re a religious person, it really helps you with that, because it helps you with clarity, it helps your thought process.”

He didn’t hear about hot yoga until reading about it in The New York Times in 2004. He and his wife started to feel called to open a studio that would take on a different approach toward spirituality.

“We’re a Christian-based studio so we were God-led basically to come here, and it all worked out,” Bishop said. “…We don’t cram things down anyone’s throat…We’re not here to beat anybody over the head with something. That’s just not what we’re here for.”

Hot Yoga Bowling Green opened in 2007, after Bishop left the newspaper business in 2006. It is the only yoga studio in the area that practices from a strictly Christian standpoint.

“It’s pretty rare, actually,” he said. “We just invite everybody in; we just love on everybody.”

Theresa Peters, a Bowling Green resident and client of the Bishops, remembered the support they gave when she went through a difficult period in her life.

“They were there for me when we lost our son,” she said. “I’m just now getting back in to it again.”

After taking a year off, Peters came back to continue her journey of health improvement.  

“I like the heat, it makes me feel good to sweat out toxins,” she said. “I love how the instructors are there for you and push you along.”

Tilak Bhattacharya, a mathematics professor at WKU, exercises at the Bishops’ studio and said it is beneficial. 

“If you’re looking at a holistic approach to health of mind and body, this is probably a good place to go,” he said. 

He said that because the heat intensifies the level of difficulty, “you think of the heat as training your focus and concentration.”

The studio has an intricate system to create the best environment for the exercises. 

Bishop said the “radiant” heat that they utilize pulls toxins out of the body.

“It’s a healthy type of heat… We filter the air with an ionic filtration system…so it’s very clean air,” he said. “Plus, at the same time as it’s doing that, it’s blowing you with steam and humidity…It’s a cross between a steam room and a sauna.” 

Typically, they keep the temperature between 100 and 105 degrees Fahrenheit. When they have classes for children, however, it tends to stay at a low 90 degrees. 

Bishop said they have had clients ranging from the ages of 3 to 94. 

“Almost anybody can practice it,” he said. “It’s just a very efficient way to work your body.”

Although the movements are slow and fluid, depending on the class level taken, hot yoga is considered a cardiovascular exercise.

“This is a safe cardio… People think you have to jump on a treadmill and just bang that treadmill and get your heart rate up to 185 beats per minute to be doing cardio, which is not true,” he said. “With hot yoga, you get a lot more calorie burn. You get a lot deeper stretch, because you add the heat to the room, and you warm the muscles a lot quicker.”

The studio has approximately 20 yoga teacher-trainees that train under Bishop. He also leads classes. 

“…I see at some point maybe teaching more here, as far as training more teachers at the RYT (Registered Yoga Teacher) level,” he said. “But right now, I just want to concentrate on doing the Lord’s work, and basically, just being here for the student.”

Bishop is optimistic about the future of the business. 

“I don’t ever plan to really retire. I can still see myself doing something like this for many, many years,” he said. “It still keeps growing; it grows every year…We run it like a business…but then we have fun doing it.”