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Yoga, on the hot side

Maritza Johnson opened a studio for Bikram yoga, which is done in high heat, almost two years ago. Here she is demonstrating a pose. —Jake Kara photo

It may be chilly outside, but it’s always cozy, to say the least, at Bikram Yoga Ridgefield, where the temperature is a constant 105 degrees with 40% humidity.

“Your muscles become more supple and de-stress,” said owner Maritza Johnson. The hot air is meant to warm you up from the inside when you breathe it in, she said.

Ms. Johnson started the shop in the Paris Nails building at the north end of Main Street about two years ago, and she comes from a more conventional workout background.

“We used to live in Overland Park, Kansas,” she said. “I used to go to the gym, do machines, weights.”

When she and her family moved here about 12 years ago, she took to running. “I ran all over town.”

She tried a few yoga classes in the area, “but I didn’t feel welcome,” she said. “I didn’t think I was ‘fancy enough.’”

Then a yoga classmate recommended Bikram, a form of yoga done in high heat, with the same 26 poses repeated in the same order every time.

“The only thing that will be different is you… and the person who is instructing you,” Ms. Johnson.

She was hooked. She credits it with helping handle in stride the stress of having teenage daughters. “They would say, ‘Mom, you’re doing that yoga thing again, aren’t you?’”

She soon started studying for a teaching certificate and taught for nine years.

“The intent wasn’t to become a teacher. I just loved the practice,” she said.

“I would see people go to the other students [where she taught], but they never stayed,” she said. “They wouldn’t be consistent in their practice.”

She thought she could create a space that people would like to keep coming back to.

“I really wanted to do it at home — do it in Ridgefield,” she said. “It’s a bit of a risk,” she said. “It’s a small town; there are a lot of gyms… My husband said, ‘You get five people in there, you’re doing what you love.”

Clearly, she’s been successful.

It will be her studio’s two-year mark in April, and she now has four instructors and a diverse clientele, she said. Some people who just do yoga, others who do it to limber up or strengthen up for other sports — golf, running.

She views yoga as a complement to other activities.

“I think you should do things that you love. When you do things you love and do them joyfully, you create enthusiasm, and enthusiasm is contagious.”

She warns that Bikram yoga can be intense, especially in the first lesson, though everyone goes at their own pace. She said it’s not for everyone and that’s OK, too.

Bikram Yoga Ridgefield is at 609 Main Street; 203-431-9642 and BikramYogaRidgefield.com

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