Nick Higgins and Max Henderson are the co-founders of Hotpod Yoga which to the unitiated is yoga that takes place in heated, inflatable, portable studios, the innovative partnership were the first to develop this unique style. Since it’s launch in 2013 Nick and Max have expanded the business with three public studios in January 2014 along with the opening of additional studios both nationwide and internationally.
Corporate wellbeing programmes for Coca-cola, LinkedIn and Citibank have also formed part of their business strategy. More public studios and the opening of 11 franchise studios across the globe are in the pipeline.
Despite their busy schedules Nick and Max graciously set some time aside to grant me an interview.
1. You describe your yoga style as “unique;” how so and how do you feel your practice stands out from other Hot Yoga options in London? (Aside from the obvious of taking place in an inflatable hot pod!)
Max: It was evident from the start that having a pod alone wasn’t going to cut it. While the feedback that we get is that our pod does really create an incredibly immersive, womb-like experience (that is a mile away from a regular hot studio) we’ve taken a lot of pride in the yoga we deliver as well – and it’s this that the majority of our customers come back for. Most notably, we’re all about the accessibility: our classes are down-to-earth, non-intimidating, ultra-accessible, light-hearted (but still high-impact) Vinyasa flow. Some yoga studios are a terrifying experience for a newcomer – I’ve experienced it myself: haughtiness, cultishness and cliqueness. That’s horrible for someone who’s never done yoga before. We made it our objective to ensure that no one ever feels unwelcome, intimidated or out of place in our class and that everyone (however unyogic they would see themselves) can get it!
2. Over the last couple of years we’ve seen an interesting trend for yoga hybrids available across London in particular; what do you think sets apart mixing Ashtanga/Viayasa practice with Bikram temperatures?
Max: I think the key thing is about making yoga accessible and of the modern day, but doing it with real respect and homage to the thousands of years of tradition and heritage that has come before. That’s not to say some hybrids don’t achieve this, but it’s something that you’ve got to be sensitive to. Again, for us it’s about logic and what works: we want to take the wonderful rounded flow of postures from a classic vinyasa sequence but deliver it in a heated environment (to ease you in and up the impact) in a stunning visual space, to cut you off entirely from the world.
3. Aside from the accessibility benefits (and sense of fun) why the decision to host your classes in a hot “pod”? Does this offer any holistic benefits?
Max: Obviously part of it is practical – we can transform any space into the same perfect hot yoga environment in minutes (be it a drafty warehouse, a board room or a village hall). But, from a yoga-perspective, the overwhelming feedback that we get is the huge mental benefits. The fact that it’s entirely unlike a regular room or office, that it’s completely cut-off in every way from the outside world and that it’s so immersive to the senses, means that it has a very powerful meditative benefit for many: truly calming the mind, while you work your body.
4. You’ve popped-up in some interesting places over the last year; where would be your dream place to host Hot Pod Yoga?
Max: We’ve always been keen on getting one of our smaller pods in a London Eye Pod! Emerging from the class at the top of a rotation could be a pretty awesome experience.
On the other hand, we love to do it in really exposed places – with business, bustle and space on the outside but calm and tranquility on the inside: so the Lloyds of London atrium or similar would be ideal!
5. Who would be your dream pupil?
Max: Working closely on a week-by-week basis with lots of the England Rugby guys at Harlequins has been really great. It’s been amazing seeing the huge improvements in conditioning and flexibility over time and then seeing those benefits on the pitch.
We’d love to work with other pro-sportsmen too – we could cure Tiger or Nadal of their injury troubles with a pod on tour, I’m sure, or ensure McIlory stays at number one for years to come!
It’s also amazing working with really top level, high-intensity businesses too: and we’d love to get the opportunity to really show the benefits of a sustained and frequent programme to the CEOs and senior execs out there too.
6. Your Hackney roof top class offers an “outdoor effect;” do you have more plans to open more pods like this?
Max: Yes, this is a prototype we put together with our partners at Inflate. And we’ve got big plans for the rooftops of London, NYC and more…. It’s something that’s got amazing potential, is entirely unique and has had the most incredible reaction from customers. So, we’ve got to get it out there far and wide.
7. Its great that you bring yoga to offices, as we all know it can be difficult to find time to get out of the office and into class; how often do you do this and do you have any unusual/unlikely clients for this?
Max: We work with all our corporate clients on a daily basis – putting on a class a day for each of their employees. We work with some of the world’s biggest businesses as well as smaller companies that just want to offer something really fantastic to their employees to keep them in the perfect mental and physical shape.
There’s nothing too unusual about our list of clients – I suppose some of the lesser known companies are quite surprising in a way, but generally they have strong leadership who take their employees’ happiness seriously and recognise that it’s a genuinely good return on investment for them.
8. How hands-on do you get when delivering pods to offices?
Max: Completely – Nick, looks after all the operations. So, we generally keep pods onsite (each client has their own pod), then we have an amazing team of teachers who pop along once a day or so, pop-up the pod, heat it up, teach the class and run the programmes.
9. Where did you learn your yoga practice?
Max: Nick trained at Yogahaven in London – a great studio, where we both actually began our yoga practice. Nick then trained in Morocco and has been practising, learning and teaching relentlessly since.
10. What is the position you most want to perfect and why?
Nick: I’m less enthused or driven by the very flamboyant or necessarily challenging postures. I’d rather perfect a posture that just has a really special impact or feel for me – like Half Pigeon, for example. It’s always been a favourite, and I work on it, deepen it and enjoy it more and more each time.
11. If you were to offer advice to a hot-yoga-newbie, what would it be?
Max: Relax. Don’t ever think about others around you, about what you want to be able to do or worry about how you might look. Just enjoy it. Tune in to your own body a little and just gradually immerse yourself in it.
12. What can we expect from you in 2015?
Max: Lots! We’ve got further launches across the UK at the beginning of the year, as well as in Bucharest and Johannesburg. That’s going to continue through the year. We’re going to further roll-out corporate programmes too – which we’re really excited about and always keen to find more forward-thinking businesses to work with.
Outside those, we’re going to ramp things up in all our London locations (Notting Hill, Hackney and Brixton) and have all sorts of other exciting plans we’re working on; more pro-sports, possibly an online offering, some product launches and maybe even some Hotpod retreats!
For further information please visit: www.hotpodyoga.com