On Monday, as spring breakers frolicked in 73 degree weather on Indian Rocks Beach, a mile east on Walsingham Road, at Hot Yoga Largo, eight yoga enthusiasts stretched on their mats as the thermostat reached 100 degrees.
Despite the gorgeous day outside, Robert DeKinder-Smith said he looked forward to coming to the dimly lit studio at lunchtime. "I grew up in South Florida. I love it hot,'' said DeKinder-Smith, 54.
And as Michelle Wray entered the studio, she talked about being replenished with vegetable juice after the 75-minute class.
"For me, I love hot yoga because it cleanses your body of toxins,'' said Wray, 45.
DeKinder-Smith and Wray are both regular customers of Hot Yoga Largo. The business celebrated its first anniversary on Feb. 16. Started by entrepreneur Shawn Geurin, the Largo business is averaging 600 customers a month.
"I realized Largo could use a hot yoga studio a little over a year ago,'' said Geurin, 49.
"I was leaving a microbrewery in Clearwater, and I noticed the parking lot was filled with people going into (Hot Fitness Yoga) nearby,'' he said.
Geurin, who also is a real estate appraiser who owns the business complex where Hot Yoga is located, began to research the idea. He put out the word that he was looking for yoga instructors.
"This is the first hot yoga studio this area has had,'' he said.
Hot yoga, officially called Bikram yoga, began in the 1960s through yogi Bikram Choudhouri. Choudhouri is credited with recognizing how heat increased the detoxifying process of perspiration and at the same time softened the joints and muscles, making it easier to achieve yoga's often tricky poses.
Mike Meehan, who has been practicing yoga for more than 40 years, was one of the first instructors to join Geurin in the endeavor.
"Largo has many different types and levels of people doing yoga, but we have seen a lot of beginners,'' said Meehan, 58.
"We also have some that are extraordinarily fit. I've had tennis players, one student who has now joined the FBI Academy as well as a professional baseball player,'' he said.
That player is Bobby Wilson, a catcher for the Los Angeles Angels who grew up in Seminole. Wilson, who now divides his time between Pinellas County and Southern California, was introduced to yoga by sports commentator José Mota in 2010.
"José asked me if I wanted to try it while we were playing in Texas in 2010. I have continued to do it ever since,'' he said.
And last year, when he was back in Florida with his family, Wilson wanted to find a hot yoga studio for his offseason training. "I felt that it helps me stay focused and familiar with my body in the extreme heat,'' Wilson said.
But not all enthusiasts are professional athletes. What is the correct way for a typical person to prepare for hot yoga?
"Begin slowly,'' said Meehan.
"When you first begin, it's important to realize that you might have to take a break and leave the class for a few minutes. It is hot,'' he said.
And what about all that sweat — doesn't the place get stinky?
"People ask that a lot,'' said Meehan. "And sure, because you sweat so heavily, you might smell for the first several minutes, but after that, the toxins are flushed out of the body, so no, there shouldn't be any odor, it's burned away.''