The Elements Hot Yoga strives for approachable hot yoga practice

The Elements Hot Yoga owners Monica McGee and Kendall Selfe aim to create a place where yogis have a place to grow and feel accomplished. Photo: Martyn Kyle The Elements Hot Yoga owners Monica McGee and Kendall Selfe aim to create a place where yogis have a place to grow and feel accomplished. Photo: Martyn Kyle

Yoga is humbling. No matter how often or how many different methods you practice, a class or a pose will always come around to remind you that you’re human and your body’s strength and limitations vary from day to day. Take, for example, last Wednesday’s 9:30am 90-minute hot flow class at The Elements Hot Yoga. A small group of experienced students flowed their way through an intense sequence that included warrior poses, chaturanga and inversions, while co-owner and teacher Monica McGee gently offered variations on poses throughout the class.

“We want people to feel successful, and have a place to grow but also feel accomplished,” McGee says. “The purpose of it all is sustainability. We can’t always expect our bodies to perform at the same level. We would be defeating ourselves.”

Once the class was warmed up (in the truest sense—the room was heated to 105 degrees), McGee had everyone spend time on inversions. She gave the experienced yogis who were comfortable popping upside down onto their hands the go-ahead to do their thing, and spent the next several minutes walking the others through the steps of forearm stands and handstands.

“When you go somewhere and you can’t do something, it doesn’t give you that feeling of accomplishment afterward,” says co-owner Kendall Selfe. “We try to pause, like Monica did with the inversions, and show how to do something, so it gives people the tools they need. If you can’t go into a forearm balance yet but you can go into dolphin, you can work on that instead of just sitting there staring at people thinking, ‘I can’t do that.’”

McGee and Selfe both started practicing at Hot House Yoga in Richmond a few years ago. They quickly became hooked on the method—and each other—and have since become certified teachers, combined their families and moved to Charlottesville together to open The Elements Hot Yoga.

Located at 340 Greenbrier Dr., the new studio made its debut on March 18. It offers classes inspired by the four elements: earth, water, fire and air. The earth classes are all about stability—available for all levels and beginner-friendly, the sequence of 33 stationary postures is rooted in the standing mountain pose. Water classes are more flowing, with smooth transitions between poses and the intention to “match breath with movement.”

The owners haven’t yet rolled out the fire and air classes, which will be the second level of the earth and water practices, respectively.

“We have to teach to the levels of everybody,” McGee says. “It depends on how our studio grows. When we find that the people are getting strong enough for those classes then we’ll roll them out. Otherwise, it risks injury.”

For beginners who may be anxious about the heat, there’s no use in sugarcoating it—the room is hot. Really hot. But those high temperatures are believed to speed up detoxification in the body, release beneficial hormones and improve overall cardiovascular health and blood flow. McGee and Selfe know that the heat can be intimidating, and they deliberately chose a heating system to keep the room clean and safe while also hot. According to McGee, the system consists of a furnace pumping heat and an energy recovery system that controls airflow and CO2 to bring in fresh air, plus a UV light that cleans pathogens and odors from the air and a humidity controller.

“The purpose is not to give you a bear hug, but to get you sweating,” McGee says. “When I see people are sweating and are successful, I leave the heat where it is. When they’re not sweating, I turn it up.”

It’s hot, and it’s not easy. But it’s also approachable, and there’s nothing better than that cold lavender towel at the end of class.

“I think for people that do not practice hot yoga, the idea is scary,” she says. “To go into a hot room, they think it’s an extreme workout, which it can be, but it doesn’t have to be. To redefine what hot yoga is can take time.”

Classes are available seven days a week. Visit for more information. 

Yoga town

“We’re starting to make friends in the fitness community, and we’ve experienced great welcoming from everybody,” says Monica McGee. “We acknowledge that there are so many paths and ways for people to find mindfulness.”

As the health and fitness community in Charlottesville continues to grow, more and more studios and events are popping up. Here are just a couple that have come across our radar recently:

Tuesday evening yoga at IX Art Park: This pay-what-you-can class is taught by Julia J. von Briesen every Tuesday evening through June 7.

Zin & Zen: Hosted by Hydra Yoga Spa, this local wine and vinyasa spring series features 60-minute Saturday yoga classes at nearby wineries. And wine, of course.

Related Links:

Feb. 28, 2014: Hot Yoga Charlottesville celebrates 10 years of classes at 105 degrees

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