I Tried Infrared Yoga, and Found It Far More Enjoyable Than Your Traditional Hot Yoga Class

Photo: Getty Images/Halfpoint Images
Busybee entrepreneur Alli Webb, who co-founded the hugely success blow-dry business Drybar, the massage company Squeeze, the humidifier maker Canopy, and the mental health concept Okay Humans, is back with a new business: Brightside, an infrared yoga and sauna studio that’s just launched its first location in Culver City, California.

Brightside is a joint venture between Webb and her Squeeze co-founder Brittany Driscoll as part of their wellness brand collective The Feel Good Company, which also birthed Squeeze and Okay Humans. The new business was inspired by Webb’s ex-husband, Cam Webb, who she describes as “the creative mastermind” behind Drybar, Squeeze, and Okay Humans.

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“Cam was doing both hot yoga and infrared saunas separately and realized that not only was there an opportunity to create a better brand experience in the yoga space, but he felt like there was a really big opportunity to combine the two,” says Driscoll.

Infrared therapy has recently gained popularity due to a growing awareness of its benefits to human health. Research shows that infrared therapy may promote exercise recovery, reduce chronic pain, boost mood and energy levels, and improve both cardiovascular and skin health, among other benefits. Brightside’s founders felt the infrared yoga experience was superior to the stifling experience of doing yoga in a traditionally heated room, but they also wanted to offer an easy-to-book private sauna experience as an adjunct service, or as an alternative for those who don’t have or want a yoga practice.

What to expect at Brightside

The resultant studio is a bit like a Y7 and Chillhouse combined and finished with sunny Drybar vibes. It features four different yoga classes ($29 per class or slightly less with membership options) in a studio heated with infrared technology—Brightside Basics, Power Play, Sculpt Sesh, and Fusion Flow—alongside four well-appointed sauna rooms, each of which can be booked for 45-minute individual sessions throughout the day for $39 or $29.75 with a membership.

Like its founders’ other businesses, Brightside is a tech-forward company that offers a do-everything app as one of its key differentiators; from the app, you can book yoga and sauna sessions, rate your experiences, purchase refreshments, and track your progress.

Also in keeping with The Feel Good Company’s other businesses, Brightside is designed to be modern, cheerful, on-trend, and yet unlike anything else in its space. Webb says the team used the same architect employed by both Drybar and Squeeze, and that they leaned heavily on their learnings from building those businesses to create a unique environment. “We wanted to make it feel welcoming to everyone, particularly those who don’t consider themselves to be seasoned yogis or regulars,” she says.

There’s a philanthropic component to the business as well. Webb and Driscoll have partnered with the organization Action for Healthy Kids, which is dedicated to creating healthier schools. “For every membership sold, we are helping to provide an hour of physical activity to a child in an underserved community so they can become healthy, thriving adults,” says Driscoll.

What it was like taking an infrared yoga class at Brightside

I just so happen to be a hot yoga junkie, so I was beyond excited when Webb and Driscoll invited me to try the studio out for myself. I tend to agree with them that most hot yoga studios, even the ones I love, feel a bit dingy. Not Brightside. The studio’s aesthetic is exactly what you may expect from the founders of Drybar—bright, white, and airy with pops of cheerful color throughout.

Upon entering the yoga room, I realized Webb and Driscoll had a point. While it was certainly warm, it didn’t feel as oppressively muggy as the traditionally heated yoga rooms I’m used to. The best way I can describe the differing sensations is that I felt I could actually breathe, and I wasn’t instantly dripping in sweat. The founders attribute this to the fact that infrared technology heats objects in a room, while traditional forced-air heating systems (aka regular old heat) heat everything. The former tends to be more comfortable than the latter, they say—and I agree.

The class itself, “Sculpt Sesh,” was nothing at all like what I’m used to. I hadn’t paid any attention to the description when I signed up and was expecting a gentle vinyasa practice. What I got instead was a super unique mix of yoga, HIIT, strength training with weights, and cardio. In other words, it was like every workout genre I enjoy melded together into one hour-long workout, which was ultimately pretty intense. If you’re the kind of person who leaves a yoga class feeling like all you got was a good stretch, this is the class for you—it’s most definitely a workout and a well-rounded one at that. I enjoyed the class and found the environment to be more upbeat overall than I was used to. It felt energizing, even as the work itself was exhausting.

After class, I was escorted to one of the sauna rooms, but only for a peek. The studio doesn’t actually recommend partaking in the yoga and sauna experiences back-to-back, which was a bit of a bummer because the room looked oh-so-inviting. Like the rest of the studio, it was bright and clean but also cozy, like you may expect from a sauna. Inside the sauna itself, there’s a little protective locker to keep your phone safe in case you want to bring it in with you to listen to music, mediations, a podcast—whatever. The sauna experience also includes chromotherapy, aka color light therapy, which is said to confer additional health benefits including improved sleep and mood. Every Brightside sauna includes 96 LED lights, each of which corresponds with a different benefit. You can let them cycle through or select individual light colors based on the benefits desired. I definitely plan to return to experience this firsthand.

Hot yoga studios, and sometimes even yoga studios more generally, can be intimidating, which is, I think, the biggest value proposition at Brightside: The space is a great option for those who have never tried hot yoga before and/or don’t have an existing yoga practice as the founders have definitely executed on their mission of making it a warm (literally!) and welcoming environment. But it makes sense as a space for seasoned practitioners as well—the class I tried was nothing like anything I’ve done before, in the best way. And the easy-to-book, aesthetically pleasing sauna offering feels pretty unique, too. The only downside for me is the commute; let’s be honest, no one in LA travels outside of their immediate ‘hood for a workout. This is why I let Webb and Driscoll know that their next location should be Silverlake, where I live.

For now, the founding duo says they’re focused on their initial Culver City location, but that they’d eventually like to expand. Says Driscoll, “We really want Brightside to be a place where everyone is welcome, and where they leave as the best version of themselves.” IMO? Mission accomplished.

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