The hot-yoga visionary who’s heating up the Los Angeles scene

The godfather of Sweat Yoga’s method, Jonny Kest, shows his stuff in the studio. (Photo: Instagram/Sweatyoga)

Think you’re picky about your ideal temperature? You’ve got nothing on Tom Schey, the founder of Santa Monica’s Sweat Yoga, which opened in November.

As a yoga aficionado who’d practiced with everyone from Jivamutki’s Sharon Gannon to Baron Baptiste, Schey, when he moved to Los Angeles from Detroit, became the Goldilocks of the city’s already very established yoga scene. He couldn’t find a vinyasa flow set to his kind of playlist, or the do-what-your-body-needs vibes of his favorite Motor City instructor, he says. So the lawyer-turned-entrepreneur built a studio that felt juuuuust right. 

In the process, he developed an obsession with temperature, humidity, purification, and air flow that would have you thinking he was monitoring the growing conditions of rare orchids, not creating a space for yoga. “My sole purpose in life is to get the room really hot and comfortable,” says Schey. And, seven blocks from the beach, he does just that.

At first Schey thought that 95 degrees was going to be the magic number. “While that sounds pretty hot, our bodies are 98.6, and 95 is pretty cool once anyone starts perspiring,” he explains. It was then he realized that was much less about the actual read on the thermometer and more about the studio’s design. So he cranked the dial.

Now, at around 102 degrees, a Sweat Yoga class dips just below your average 108-degree Bikram studio. But where the low-ceilings, sweat-infused carpet, and lack of circulation can make you feel like you’re swimming through your poses at Bikram, Sweat Yoga’s studio is like a unicorn of Los Angeles real estate: high ceilings, bright, airy, and designed for function. All set to great music.


How do they do it? Fourteen-foot ceilings, custom-sustainable hickory floors (buh-bye, stepping on damp carpet), plus NASA-quality air scrubbers and a major commitment to air quality. “We’re actually the first yoga studio to put in flush-with-the-ceiling fans that run 100 percent of the time, keeping the air moving so it never feels stale,” says Schey. And while you’re flowing through poses, it’s never stuffy. “It feels like an AC-free yoga studio in the summer,” says instructor Sara Schwartz. Hot, yes. But still fresh and breathable.

Another thing setting Sweat Yoga apart is the “teacher-led series of postures that move into a series of student-led flow.” It’s a concept that’s been honed through a serious yoga lineage—Shey’s mentor, Jonny Kest, trained under David Williams, the yogi who brought Ashtanga to the U.S., after learning it directly from founder Sri K. Pattabhi Jois. The style is based on the idea that you know your body best and should listen to it, catering to the more practiced yogi who can go with the (vinyasa) flow.

The result is a “detoxifying workout” like Bikram yoga, says Schey, ticking off benefits like metabolic and immune support, increased flexibility, and “the workout equivalent of running 6 miles, without pounding your knees.” And maybe an oasis for the OCD yogi in all of us? —Alexis Wolfer

For more information, visit

Single class is $20, 702 Arizona Ave., between Lincoln and 7th., Santa Monica, 90401 (310) 230-5225

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