Unless you’re from the Midwest yourself, many people might be surprised to learn that the Midwest is home to many groundbreaking and innovative yoga experiences. Dial the focus of your lens a bit tighter, until your eyes land on Indianapolis, Indiana. Here, there are countless women leading the way to making the healing modality of yoga more inclusive, more accessible, and more impactful. At the helm of this community is Hye Jin Kalgaonkar, owner and founder of The Hot Room. To listen to the full interview, tune in to Home Practice with Halle: Yoga Tools for Every Body on your favorite podcast platform. Follow Hye Jin and The Hot Room on social media at @hjkyoga and @thehotroomyoga or head over to The Hot Room’s website at thehotroom.com
HM: Hye Jin, thanks so much for joining me today. We here at Manduka are so grateful to have such an amazing studio partner in The Hot Room. We know that you exclusively carry Manduka gear for use in-studio and in the retail boutique. What kind of classes do you offer at The Hot Room?
HJK: When we opened the first studio in 2013, it was primarily a Bikram studio. We taught Original Hot Yoga 90-minute classes, and it was the first hot yoga studio that taught this modality here in Indianapolis. From there, we’ve expanded to offer Baptiste inspired Hot Power Vinyasa classes, Hot Power Sculpt with the addition of weights, and we’ve incorporated Hot Pilates and Yin Yoga. Now, we have diverse offerings for anyone to find every class they want in one place, in a heated environment. When we first opened our doors, we were so focused on sharing what we do—the hot yoga practice. But now, Halle, what we’re really up to is building community through the practice.
HM: I can say first-hand, from having visited all three of your locations, that the sense of community through the practice is immediately evident. What are some reasons why you think The Hot Room has such a vibrant and committed community?
HJK: My husband and I have traveled and lived overseas, and we have seen and visited hundreds of yoga studios. When it came time to the realization that we had to build our own, when we moved back from overseas to Indianapolis, we knew based on our experiences what we wanted the studio to feel like. It was very important to me that the moment someone walks into our studio, they feel safe, and welcome, and are entering a positive environment where they feel good about healing and strengthening their body and mind. There’s this perception of what yoga looks like—from Day 1, it was important that we create an environment where anyone, no matter your age, race, gender, color, or ability level feels welcomed in our space.
HM: The Hot Room is one of the first yoga studios in the region to specifically create and offer a POC (Person of Color), scholarship for The Leadership Institute, your Teacher Training program. Can you share a little more about the importance of this offering?
HJK: When people come into our studios, and they see the leaders of the studios representing a diverse community, they feel more accepted. And we want to make sure that we are building leaders not only within our studio, but also within our community. It goes beyond the four walls of the yoga studio. Representation and inclusivity are so important to us, and it really starts from the leadership level. Once we can build a team of leaders that are diverse, we will continue to bring in a diverse community of yoga practitioners.
HM: I know The Hot Room has expanded its offerings to not only offer Teacher Trainings, but now also retreats. You recently completed a retreat in Mexico, went to Costa Rica last week, and have Bali coming up this summer. Can you speak a little bit about the retreat program?
HJK: This is one part of our business that I am so excited to see grow. Through our Global Wellness Retreats, we acknowledge that we can create a memorable experience filled with movement, exploration, and relaxation. Our guests leave these experiences feeling very energized, restored, and connected not only to themselves but to another, and to the world. It is an opportunity for us to serve in a totally different way beyond our studios. It is a magical experience, and an opportunity to create connections to others that are so long-lasting, to rejuvenate and come back with greater clarity on how you want to live your most powerful life. We have such amazing retreat facilitators—Erin Polley, our Manduka ambassador, really leads this work, and she does such an amazing job. We invite you to join us this summer in Bali!
HM: The Hot Room is dedicated to its community in very real ways. You are a charitable partner to the Patachou Foundation, an organization that fights childhood hunger in the Indianapolis community by delivering wholesome, home-cooked meals to food-insecure children every week. How did this partnership come to life?
HJK: When we sat down with the team to talk about how we could give back even more to our local community, the Hot Yoga for Hot Meals program was essentially born. It’s a referral program—for any new student, if you refer them to our studio, we automatically donate the cost of one wholesome meal, which is $5, to the Patachou Foundation. Last year alone, we were able to donate $13,000. As our community grows within our yoga studios, what blows me away is what we are all able to do together. In the short time that we have here in life, how can we make the biggest impact? How do we show up in this world in a bigger, more powerful way? For us at The Hot Room, health and wellness in general is crucial. We did the research of ‘What other organizations can we partner with and make a big impact?’ And when we saw the numbers, when we saw the rates of food insecurity right here in our backyard, it was a very easy decision to make. This is one partnership in which we can make a big impact, right away.
HM: What life experiences did you have that prepared you to be the founder and owner of a thriving yoga studio business?
HJK: I tell this story often, but I grew up watching my parents. They were immigrants who came here with very little money. They were also small business owners-- from owning restaurants and sandwich shops to little grocery stores. I saw their work ethic and dedication to creating a life that allowed us to do what we wanted as children, you know? This always inspired me. That work ethic is in my DNA. When I was growing up watching all that, it was very much taught that I would not have this lifestyle. Meaning, being an entrepreneur is very hard work. I was taught instead to go to school, go to college, graduate, get into a Fortune 500 corporation, wear a suit, wear high heels, and have benefits and 401k. Right? So that’s exactly what I did. Worked for Elli Lilly and Company, rose and went up the corporate ladder that way, traveled a lot of different places, enjoyed my time thoroughly and learned a tremendous amount. But once I started practicing yoga, it really changed my perspective—what do I really want to be doing with my life? What really gets me up out of bed every morning? What do I want to be doing that makes me feel my best? The more yoga that I did, the more I realized, this is where I need to be.
HM: Is there anything else about your journey that you want to share with our readers?
HJK: I think that the hot yoga community is going through an interesting time. If you are familiar with the Bikram community, there is a lot negativity and conversation about what hot yoga is. With the Hot Room, I want to make sure that this powerful, therapeutic practice stays alive, but that we continue moving it forward in a welcoming and positive way. The practice is so transformative, but I think that the way we are doing it with The Hot Room is a totally different experience. If you’re around any of our studios in Indy or Chicago, I invite you in—I believe that what we’re doing at the Hot Room is changing the landscape of yoga, and I’m really proud to be leading that initiative.
Written by: Halle Miroglotta