Hot Yoga season is upon us.
There’s a chill in the air. Practicing requires an extra layer at some studios and a blanketed savasana at others.
Yet like bears getting ready to hibernate, we’re looking to settle in cozy—in ourselves and in our practices. Students who have been flocking in to the hot studios I teach at since the weather dropped have been asking: How can I advance my practice??
So, hot yogis, here you go: Go deep, go real deep.
1. Get to know your body, your mind and your practice out of the heat.
I tell students looking to advance their practice this at least once or twice a week. Practicing in the heat has a multitude of benefits that extend from the flesh of the body to the stream of prana within us. And yet to know our practices (and in turn ourselves) deeply, we have to see, feel and experience our bodies on all planes (physical, mental, emotional, spiritual) where we are at.
If you live in a seasoned climate zone or if you’re a New Yorker experiencing 40 degree snowfall one day and 60 degree sun the next, you’re typically in an environment that is moderate, changing. You’re at the mercy of Mama Nature in all of her water gun showers and snowball fights.
To practice solely and only in the heat is to deprive your energetic and somatic body of reality. Getting to know your body outside of the hot room is getting to know yourself, where you are. The body is what it is.
The heat and fire to be built and played with is the responsibility of the practitioner rather than the thermostat on the wall. You become your own furnace, your own fire-dancer, focusing on the breath and its ability to ignite flames from the inside out. You move your body as it is, seeing its tightness as areas that do not necessarily need heat to melt the pain away but rather pure attention, focus, compassion and care. From those points the practice is able to expand in its own time without having to light a fire under your ass.
In a non-heated room you may not get into that full bind, Hanuman with groin to Earth or forward fold that molds your chest to your thighs at first but you will cultivate a dialogue with your body and get to know yourself where you are at. And in time, the binds and full expressions come. It is creating a practice that translates to the streets, to work and to home—within and around.
I think I first developed a self-practice years ago in high school when I would exercise in my room, doing old school workouts of push ups, sit ups, jumping jacks and shadow boxing next to my bed. Though during that time I was definitely not in a yoga-state-of-mind it was still time I took just for me. It gave me an edge on the sports teams in terms of performance and competition. Now self-practice, dedicated time on my mat or on an open floor, softens these edges. Even just sitting still on our mat at home can translate to a more authentic peace that we ride through group classes. It does not matter what poses you do, or if it even all “goes together.”
What matters is that you’re exploring yourself, your own body, your own practice. And there’s always something to discover. As a teacher I’m able to creatively explode as my body marries the ideas and inspirations that have been waiting to be birthed underneath my skin.
3. Do something different.
We all have styles of yoga we love most and teachers whose class we absolutely cannot miss. But investing time and head space in new classes and with new teachers is a way for you to explore the practice even more. Language, sequencing, vibe and the teachers own roots of study are offerings.
When we give our practice diversity, we get into the cracks and smaller places of our own selves that may have gone unnoticed by taking so and so’s class every Monday at such and such time. We learn something new, hear a direction differently and put ourselves in a place of mystery, of the unexpected and unknown. Even if you absolutely hate the class, you will take something from it, be inspired by it and maybe even share it with someone else.
Spiritually athletic in nature and practice, Be Leigh finds gratitude in movement, stillness, and transition. She grew up not far from Amish Country in Pennsylvania and traded in the moo’ing cows for beeping taxis to attend NYU (grad ’11). Be lives in Brooklyn and teaches yoga throughout New York. Her website is
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