It’s been over a year since I started regularly practicing yoga in a hot studio, and I have to admit that today I’m completely enamoured by it. The warmth that was initially intolerable is nothing more than a comforting blanket to me now, and the rivers of sweat running down my body carry away all my worries. I just let it all go, and let it all flow: my sweat, my breath, and my body to the rhythm of asana. I replace what is lost with what is fresh and new. I find presence in each sip of my cool water, and in the air that I breathe, and in the energy that I get from my practice.
Before I joined the hot studio, I attended fairly regular Ashtanga classes, and Hatha classes. I began to really like yoga at that time, but the chitta vrttti (or call it monkey mind, or internal chatter) was reigning me, as opposed to being reined in by me. I found it difficult to be led in any kind of meditation, or to relax into any pose, and my mind was 95% out of the room. It was planning my evenings, my chores, and even my distant future via picking out the names of the babies I was going to have, choosing a side in an argument that hadn’t taken place yet, and booking vacations I couldn’t afford. What kind of yoga was this you ask? Well, it wasn’t really yoga at all. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was just working out and stretching while happening to be on a yoga mat in a yoga studio.
When a new studio opened near the house where I used to live, a hot yoga studio that offered Hot Vinyasa, Hot Hatha, Hot Yin, Hot Power Yoga, Hot you name it, I joined up on their two week intro pass and dove in head first to a daily practice there. It was during this practice in such an amazing studio with such an amazing group of instructors, that I would start to develop all that was missing in my previous yogic attempts.
The first class was unbearably hot. It was intolerably hot. I couldn’t think of anything else except how hot it was. I was thinking, how am I going to last through this class? I kept thinking I would do the next pose the instructor requested, and then I would leave the room… But I didn’t leave. And I told myself “just one more pose”… “Okay, ONE more pose”… and then just as I thought I couldn’t one up myself with one more pose and I would run out the door, it was time for savasana! That day, it was the most welcome and most glorious savasana I ever experienced to date. I just lay there, spent, in silence, breathing, and recovering, and even though I didn’t rest there for long (as I could hear the cool breeze screaming my name from outside the studio door), I knew this practice had been different.
During my second class the following day, beginning in savasana, as the instructor requested that we let go of our stresses and become present in the room, on our mats, in our practices it hit me: How could anyone possibly not be present in a place where all you can think about is how freaking hot it is, continuously conscious of your breath, aware of the sound of your own hammering heartbeat and the sweat beads tracing down your body?! Who could have chitta vrtti in a place like this? Surely not me! I then realized that as a mantra works for some to distract the mind, this heat would be my beginners mind’s mantra, and the hot studio then became my sanctuary from my own incessant inner ramblings.
In the beginning, the heat forced me to slow down my practice and my mind, like a child being forced to take nap time. And, in the 200+ hours that I have spent in the hot studio since, though I have overcome, grown to love, and even become accustomed to the heat, I have been left with the ability to focus on my breath and stay present in the room. The challenge and initial distraction of the hot room gave me the chance to adopt the habit of devoting my time on the mat to solely being there in that moment, and now I am able to do this whether I’m in a hot studio or not. For that I will be forever grateful, and a solid advocate of likin’ it hot!
Have you given your local hot yoga a try?! How do you like it?