August 27, 2014

What Happens When an Orthodox Yogi Tries Hot Yoga.

hot yoga woman sweat

“Hey can you bring a towel to yoga for me? I forgot mine and I won’t be home before the class.”

A towel, eh?

The subsequent texts confirm my suspicions; this isn’t just any yoga class I’m going to. This is a hot yoga class. My first one in my over ten years of practice.

“Okay,” I think to myself, “I’m game.”

I consider my outfit, wonder about wearing the full-length stretchy pants, and go for it anyway. I pack a full change of clothes, underwear included, a towel for me and one for my friend and I’m off.

I’m about to experience hot yoga.

I’m a student of Swami Radha’s teachings. She was a disciple of Swami Sivananda in the mid 20th century. I recently heard that he was rather orthodox. I couldn’t help but appreciate that. There’s something charming in knowing this great sage, who Swami Radha called her “Spiritual Mother,” leans more toward the traditional side of things and that I follow in his lineage.

Hot yoga is not something that can be considered “orthodox.”

I fill up my water bottle from one of the chic filtered water taps at each faucet and enter into the balmy room. I’m blasted by the heat. I’m enveloped by the heat. It’s summer time, already hot in the city, and yet I love the heat.

I settle on my mat and soon, we begin.

I am led through a vinyasa flow type class. In this heat, it doesn’t take long for puddles of sweat to emerge from me in Amazon River proportions. I’m doing hot yoga: I’m in a room that’s hot, and I’m forming asanas with my body.

Yet I can’t help but conclude that calling hot yoga yoga is like calling a one-night-stand a marriage.

Yes, there are some similar elements present, but it would be irresponsible to judge the whole by simply a part. I understand that some people will come to yoga in various ways.

It could be at their gym as a physical workout or a friend might extend an invitation to a meditation. It could also be the single-pointedness of mind achieved in fly-fishing or dancing. I know that if someone wants the more yoga hints at they’ll seek it.

I know I did.

Can hot yoga be the sole means of a yoga practice?

I shower off and put on my change of clothes to sip tea on the couch out front. A class down the hall ends and people stream by toward the change rooms, rosy-faced and slick. The atmosphere is communal and friendly. There are yoga philosophy and anatomy books for sale along the wall beside all the stretchy gear.

I know we all have our own choice—is our practice purely physical, or does it extend to the rest of ourselves: mind and spirit. I liked the feeling the practice gave me and I’ll likely return, especially when the winter comes and threatens to freeze me to my bones.

But I’ll also maintain my meditation, mantra, dream and reflection practices—because yoga, or union, like any marriage, takes effort and practice.

And I’m not into one-night stands.



Love elephant and want to go steady?

Sign up for our (curated) daily and weekly newsletters!

Editor: Emily Bartran

Photo: Creative Commons

Reply to andreabussinger cancel

You must be logged in to post a comment. Create an account.

reggirobin45 Nov 19, 2014 8:55am

I'm sorry but can you clarify something for me? What specifically about hot yoga creates this separation from the rest of all other forms of yoga and allows for the controversy of potentially not being considered yoga? I have heard this argument on other occasions and I have never seen any explanation that made sense. Maybe I don't understand the proper definition of yoga, am I missing something here?

andreabussinger Sep 3, 2014 9:10am

Props for discussing this without getting reactive… it really bugs me that hot yoga is even called "yoga" at all. Just think how many people think they're doing yoga but are missing so much.

Read Elephant’s Best Articles of the Week here.
Readers voted with your hearts, comments, views, and shares:
Click here to see which Writers & Issues Won.

Guenevere Neufeld

Guenevere Neufeld writes and sometimes she does other things. As a child, she once threaded the word “love” into a beaded bracelet, but was too shy to wear it because sometimes it’s hard to wear your heart on your sleeve. She’s been trying to create so succinctly ever since. Check out her TEDx talk or connect with her on Facebook or Twitter. (Bio pic ©danielseguin.ca)