January 5, 2017

Making Peace with Hot Yoga.

As a yoga teacher and practitioner living on the East Coast, these winter months present a prime opportunity to indulge in delicious heated yoga practices. I love the feeling of walking from the bitter, dry cold into a warm studio space where the moment my bare feet hit the ground my cells buzz with pleasure. My sun-loving heart gets to hang onto a tiny thread of 90 degree warmth through the gift of hot yoga.

I’ll be honest. I love it so much that sometimes (and by sometimes I mean always), I obsess over the conditions of a heated yoga room. As a teacher I’ve become hyperaware of how the room “should” feel to the point where I arrive extra early to ensure the room rises to a decent temperature. I’ve heard my fair share of mutters from students who feel they “can’t get their real practice on” when the temperature is not to their liking.

The amount of energy I put toward this matter led me to ask myself: Why do we human beings obsess over trying to change those things we cannot control (like the weather)? Why do we allow such matters to consume our practice?

I recently had an eye-opening experience in my personal relationship with hot yoga. I took a trip out to Texas to visit one of my favorite heated studios. I got on my mat, excited to be encased in summer-like warmth, but to my ego’s astonishment, it felt no different than my home studio!

“How could this be?  I’m in Texas!” It dawned on me that the obsession that I experience at home is not just an East Coast thing; it’s a human-trying-to-control-Mother-Earth thing.

I took a breath, and as I patiently awaited the usual downpour of sweat to release from my head in Warrior II, I looked just over my fingertips. My eyes caught the barren trees, the patchy yellow grass, the grey skies and I quickly awoke to the notion that this is our beautiful Mother Earth in the wintertime. What I had been asking it to do was to stop changing so I can have a perfectly heated yoga practice.

I started to laugh at myself and the amount of precious time I had wasted consumed by these thoughts, and the countless hours I had stressed about not getting the room perfectly heated for my students.

After class as I got in my car, I thought about how I can help others in my situation not waste any more of their time when this happens.

I understand that in our sacred yoga practice, consistency is comforting. I also believe that if a studio markets a 95 degree class and it feels like 75 degrees, we as paying customers have the right to let the studio owner know. But what about those days when it’s just slightly cooler than to our liking?  Why are some of us so quick to panic or assign blame?

Start by just taking a deep, complete breath. We’ll be okay. In fact, we’ll be more than okay because now our yoga has truly begun.

Yoga asks us to approach each moment as purely as possible, to appreciate the imperfections of our fluctuating lives as beautiful.

To really love our practice under any circumstance, we must be willing to go beyond that which we cannot control and unwrap the unknown in the same way we would an unexpected gift from a loved one—with more awe and wonder, with true appreciation and kindness.

May I suggest that we approach the simple scenario of a heated yoga class no different than the weather? We don’t expect the weather to stay the same each day, nor can we control it. We can complain about the weather all we want, but does this ever actually affect change?

What affects change in how we feel is simply changing how we feel. In doing so, we awaken the capacity to better manage our well-being through the natural fluctuations of life.

Like any relationship, our practice can be met with ups and downs. We are living on an Earth that is never the same from one moment to the next. Nature reminds us of this. Other beings reinforce this. Our yoga practice, in union with all things, is no different.

May we thus enjoy life and wake up not fearing that the world is out to get us, but that life is shaking us in just the right moments to ignite our awakening.


Author: Ayami Yamamichi

Image: Author’s own

Editor: Callie Rushton

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