Feeling hot, hot, hot yoga

Janis Williams before her first hot yoga class. Photo credit: Janis Williams

After a January day filled with snow and sleet, what better way to unthaw than turning up the heat with a hot yoga session?

The idea of practicing in a warm, humid environment reminded me of doing beach yoga on vacation in Jamaica.

My mind, body and soul were already warmed up to the idea of hot yoga and the experience did not disappoint.

The studio was 37 C. Outdoors was -39 C with the windchill.

The front of the room was wall to wall mirrors.The echo of the nature sounds filled the dimly-lit space. People plotted their mats vertically side by side, with little real estate left for others 10 minutes before the beginning of class.

Body

I was warm as soon as I walked in the room. It was a welcome change from the extreme chill in my bones.

The sun salutation warm-up, a repetitive sequence filled with forward folds and down dogs, quickly had me sweaty. The spring in my curly hair turned to a wet wave from extreme heat. I was hot.

Due to the temperature, it felt good to push my body to stretch deeper. I had been warned at the beginning of class not to over-extend because it is easy to injure yourself in this environment.

Hot yoga proved to be challenging. Holding poses for extended periods of time made my body shake more than it ever has during regular yoga. It was difficult to feel grounded during poses that require deep rooting in the legs and feet.

While attempting a tree pose, I wished I had on a lululemon skirt instead of the leggings I chose because it was hard to balance on one leg, with my other foot on the material on my inner thigh. It was a slippery experience.

My body felt good but I felt fatigued.

Mind

Yoga allows the mind to rest. Working through poses and surrendering my thoughts helps to manage my well-being. Yoga brings me peace of mind even on the most stressful of days.

Before I did yoga,I drove the usual 20-minute commute to school, which due to weather had turned into an hour and a half. I slugged through the parking lot to make it to my nine a.m. class then spent my afternoon in the Chronicle newsroom chasing stories. And in between all of that, I was in mom mode putting out figurative fires with two of my children’s teachers.

I was eager to turn my brain off.

It took me 15 minutes to get to the yoga studio and I couldn’t wait to decompress but I felt like I was thinking more than I usually do during practice. It was more difficult to fully surrender my mind.

The heat played a part in this because instead of focusing solely on letting go, I felt exhausted from over-thinking about how much harder this was in the heat. It was like running on a treadmill and trying to relax.

I had to think, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I guess I am just used to the second nature of relaxing when I attend a traditional yoga class.

Soul

To seal a practice, yogis rest in Shavasana. This is 10 minutes of blissful relaxation through guided meditation to connect the mind and body.

It was just me and the mat, with my eyes closed in my most comfortable butterfly pose. I always feel after all the hard work I put into my postures, I’ve earned the right to relax.

These are the moments I feel the most at peace with myself. I do not practice any religion but the time in relaxation always makes me feel connected to something bigger.

The room was hottest near the end of class, from all the body heat we collectively generated. It felt good to lie on the floor and unwind. Peaceful at last.

Hot yoga was a unique way to channel my practice, my mat and I will be back to bask in the heat.

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What you need to know before you try hot yoga. Photo credit: Janis Williams

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