I have a love-hate affair with hot yoga. When I first tried it a couple of years ago, I was pretty smug. I've been a lifelong runner and have practiced non-hot yoga for years, so I naively figured that it wouldn't be too different with the heat cranked up a bit.
And that, my friends, is the kind of attitude that will get you in trouble in any kind of yoga. If you're acting — or even thinking — like a total asshat, you're about to be humbled.
When I first walked into the hot room, I felt like I'd been on the receiving end of a yoga-mat-and-beach-towel scented dutch oven from a freight train made out of boiler rooms. The opening breathing exercise made me want to pass out. When we finally made it to the floor-work portion of the 26 postures, I wanted to crawl underneath my sweat-soaked towel and cry. But I didn't. I finished, and I left class very humbled.
And when I came back the next day — yeah, I probably need my head checked — it was only slightly more tolerable. But I came back because, after 90 minutes of light to moderate torture, I felt incredible. Instead of desperately trying to stretch muscles that were screaming in pain after a 10-mile run, every part of my body felt like it had been lovingly massaged by the universe. Sure, I was sore — my abs in particular felt like they took a pounding — but it's that good kind of soreness you get when you physically push yourself past your perceived limit.
I tell you this for two reasons, and neither of them are to scare you: First, I think that for yoga — despite its popularity — there is still an intimidation factor, particularly with hot yoga. People who have never practiced (yes, it's called "practicing" yoga — even expert yogis know that each day is different, and there is always room to grow) might worry about looking stupid or sweating or falling on their face.
To that I say, if you're looking at other people in the room during yoga, you might look stupid, you're in a hot room so you're definitely sweating, and you're probably going to fall on your face. This is one thing I find so freeing in yoga; You get the benefits of the energy created by the community you practice with in class, but it's still an individual practice. You focus on yourself — your body and your breath. Or you might fall on your face. So there's really no reason to fear the hot yoga or what anyone else might think, because we're all in it together, yet focused on ourselves. In a non-selfish way.
Oh, I was going to make a second point before I started pontificating: Second, hot yoga is no joke. The first time you do it, you might feel like I did, that you are either going to projectile-vomit or murder someone, or possibly both. Listen to your body. The teacher will remind you to take child pose (rest position) as needed, and you should ride that Get Out of Jail Free card as much as you need. You'll know when to push yourself. It's not worth barfing on the person next to you.
After a few sessions you'll find yourself acclimating to the heat, and almost craving it. (And this is from a girl who HATES the heat ... I don't even go outside during July and August.) You get better at those 26 poses, and find yourself pushing yourself even harder. Before you know it, you're addicted. That hot yoga is like meth, but obviously with the totally opposite effect on your body and life and everything.
So I sincerely hope that this essay about hot yoga will inspire you to challenge yourself and try something different, even if your fitness level is somewhere between couch and couch-to-5K. Come out to the Fitness Crawl on Wednesday, April 10, when Fahrenheit Yoga studio in Brentwood will host a complimentary class, taught by Nora Shabayek (I've taken from her — she's amazing). It will be a 75-minute Hot 26 class.
Fahrenheit Yoga is located near Maryland Farms, and the studio is beautiful and welcoming. (You also get a lovely, cold, lavender-soaked towel during savasana at the end of class. You have no idea how much you will enjoy that cold towel.) When you arrive on the 10th, the staff will lead a brief studio tour and new student orientation.
Only 50 spots are available, so sign up in advance at the website or you'll be left out in the cold. Be sure to arrive early, wear lightweight clothing, bring a yoga mat, a full-sized towel, and WATER. More info here for newbies.
See you there!