Adventures in Yoga: Hot Yoga
Somewhere near the end of a painful dental saga with a crown and root canal, a lovely dental assistant recommended hot yoga to me. She said she goes regularly and loves it.
This gave me an idea.
I have logged an awful lot of yoga practice hours over the decades since I found Raquel Welch in her 1980s terry cloth headbands. Much of it has been either with the help of books like Raquel's or far more enlightened and helpful ones that were truer to the original spirit and spirituality of yoga.
When YouTube and streaming services came around, I also started using those. I always liked being in my own home better than my occasional YMCA class I took. Even the yoga certification course happened largely in my house with feedback from my instructors and with my wonderfully willing family and friends as test students.
But when I saw the light in the eyes of the lady caring for my teeth, I started to wonder if I wasn't missing out on something.
Maybe, I thought, I should get out more. Maybe I should try some of these different yoga styles out there.
Yesterday, I began my out-of-the-house yoga adventures with hot yoga. Here's how it went.
Hot yoga is HOT. I can't emphasize that enough.
I love heat and suffer a bit this time of year in the freezing temperatures. It feels like the cold gets into my joints and stabs me with a freeze that I struggle to shrug off until those first warmer days in March. Even in my warm house, I often shiver and clutch hot liquids.
Hot yoga is done in a room that is 80 to 110 degrees Fahrenheit. The floors radiated heat, too. My frozen bones relaxed the second I walked in. I loved that. Part way through the slow beginner series I was thinking that I wasn't sweating like the dental assistant said I would.
Then I started sweating.
It was hard to hold my ankle in dancer's pose because I was so slippery. Sweat dripped down into my eyes. Near the end of the 60 minutes, the instructor switched the air to cool us off and I was relieved. One day later, I can lay out the pros and cons for you.
Even though it was intense, I still loved it this time of year. (I'm not sure I would in high summer.) I was warm all the way through for about 30 minutes afterwards and that was glorious for me.
The Way the Heat Loosened Me Up
I moved through the classic poses I knew very well, able to stretch and settle in to the extensions with more ease.
I often do intense yoga practices at home and this helps my sleep. Hot yoga was far more intense than I normally put myself through, and I slept for seven hours straight the night after without waking. I can't remember the last time that happened in my middle-aged life. I'm not sure if it was the heat or the intensity or both, but the sleep was glorious.
I struggle with the blues this time of year, too. (Writing that just reminded me to turn on the light I use to help me.) After this one yoga session, I felt a tremendous lift in my mood--like a weight had been taken off my heart and brain. It lasted most of the day and is lingering still.
Letting Someone Else Lead
I was SO grateful for the instructor talking us through the poses. Since I've begun teaching, I've really appreciated the mental and physical work that goes into that. It was hard for me to imagine having the energy to do what she was doing.
I do like that in some ways. I like feeling like I'm alive in my body and that I am working toward greater strength.
It was a bit much at times, even for me.
It was probably part of the therapeutic effect but--yuck.
When I first walked in, there was a woman who made eye contact with me. She looked like she knew what I was doing. I asked her if she could help me figure out what to do. She said, "No. I can't help you. The teacher will." Then she ran off--I supposed to tell the teacher that another newbie had wandered in.
When I walked into the room at the beginning, there was that terrible moment where I tried to figure out where to put my mat. I looked at others for clues. They made eye contact but said nothing, watching me struggle. I often feel that way in group exercise with strangers at the beginning. It's like people throw their shields up in Star Trek fashion, too far into their own self-consciousness to lend help to anyone. This does not feel like the unity of yoga to me.
The Security of My Things
We had cubbies where I left my possessions but they weren't locked. I'll remember to just bring my ID next time and maybe put it in a clutch to keep with me. I'm not sure I want my phone with me in that steamy room so I'll have to think on that.
The dental assistant had TOLD me the bring a mat and towel and to wear summer clothes. I remembered the summer clothes but for forgot the mat and towel. Fortunately, they had loaners.
If you want to try hot yoga yourself, here are my tips:
If you wear glasses, take them off. I almost never do this because bats see better than I do with or without their radar. But the sweat would have made them slide off and there was the added benefit of not seeing more than a blur of myself or others in our awkwardness. (I know. I need to love myself as I am. That is one of the many yoga-type things I still work on.)
Be sure to hydrate. Drink water before and bring a full large water bottle. Fill up and drink afterwards.
Wear your warm weather clothes. Tank tops and short pants are NEEDED.
Remember your mat and towel. You will want the towel about 15 minutes in.
Don't worry on the awkwardness at the beginning. Pretty soon you'll all be sweating and it won't matter much.
I think it would not hurt to have some cold yoga experience first. I knew all the poses she ran us through and found this comforting in the intensity.
Stay in or out. They advise you not to leave midway and then return into the class. If you need to leave, the instructor said, you can absolutely do that. But don't return until another day. Apparently this is extra hard on your system.
Be safe and know your limits. It wouldn't hurt to check with your doctor like they always tell us that we should before trying new exercise programs.
I'm not sure what I'll do next for my adventure. Maybe goat yoga? I'm open to ideas if you have any.
Even with the cons, I will DEFINITELY do hot yoga again. The drop in price was not more than I pay in co-insurance for massage and for me it was every bit as therapeutic.