Friday, March 13, 2009

Sweatifying My Practice

I went to my first "Hot yoga" class last Sunday. I have been avoiding any sort of "hot yoga" classes for a variety of reasons and finally decided to see for myself what all the hoopla was about. The studio I went to in Halifax- Moksha, is not a Bikram trained studio but a chain of "hot yoga" studios.

The concept of "hot yoga" was popularized by Bikram Choudhury; a four time champion of the National India Yoga Contest and a marathon runner (I know! Isn't he DREAMY???). Bikram patented his 26 postures and all intructors must complete an intensive two month certification process through his Yoga College of India (in LA). This link will allow you to read an interview with Bikram from the Chicago times which reveals what he thinks of the North American yoga industry among other things.

I was a little nervous that the Moksha's instructors were not as intensely trained and that the classes weren't clearly defined (other than the general run-down of types of poses). In any case, I got my gaggle of stuff ready (not used to bringing a towel!) and opened myself to the experience. 

It was interesting and expensive. The priciest class in the city and entering their studio I could see why- tiled floors, showers, washer/dryer, bathrooms and cork flooring in the studio itself. I felt wayyy out of my league there. The atmosphere was a bit more like a gym; the students didn't really talk to each other while getting ready and the studio itself had a "silence" rule.

I thought I was prepared for the heat- but I so wasn't! I found it hard to breathe, kinda like those summers in the Okanagan where it was sooo hot and dry the air felt heavy and thick. Pranayama is extremely important for me, I LOVE my Ujiai breath, helping my mind to focus on the movements of my body and keeping my core energy active and heated. I quickly discovered that this would be impossible in the heated class, as simply breathing was challenging and my body did NOT want to get any warmer. Throughout the class my focus was on trying not to overstretch and damage my "non-gumby" muscles; something that can happen so easily when your body is warmed up not through postures but from temperature. 

At the end of the class the instructor asked us to stay in savasana (laying in my pools of my sweat that actually just kept growing) and to leave quietly when we felt ready. It was strange not to be able to sit and meditate for a few minutes at the end (sans sweat). Throughout the class I kept glancing at the crazy room heat gages and wondering just how much energy was being used to keep that room heated. I guess they use radiant heating panels that can often cut energy consumptions by up to 40%... but how much is the 60% using compared to a regular studio?

Final conclusions: Although very detoxifying in that I probably sweat out the entire 98% water modecules, I felt more like I was practicing yoga in a heat wave; you know on the pave when you can actually SEE the waves of heat radiating up? In this hazy presence I didn't get the same kind of focus I generally get in my other classes, my mind wasn't thinking of my body or the postures, it was thinking of the heat. I have also pulled my achilles tendon while practicing in the Okanagan summer so I know very well what can happen if you try a pose your body is just not quite ready to attempt. In non-heated classes the postures are set-up so that our bodies are gradually prepared and strengthened, instead of the immediate opening a heated room gives. I know too many physiotherapists who would tisk tisk this "hot yoga" sillyness.

I would say that yoga in the park during summertime, surrouding by trees, birds, the smell of the ocean and the little ants crawling on my mat is more green "hot yoga" than in a tiny, energy sucking heated room. Yoga in the park is my goal for the summer! :)



  1. it's funny. moksha yoga has been the only place i've actually been able to focus on my breath and my postures. everywhere else, my mind wanders. i didn't sweat much during the class i went to with you, compared to how much i sweat during the more packed karma classes.

    moksha teachers do complete a month long intensive training course, plus 10-months correspondence, and then more for "level 2" certification. they are also required to take other styles of yoga to expand their horizons and think in a multidisciplinary manner. the founder of moksha, ted grand, has studied with bikram choudhury as well as a bunch of other big-yoga-names.

    and you were certainly able to sit and meditate or spend those few minutes at the end of the class however you like. they suggest you lay there to let your body cool down before leaving the studio and experiencing such a temperature change.

    as for the silence, the moksha instructors say that it helps everyone focus, and might be the "only quiet someone gets in a day". sometimes it is the only quiet i get - so i understand. and i appreciate it. i certainly don't think you were out of your league. but maybe it just wasn't right for your body and mind. but it's great for mine.

  2. Well, I guess to each his own. I have been doing moksha yoga for a while now, I really loved my first class but maybe it's because I grew up in the caribbean and I LOVE heat, I only moved to Canada 5 years ago. I really need the heat of the moksha yoga class to get me going this winter.

  3. ..and yes they are a bit too expensive that is why I have been begging them to put me on their karma their studio for yoga classes; not a bad trade off I would think.

  4. Yes, there are many good things about the studio. I guess, since I am so NOT stretchy at all, overstretching is SUCH a possibility for me that I have to be really careful- and hot yoga is just too dangerous for me. I can totally see how it would work really well for other people. I actually did like the quiet aspect of the studio in a sense, but in another it felt a little different, and my focus was difficult to attain due to the heat- but like Lalapoo said- i am just not geared for the heat.
    There are so many different styles of yoga, which is nice for the different body types/personalities.

    also- environmentally that studio just didn't make sense to me. Also- that's great that the instructors gets training- which all instructors must, and I am glad to support a type other than Bikram (if you read the article... lol).

    Thanks so much for your input ladies! It's so interesting to see such varied yogic experiences- another important reason to shop around and truly listen to your own "inner" voice before deciding which "yoga" is right for you! :)

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  6. I was curious about this studio. I walked by it the other day when I was in the city. A really trendy looking girl was on her way out (in Lululemon of course), but I couldn't see in because the window was covered with steam and water beads! Someone in Halifax told me that yoga in the city has increased in popularity ever sense Lululemon came to town. I wonder how true that is. There does seem to be a lot more studios and options since I lived there.

  7. I love how mr. b totally is posing like jesus. amazing!

  8. lol- I totally didn't think of that! NICE.

  9. Hi there! Interesting post. I'm with you that hot yoga isn't right for some people (personally I love it) but I just wanted to clarify one point: Moksha trains all of their instructors to meet the highest level of training (500 hours) as outlined by the Yoga Alliance, including in-depth study of yoga history, philosophy, meditation, pranayama, kriya, functional anatomy, as well as 150 hours of working with senior teachers (who don't have to be Moksha teachers, but who have at least 1000 hours of training and have been teaching for at least 3 years), refining their own teaching and receiving feedback. (I've looked into the training). So, truly, they are some of the most highly-trained teachers in the city (at most other studios you only need the 200 hour training to be able to teach).
    And as for it being expensive, their one month unlimited pass is cheaper than Breathing Space, Therapeutic Approach and the Yoga Loft, but they offer way better facilities!
    Oops, that was two points :)


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