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! :)