Last night my return to yoga class was an unexpected one. After months of mostly home practice due to budget reasons, I *assumed* that my return to class would be a well-thought and planned experience...
Instead, within 15 minutes I decided to shave my legs, put on my yoga gear and boot it to the new BreathingSpace Halifax studio for some heated, Baron Baptiste Style Power yoga.... and I don't even like heated yoga!
How did this happen? Honestly it was the result of a little "peep" from "bridezilla". Yep, I had a *moment* from a conversation with my mother (love you mom!) where although I don't think I was being unreasonable, it left my emotions spiralling upwards and outwards. I needed to be grounded. I needed something to challenge me. What better than a style I don't really like? I must be a masochist.
Since I'm on vacation this week, I checked the schedule and found that there was a heated class at the Halifax studio's new location... which is kinda a pain to get to as it's across the rotary. I am not a fan of the rotary, mostly because most Haligonian drivers have no idea how to go through...
As I zoomed over to the studio and got stuck at every single traffic light thoughts zipped from being angry about possibly being late for class, to being disappointed in myself for driving, to anger at the Halifax Public Transit system for being so crappy (or I would have taken a bus)... you get the idea.
So I breathed, cranked up my new fav singer Lhasa (which, omg, the day after I discovered her, Jan 1st 2010 she passed away from Breast Cancer) and tried to LET GO. Once I got there I started to get nervous. I will admit that I am a nervous, self-conscious yogini. I'm not sure if others feel this way, but every time I walk into a studio I feel like an impostor. Like I'm not "yogic" or "cool" enough to belong there. Some studios are worse than others, most likely the result of the type of practitioner who goes there. Or my own perceptions.
For some reason I felt out of place at their new studio. I didn't recognize any yogis in the class and didn't feel that sense of open-acceptance. There were three guys there which was fun, two of which were speaking French.
As I looked at the heaters in the room, I felt as if others were checking out clothing-mats-gear and judging. Perhaps that was only me? Ugh the heaters... all that energy being used to heat a room to 92 degrees, the waste! Unlike Bikram or Moksha Yoga, Baron Baptiste style heats the room to about 92ish degrees and is a more "power-flow" yoga. Which is why I can deal- 105 degrees is just so hot I have trouble breathing... at all.
However, unlike Moksha, BreathingSpace doesn't appear to supplement it's energy use with sustainable heating measures. Moksha studios have radiant heating panels that save up to 40% of their energy usage (however, I would argue that heating a room in Canada to 105 degrees 12 hours a day would be a hike of more than 40% energy usage in your average home...). Heated yoga is not an eco-friendly style of yoga (also stated by GreenLife Yoga).
Regardless, I was there and I was practicing "letting go". The practice was ridiculous... and just what I needed. It was difficult, challenging, HOT and I left feeling more focused and grounded.
I was also amazed that I actually kept up with the practice! I was nervous that months of home practice had somehow lessened my asana strength and flexibility. I was extremely careful while stretching to not give in to the temptation of artificial muscle warmth and flexibility. I know that I am not bendy and that typically my muscles need half a practice to appropriately lengthen and warm-up. Despite my caution, today my lower back is dangerously sore from most likely over-stretching in attempts at "wheel".
Using external heat to loosen and lengthen muscles isn't at all the same as using actual muscle and core movement to heat the body internally. I know from experience, that even practicing yoga outside in the heat can result in over-stretching and damaging muscles (pulling your achilles tendon during crescent in 30 degree Celcius weather isn't fun).
Being able to touch my toes during the first Sun Salutation wasn't normal and it was SO tempting to push my body into postures and flexibility never before achieved. Sometimes it's so frustrating to be surrounded by so many "gumbies" when it has taken several years just to be able to reach my toes during paschimottanasana (seated forward bend). For someone new to yoga, new to their body's "true" abilities, heated yoga could result in injuries.
However, heated yoga can be truly beneficial for some people, who know their bodies and limits. I just don't believe that assuming students are aware of how muscles and their bodies react to heat is best practice... Which is why I recommended to friends that they wait to try "hot yoga" until they've practiced yoga in non-heated environments. This winter Heather, after over a year of practicing yoga, will be visiting Moksha to try one of their classes, and I'll go with her :) My friend Jenn loves Moksha yoga, especially during the winter and she is also very aware of the limits of her own body.
Despite all this, that heated room was exactly what I needed.
I was even able to breathe through a French conversation with one of the Quebecois guys there... and stick to French even though he kept switching to English. Once I explained my accent-grammatical-vocabulary pattern (as it wasn't one he had heard before) with several moments of *sigh-pause-breathe-continue in accent-downplayed French*; it was fine. The poor guy even asked "Pratiques-tu en *Acadien* souvent??" I hope our encounter left him with the impression that there were many more Francophones out there than simply France and Quebec.
I won't be going back to another heated class for a while, but I bought a 10-class pass (and am currently feeling the gut punch of buyers remorse) and will be trying some different instructors and styles over the next few months.
For tonight, friends will be coming over to practice together in my tiny apartment with yogaglo! We'll push furniture out of the way, set up our mats and practice together for an hour, without chatting or commenting. Simply friends, being in the present.
article copyright of EcoYogini at ecoyogini.blogspot.com