Thursday, January 7, 2010

Knowing Myself... a Process

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.

Many Blessings!

article copyright of EcoYogini at


  1. I used to get the same feeling when I rock climbed on an indoor wall, totally out of place. I love Nova Scotia, great place and you are very lucky :) Happy yoga-ing :)

  2. I have had the same feeling in a lot of yoga studios. Am I yogic enough?! I laughed when I read that cause I have felt the same way so many times. But, as a good friend of mine would say, "eff 'em if they can't take a joke"!

    I think home practice is a beautiful and wonderful thing, but I also think that we need to attend an actual class every once in a while. It gives us something new to work on, a new perspective, a new challenge. It gives us the opportunity to learn something new.

    I wish I lived somewhere with more choice in yoga studios and styles. Makes me jealous to read this post cause I want to try it!


  3. Considering that I tend to be soaked and dripping sweat all over the place in yoga classes where everybody else appears to be perfectly drive, I suspect a hot yoga class would leave me passed out in a puddle....glad it worked out for you, though.

    As for the not feeling cool or yogic enough thing, to me the "namaste" attitude is really important--indicating as it does that honoring anybody and everybody else in the room is an essential part of the that the more truly yogic people are, the more they'll welcome you...and, if they're yoga poseurs, passing judgment on anybody not wearing the right kind of yoga pants or not being self-consciously spiritual enough, then perhaps they might learn something from you....

  4. Wow, Lhasa has a beautiful voice! Thanks for sharing :)

    Y'know, I have many of the same issues with heated yoga, and that's after having done both Bikram and heated Vinyasa (not all Vinyasa has to be heated!).

    Definitely, I dislike the energy consumption in the name of a yoga class. It seems so outrageous and unnecessary.

    Also, I agree that external heat as an aide to warm up your muscles isn't so good. For sure there is a danger to overstretch and do soft tissue damage of some kind.

    I can't say I've ever felt out of place in a yoga studio. Maybe we don't have that same level of yoga snobbery in Australia that I hear so much about from other bloggers? Or maybe I haven't been to the studios yet where it exists? Hehe, or perhaps I'm just oblivious. I simply try my best to focus on my practice and not on what other people are doing/wearing. Dunno, that seems to work for me. :)

  5. I strongly share your concerns about hot yoga much potential for damage...and missed opportunities to slowly get to know what our bodies can really do...where our breath and spirit want to settle...opening to the more subtle inner qualities of yoga...compassion being a biggie...over stretching not so compassionate.

    I'm relieved to know you will be practicing with friends at home...totally present, without the distractions of heat, what strangers are wearing and conversations that don't necessarily support your practice.

    Wow that was super judgmental of me. Sorry.

    Enjoy sharing yoga with your friends tonight;)

  6. Oh my, hot yoga sounds terrifying. Especially since my home practice has largely been restorative this past week, as I try to focus on de-stressing while my body enters serious hibernation mode. I am sure I'll get around to trying it some day, so thanks for the thoughts!

    PS I joined yogaglo last night, all thanks to you and your recommendation!

  7. I'm not a fan of the heated studios, myself. I find the heat and humidity to be distracting and dangerous.
    Like YogaforCynics, I'm the one drowning in my own sweat during a class where everyone else appears to be perfectly and miraculously dry. I like to think the sweatiness increases my powers of yogic perception, but really it just stings my eyes.

  8. I happened to run into your blog by accident, but I wanted to let you know I am a Bikram Instructor and we use normal breathing, in and out through the nose in class udji breathing is designed to increase the internal body temp, as the room is 105 you do not need to use the breath to increase your temp. I hope some day you will try Bikram again and see if breathing normally makes the class more enjoyable. Thanks for taking the time to read this.
    Life is short so remember, first, take care of yourself
    Bikram Yoga Merrimack valley

  9. Hi Teri,
    thanks for stopping by! Actually, I should probably clarify that I had trouble breathing... at all. It was like I couldn't ever catch my breath, and each normal inhalation felt shallow and stifled. Like I was breathing in "heat" and not air. It wasn't pleasant. Perhaps it's something that occurs with time?

    What I truly believe is that Bikram and other styles of "hot" yoga are not good-healthy choices for everyone... but works well for some who know their bodies well. :)

  10. Yay for you knowing your body so well! I'm working on that--I'm fairly flexible, so sometimes I have to work to activate my muscles in a pose and remember that just because I'm there physically doesn't mean I'm there mentally. And since I have scoliosis, paying attention to my back is key.

    One of the best parts about doing yoga at the gym is that I experience very little yoga-angst. We're all at the same gym with people grunting on machines 10 feet away, so how pretentious can we really be? ;) Plus, my fave instructor is very big on not stressing what a pose looks like, but how it feels, and not comparing ourselves to each other. That kind of radical acceptance could go a long way in the larger yoga community.

  11. eco, niche and eclectic are the words that draw my attention; after decades away from formal Yoga classes, i finally managed to get myself in an Iyengar Yoga class in Ottawa, again my months of absence continues to call for a return, but the outside mercury of -15C windchills, keep me at home.

    Alas, glad to have surfed upon you Blog "EcoYogini" , i will be back ;-)

  12. thanks for the note in there about eco-conscious studios in re: to heating and energy usage. i hadn't thought of that. but now i think i'll always be conscious of it for studios that get my support, financial and otherwise.

  13. I have also had the same feeling about not being yogic enough! It's wonderful to hear that someone like you who I admire because of your commitment to yoga as a way of life still has those feelings! Anyway, I just wanted to say that I love, love, live baptiste style yoga when it is NOT heated and I have found some great podcasts to do at home that are very inspiring. Try Phil Urso (my favorite) or Dave Farmar or

    I love reading your blog; you echo so much of what I feel and struggle with. You inspire me! Good luck in the New Year!

  14. I hear ya!
    I practice yoga at home with my books and my Rodney Yee dvd.

    Yay for you for going!!!!!!!!

  15. So I finally took the time to read thru some of your postings and I love it. Will definitely have to add you to my list! Thanks for the comments as of late--love that your holiday went well. I'll have to try to read some of the back posts to get more of your "story" :) Good luck tomorrow as well!!! :-) Enjoy your Sunday :-)


I love hearing from you! So I don't miss a comment, I like "pre-approving" them :)
I ask only that we stay respectful.
Also, please note that this is a personal blog and not a space for advertising your company. I reserve the right to delete "advertising" comments.

**NB: The ANONYMOUS option is the BEST way to comment if you don't have a blogger or established google/gmail account.