Hot Yoga: My First Class
Four years ago I went to a charity event at Moksha Yoga Studio with my friend Herman, $10 donation for 1 hour of hot yoga. Although I had followed along to a few Youtube videos at home, namely SeanVigueFitness & SaraBethYoga, this was my first formal class. Let me walk you through it.
First off, It was so HOT in the studio! Outside, it was peak winter in Eastern Canada, a solid -10 to -15 Celsius of numbing cold. So even a mild hot room in the mid-high twenties was a 30-40 degree temperature change. My body was suffering, weighed down from the sweltering heat, within minutes I was dripping what felt like buckets of sweat. Had my thumping heart not been pumping blood from all the quick flows and poses, I surely would have fainted, or at least it felt that way.
I barely noticed the people in the class, I was so intensely focused on listening to the verbal instruction and sorting out my own rigid body. I was so awkward, so stiff and so very confused as I looked around the room for examples. My videos had only taught me about half of the postures. That intense demand of focus, I did not expect. Being just 20 years old at the time, in a room with mostly lithely peers, both men and women, meant ample potential distractions. But honestly, there really was no choice but to put 100% effort and concentration into my own practice.
Towards the end of the hour I started to panic, my inner voice was screaming :’Get me Outta Here’, ‘Cold Air, I need cold air!’! But eventually I endured to the final Shavassana and calmed down. Eventually, I stumbled out of the class light headed leaving a puddle on the studio floor.
Two weeks later, I returned for the all important 2nd class. It’s true what they say, the first class is always brutal, overwhelming and uncomfortable. It’s the second class where things start to be fun. In the first class everyone else knew what they are doing, flowing gracefully from one pose to another while I struggled to move my awkward body. Thinking wasn’t easy, partly due to the heat and my loud inner voice telling me to ‘take a rest’ and ‘you deserve a lie down’, but also because the physical strain on the body requires so much attention. For my second class I brought TWO towels! One over my mat to soak up some sweat and a second to dry off after a much needed cold shower.
The second class was all fun! Many of the classes follow a specific set and order of postures so learning the routine is easier than I would have thought. I didn’t panic and focused on deep breathing; one movement, one breath, it made a huge difference! This time I left the studio in a strange relaxed state. It’s hard to describe because it’s not really happiness or glee, but rather feeling free of anxiety and complete calm. This soothing is accentuated once back in the lobby by the soft voices of the other Yogis sipping tea, not wanting to disrupt the quiet and peaceful atmosphere of the studio. Thus began my evolution from casual yoga workout to devoted practitioner and yogi.
Fair warning – Exercise First
I’ll be the first to say that I practice yoga for the exercise, health benefits and because it helps with my mental clarity and stress. This is the western way, often commercial way to practice yoga that has become very popular. I can’t speak for the traditional eastern practice of Yoga behind the Asanas (Postures) & Pranayama (Breathing). There are different branches of traditional teachings, and a rich history that dates back a 1000 years to Ancient India. Many of my fellow Yogis and Yoginis practice as a complement to their meditation and spiritual devotion. While I’m slowly learning bit by bit too, I’m far from knowledgeable on the subject.
High Membership Cost
Unfortunately, Yoga classes, especially Hot Yoga can be really expensive! As much and more than a full gym membership. My university gym pass wasn’t exactly optional, I didn’t have the money to go regularly, but worse, I didn’t know there was an alternative! I kept attending the go by donation classes every second Friday for a while but made little progress in my practice. Learning at home from videos is great, I found it an excellent way to introduce myself to yoga in general and learn specific poses. But… I quickly realized it’s no substitute for a trainer that can give adjustments and feedback in person. That personalized help and encouragement from a room full of yogis pushing themselves and each other, is what transforms yoga, for me, from an exercise to a practice.
Of course, I like the heat too! It makes a huge difference! It’s easier to warm up, stretch and the excessive sweating does wonders for the skin. I get compliments on my skin from random strangers more often than what’s reasonable. Seriously, who compliments a man’s complexion? Plus it’s freezing cold in Canada 6 months a year, so feeling the cozy and warm embrace of the studio for at least for an hour is wonderful.