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I tried yoga for the first time more than 10 years ago. I've been slowly developing my practice ever since, and love the great things that yoga has helped me achieve for my body, soul, and heart.
There was always something about hot yoga that just did not appeal to me. A traditional ashtanga class is challenging enough, and now you want me to do it in a sauna? No, thanks. Not interested.
I had many people tell me they'd tried hot yoga, and most enjoyed it. I also heard reports of feeling nauseous, dizzy, and really, really sore the next day. I live with a condition called Meniere’s Disease, which causes me to have spells of dizziness – so the idea of doing something that might lead directly to the room spinning just did not seem like a good idea.
Finally, a girlfriend talked me into trying a hot yoga class with her. I walked in, laid out my mat, took a cue from the other practitioners, and laid myself down in savasana. I was terrified. I tried to relax, but there was sweat sneaking from my pores and running down my face while I just laid still – how on earth was I going to make it through this class?
Flowing through the asanas I was challenged, to say the least. My breath become ragged at times, no matter how hard I worked to keep my inhales and exhales smooth and even. I felt although we held runner’s lunge for about six hours. Warrior 2 for a whole day. When would this end? Sweat dripped onto my mat. Actually dripped. Growing up, swimming was my sport – I’m not used to the sweat dripping off of me.
I wanted to chug my water, but knew that only small sips should be taken (if any at all) during a hot class. I struggled to continue breathing through my nose – I just wasn’t getting enough air that way. I had to catch my breath through my mouth. Oops.
Finally, we were allowed to arrange ourselves into our final savasana. Wow, I thought to myself as I laid on the mat, truly present in that moment. My body felt great. Sore, but great. I silently thanked my body and mind for making it through – I wasn’t dizzy, nor dehydrated. My body felt at once strong and peaceful – in a deeper way than my usual practice feels.
The second class was easier, and the third after it. As it turns out, I love sweating – as if I can take the negative emotions, literal and spiritual toxins, and anything else that I don’t want, and just let them go. These things drip down onto my mat, and are gone.
I can take my asanas to new places during a hot practice – while taking caution to not go too far, I find space to lunge just a little deeper. I have found my balance in crow for the first time during a hot class, and am empowered by my own strength as I lift into wheel.
I still practice without heat, both at home and in studio, but I found myself drawn to hot yoga more and more. I love the way that both my body and mind feel after a class. While hot classes often tend to be more focused on the physical and sometimes leave me longing for more spiritual elements, I can always make my practice what I want it to be, and find that strong intention-setting while I prepare for a hot class helps me find my way.
If you’re waiting to try hot yoga, do it. Drink lots of water before and after class, and remember to move at your own pace. Listen to your body, and give it what it needs, even if that means stepping out of the room for a moment, or simply relaxing in child’s pose. Your practice is just for you.
Hot yoga may not be for everyone, but you’ll never know if it's for you if you don’t try. And who knows? You may just fall in love with it like I did.