Is It Hot In Here?

20140402-104958I think we all know by now that hot yoga is a thing. People like it, they want to practice it and it’s here to stay. Hot yogis walk into the studio with a beach towel, gallon jug of water and a sweat band across their forehead; there is no need to inquire as to which class they are there for.

You wouldn’t expect me to be teaching a hot yoga class on the schedule at Uru, mostly because I haven’t been able to warm up to the practice – yuk yuk. I mean come on, it’s hot in there! Then there’s all that planning. You’ve got to take a change of clothes or drive home naked so you don’t soak your driver’s seat with sweat and all those toxins you’ve excreted.

Also, please hydrate. If you don’t, you’re looking at a headache later in the day or evening. Also, without enough water you’ll experience tiredness that requires a ten to twenty minute nap with the cats to cure. Admittedly, the napping part is pretty nice.

So let’s talk about what happened that lead me to this….moments before teaching my first hot yoga class ever.

hot yoga

That room I’m sitting in, looking at ten people on beach towel covered yoga mats with gallon jugs of water near ’em, is about 98 degrees. If you look closely there’s a bit of sweat already on my brow.

It started when I took a hot class at Uru on a Wednesday. Normally, I am at home on Wednesdays because my Teacher has class in Atlanta and they stream it so long distance students can participate. The end of August, first of September, she is on retreat, so I decided to take a friend’s hot class at Uru2.

They have those infrared heaters at this studio. I didn’t think there’d be a difference between one hot room and another, but I knew there was something going on when I sat on my mat directly beneath one of these ceiling panels and felt a descent of warmth something like a late afternoon stream of sunbeams alighting on my skin.

I am not kidding.

My friend teaching, Dave, really is a great teacher. He says such nice things and makes everyone feel like he’s just so glad they came to class. So when the next Wednesday comes around and my sweet Swami is still on retreat I go back to Dave’s hot yoga class.

I even have my own hot yoga towel now. I don’t know who I am. It’s like I’ve discovered some type of drug that I have to spend all day preparing to take – hydrate hydrate hydrate people!

In class I stretch in two directions balanced on one foot in Warrior 3 and feel the radiant heat evenly distributing warmth across the entire length of my right leg from the sole of my foot to the small of my back. I feel rather like a goddess illuminated by the flames of a distant star.

I email the studio owner when I get home. The email begins…”I hope you’re sitting down, there’s something I need to tell you.” No doubt she thinks I’m about to put in my resignation or to admit to wrenching a student’s arm out of socket in a mis-guided adjustment, neither of which occurred, fortunately.

The email goes on to tell her that I don’t know what I’m doing exactly but I may want to teach one of these hot classes in which the room is heated with infrared plates in the ceiling; a totally different way of heating a room. My previous experiences with hot yoga have been with air heaters in the corners of the room, which effectively heat the room, but with a different quality of heat.

What I have learned is that the infrared heaters warm surfaces in the room as opposed to heating the air. I am better able to breathe in this heated environment, as the space doesn’t become muggy. I have been looking at studies on infrared heat and its effects on pain management, clinical use for treating inflammation and depression as well as its effects on  cell regeneration (as in wound healing) and relaxation. I am deeply intrigued.

I have also been thinking quite a bit about yoga teachers who I spent time with who were greatly opposed to hot yoga and everything it involved, including hot yogis themselves. There were yogis in my life who were very outspoken against hot yoga and I realize, in retrospect, I took in their opinions as my own. I have been known to be outspoken against hot yoga, too. I don’t like the heat, the risk, the puddles of sweat on the floor.

It wan’ts until I was wandering aimlessly on a Wednesday in need of someone to say nice things to me that I ended up in Dave’s hot yoga class, not because it was hot but because it was Dave, and I gave myself an opportunity to really give the experience a chance. The warmth – of both the ceiling panels and the instructor – were catalysts for the change of heart that would put me on the schedule at Uru3 teaching hot yoga there.

I’m excited and a little nervous because it’s all so new. Learning to teach yoga in a completely new environment enhances my ability to instruct in all environments. It’s interesting to be humbled by admitting to a change of heart and mind and it’s wild to see this whole new group of people in my class. People who simply will not take class in a room temperature room. It’s very nice to meet them.

I have learned there is no distinction between hot yogis and temperate yogis. We are all Yogis, just some of us need to have a change of clothes on hand and an extra towel to mop up that puddle on the floor.

Yoga, the umbrella term under which these physical practices lie, gives us limitless opportunities to grow. I have to say this hot yoga experiment has been a really cool opportunity to grow. I hope you join me on the mat, either basking beneath hot panels like a long tailed Komodo dragon or in a nice, cool room with a steaming cup of ginger tea near your mat. Either way is good.

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Timeout

About a week or so ago I visited my middle sister, known as Aunt B, and the kids. For a while when I’d visit I took a box of Dunkin doughnuts and I was the best aunt ever. Because of my affiliation with the health and wellness crowd, I had to have a talk with myself about advocating weekly dozen doughnut night. Now, I take fruit and feel much better about it.

The youngest, Maxwell, requested straw-da-berries and apples. It’s an unfortunate fact of produce that what we want isn’t always sitting awesome on the shelves. Such was the case with straw-da-berries.

Listen, I dug around in the stacks of plastic baskets containing the dark cranberry hues of fruit on the down slope. There were brownish stems capping the pitiful lot, black gorges in their sides as though some went out with great fight, sidearm swinging and gallant. This isn’t fruit one takes to a sweet little guy like Maxwell.

So he gets apple slices and grapes. Because I know I’m showing up without the coveted straw-da-berries I go all in with both white and red grapes.

When I arrive at the house, Maxwell runs across the hardwood floor, throws both arms around both my legs and explains, “I missed you!” Sigh.

I begin unpacking the fruit. He’s dancing around the kitchen because this is what we do. I take him stuff and we dance about it. Eventually my niece, who is thirteen, joins the party though she is somewhat sullen and pretending at turns not to be interested in what we are doing.

I pull out the apple slices. We like those, and want them on a plate to carry around. This pleases me. “Straw-da-berries?” The mighty three year old with the compelling eyes inquires, looking up at me through a sheet of thick black eyelashes.

“They didn’t have any.” I lie. Aunt B and I decided it was better to tell this one fib than explain rotten fruit.

“Straw-da-berries?”

“Grapes!” I smile.

His lower lip starts to slip past his chin, his jaw hanging lower as his gaze rises to his mother.

“Do you need a timeout?” Aunt B says to the disappointed child. I look at her like the alien invasion has officially started; I witness it first hand.

In response to his mother’s inquiry, Maxwell becomes more excited. He dances side to side with an apple in one hand and and inquiring gesture reaching up towards me with the other, “Straw-da-berries?”

“I didn’t get any.” I tell him, my own face growing long and dejected.

He whoofs out something that sounds like, “Ah HA!” but with such a down beat I know tears will follow.

“Do we need a timeout?”

I slice my hand between my sister and myself as I lean against the kitchen counter, “No! Girl, I can’t take that today. Absolutely not. I can’t….”

You know how timeouts usually go. If not, just watch an episode of The Super Nanny and get back with me. The kid is acting out then ends up in time out and before we know it, tears, snot, toys and all hope for a restful evening have been trod upon by the maligned wishes of a toddler.

Call me selfish, but my nerves weren’t up for a timeout this evening. My sister looks at me like I’m the one who has been body snatched, with a You Don’t Know Me snear. She scoops up Maxwell and back we all go to the bedroom. I march behind because I feel responsible, not having brought the much sought after end of summer straw-da-berries.

“Have you ever seen timeout?”

“Yes.” I say, but not at this house. Aunt B runs her house sort of like we grew up, when we just hung out until it was time to do stuff. I don’t recall a high intensity day to day as a kid. So this timeout business is more than I expected.

“Here, let’s take a timeout Buddy.” She says.

My heart rises to my throat. I think about landing in the corner with him, noses at the wall together in solidarity.

My sister pulls the sheets and comforter on her own bed back to reveal icy cool sheets, refreshing and smooth. She places Maxwell carefully on the wrinkle free surface of the bed which I suspect has a pillow top mattress. She places his melon head on a stack of pillows before drawing his special blakie up the length of his long baby body. I see tension draining out of his face as timeout begins.

Aunt B pets his head, draws the covers up to his chest and turns the television on Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, which is recorded and readily available for situations just such as this. She clicks the side lamp off. “Stay here and rest. I’ll be back.”

I find myself suddenly very envious of Maxwell’s timeout and wish someone would do the same for me. She looks at me as we leave the room, “He just needed to get quiet for a few minutes and compose himself. What the hell else do you think time out is for?”

Right.

This evening I was in hot yoga at Uru2. I know, can you believe it? And right in the middle of this hot as the noonday sun class with one of the nicest yoga instructors I know, I remember that timeout I witnessed and see the comparison between yoga and Aunt B’s prescription for whatever ails you.

Yoga practice is like cool sheets and a nice episode of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse in the middle of a stressful situation, like Publix not having a decent straw-da-berry selection. We will be visiting this correlation in my classes, along with variations on savasana (end of class relaxation pose better known as corpse pose) and bringing the benefits of timeout into the world using breath and the meaningful art of hesitation. We’re gonna have a great time.

Dog Day

It takes a lot of yoga to make it through these dog days of summer. And shopping at Pet Smart on a Sunday afternoon takes dog days to a whole new level.

When I walk into Pet Smart I notice lots of dogs sauntering around like they own the place, as dogs do. Pets being welcome in the store is common enough, but I’ve never been in there with so many dogs.

I walk by the cordoned off area marked “training” and hear the rapturous yelps of canines being let out of boot camp.

I walk through the store with an arm load of Science Diet for the queens, er I mean cats. I maneuver away from the largest dogs, with their panting and desperate pleas to be taken to the haven of the car. There is a monstrous animal in the checkout lane over from the one in which I land; he is heaving great sighs in anticipation of home.

In line behind me is a growling brown animal with a face like a rat and a body like a stale loaf of bread. I inch away, making sure the leash is firmly attached to his collar. I notice a dog in miniature, perhaps a quarter pound of fur and optimism, hopping around on the end of its pink leash.

The owner of the brown rat faced dog allows a little girl to pet its head. I hold my breath, but the beast sits down and accepts the head rub. Then, and I do not know what this woman is thinking, the owner of the quarter pounder places the tiniest puppy I have ever seen upon the snout of the rat faced dog, perhaps so they can make friends.

Rat Face bares its teeth and snaps at the little dog, no doubt scraping its scull with the tip of a sharpened canine. I feel my anxiety rising, my heart’s rhythm no doubt mimicking that of the mini-mite that nearly died right there in Pet Smart.

I am so grateful when it’s nearly my turn. The lady regards my cans of cat food, but not before the dog in line ahead of me decides it’s going to police the rat faced dog in line behind me. There is a snarl and growl. I imagine a chunk of my sizable derriere being lost in the fray of these wolves battling in the checkout lane.

There it goes, a barking growl. You know the kind, the equivalent of one dog shouting at the other, “I’ve had about enough of you!”

I launch myself upon the conveyor belt, my knee catching the ledge of the credit card machine holder as I climb upon the counter. I hold myself there with the strength of my yoga arms – thus illustrating the value of all those arm exercises and handstand practices.

The woman behind the counter looks at me in perplexed shock. Her eyes are wide, her mouth is puckered with disdain and curiosity in equal measure. The woman with the spotted pooch in front of me, the dog who had quite enough of Rat Face’s antics, pulls her dog towards her, possibly so it won’t get any of my crazy stuck in its fur.

The man, whose hair matches the color of his rotten brown dog perfectly, looks at me like I showed up to audition for One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest an hour too late, but still may apply as an extra.

I slide down from the conveyor belt, explaining that I didn’t know what those unpredictable beasties planned on doing back there, with my exposed feet in the potential fray of flying fur. The woman behind the register wordlessly begins scanning my Science Diet, though when asked she explained that the weekends boast a higher dog presence than the weekdays because of the trainings Pet Smart hosts.

I cast a glance back at Rat Face, intimating that someone should be held back in the first grade again to revisit some of those “trainings”.

I walk out into the hot hot afternoon. I notice the unmistakable sensation of my heart beating in my throat, like one who has been through a haunted house or narrowly avoided being sideswiped my a Monster Truck.

I slide into my car and lock the door, in case Rat Face gets any ideas. I am so glad my vacation starts tomorrow. My nervous system could use a cooling off period and there’s no better place than an urban ashram. Kashi Atlanta, here I come!

Tomorrow I’m on my way to Atlanta to see that Teacher of mine, and I’m taking several consecutive days off. All my classes early in the week are in good hands and I look forward to seeing everyone next Sunday, when I return to the Uru Yoga and Beyond schedule.

Thank You Mr. Sunshine Man

Last Tuesday, I think it was, I was feeling mighty tense in my own skin. The day started hot and got hotter and when I walked out the front door the humid oppression weighed on my shoulders like a drunk I was trying to help into the house.

I was feeling very put upon. You know the feeling, “Why does my life have to be this way? Now I have to stop and get gas, is anything ever going to go right for me in this life?” You know, the typical interior drama of an overheated constitution. This, my friends, is why I don’t regular the hot yoga scene. No one would want to talk to me ever.

This feeling of put upon got piled up on top of other put upon feelings like having to do stuff, like get out of bed, let the dogs out, put sun block on, brush my teeth. Have you ever had a day when everything felt like a chore?

I pull up to the gas station with sense to be grateful I remembered to get gas before the nightmare of a gas station at the foot of the three-mile bridge, which I have to cross to teach my afternoon yoga class. This is also a busy gas station, but the one near my house has plenty of parking and enough folks working the store.

I shuffle around in my car, pull cash out of my wallet and walk across the steaming pavement in flip-flops made of yoga mats. I wait in line behind someone else who looks equally put upon. I try to stand like I don’t have an attitude about everything, though I suspect I fail pretty miserably.

When it’s my turn, the man behind the counter is tinkering with the register. Surprisingly, I’m not in a hurry to rush to another point of put upon-dom, so I wait patiently. I look at him, curious about how yellow his hair is. Everything about him is in the sunny family, and when he looks at me I feel the full effect of his radiance shining upon my own dark and stormy countenance.

This man smiles and turns and looks like he’s glad to see me. I don’t mean in the “customer service” sense in which those of us relegated to customer service must make the customer feel like they’re glad to be seen.

This guy was different. It’s like he wakes up and is so glad to see himself anew that he just shines that on everyone the rest of the day. When he smiled his chest inflated, too, like he was gearing up to laugh or blow the storm clouds off of me with the generosity of his gaze. Then, perhaps, a rainbow might appear.

“Please put twenty dollars on pump six.” I see his eyes move from my own to the orange shirt with a charging, decorated elephant on the front. He looks from my chest to my left arm, where tiny white skulls circle my wrist; a Christmas present from my Teacher two years ago.

“Okay, twenty on six. Have a nice day!” He turns to tinker further with the register, telling it what to do.

When I walk across the still steaming parking lot, I notice I feel much less put upon. In fact, I feel pretty better (the language of a four-year-old that really suits this mood). I pump the gas and get back in my car, but am frozen there.

I feel this urgency, as though something has happened and also there is a small window of opportunity to act on this moment. I felt like I peered into the boundless possibilities of kindness and seeing one another and what that sort of presence can do, how it can change the air around us. I drive into a parking place right in front of the store, retrieve a business card and  go back inside.

I wait behind someone else. I notice they are put upon, too. “I know buddy,” I want to say, “it sucks. But I’m glad to see you.”

When it’s my turn Mr. Sunshine leans on the counter, asking if he’d gotten the right pump. I lean across the counter, too, it must look like we’re flirting. Alas, no.

I say, “No, the gas is fine, you did a good job. But when I walked in here today you smiled at me like you were glad to see me,” for no apparent reason, I wanted to add, but didn’t want to come off maudlin, “and I really needed that today. Here’s a card for a free yoga class with me, I hope you come.”

Ah, that smile again! And now, he’s on the receiving end of something surprising and nice. Then do you know what this guy says? He says, “I knew you were yoga. I saw your bracelets.”

I knew you were yoga. He says. I’ve never had it put to me like that before, and never have I had someone so clearly state the purpose and point of my practice so succinctly. The “doing” drops away and eventually we just are.

Also, I could add that on this day, feeling put upon as I was by everything, I had forgotten that I was yoga until he put that sun shiny smile on me and made me remember.

This Just In

I am very excited to let ya’ll know that the “It’s Good To Be New” Seven Week Intro to Yoga Series has been added to the schedule on Nine Mile Road as a weekly class. The initial seven weeks were inspired by the chakra system. Moving forward we’ll focus on the importance of breath in practice and proper alignment for yoga postures while balancing strength and flexibility. See you Sundays at 2 pm! (new Nine Mile location)

I’ve been watching classes grow at Uru Yoga and Beyond and it’s incredible to watch such a beautiful process. One of the things I’ve noticed about my Monday class in particular is that folks new to the studio are transitioning out of some of the strictly introductory classes and are dipping their toes in the waters of open level and slow flow classes.

It’s all very exciting. I’ve changed the structure of the Monday class, which is an hour and fifteen minutes, to address the growing population of feisty Yogis! I’m changing the 4:30 pm class to an open level class appropriate for all levels of experience. Here’s the class description from the website:

New and seasoned yogis are welcome in this invigorating hour and fifteen minute yoga session. The class is structured to introduce new students to a faster pace of practice while gently and playfully challenging practitioners of all levels of experience. Students can also expect breath practices and concepts of yoga philosophy to inspire the class.

The 6 pm class on Monday is still Divine Balance and Flow, which I lovingly call my Grab Bag class. You never know what you’re going to get when you arrive; restorative, invigorating arm balances and back bends or maybe a sampling of Kali Natha Yoga when I return from a weekend intensive with Swami Jaya Devi.

I am currently very inspired by Tuesdays and Thursdays at 5:30 pm. In these two classes I want to get back to the true essence of Slow Flow, in which practitioners gain strength and flexibility by concentrating on steady and slow guided yoga postures. The roots of your practice will grow deep with this concentration and balance of effort and ease. The practice takes on a rhythm reflective of the natural and constant flow of breath, reminding us that the most sacred part of the practice is our own presence.

Thursdays at 4 pm I plan on spending the hot summer months slowing the pace way down in the Intro to Flow class. We’re going to invest our energy in letting the breath cue the movements. This slowing allows us to move more gracefully from the inside out into the world, rather than being influenced by outer influences and internalizing them.

At Chip’s Gym in Gulf Breeze, starting in July, you have a chance to win a Jade Yoga Mat (my favorite and the official yoga mat of my personal practice). On July 3rd I’m installing a super fancy coffee can with accompanying slips of paper. When you come to yoga at Chip’s you get to put your name in the coffee can. If you bring a friend, you get to put  your name in twice. That’s right, I said it. Your friend also gets to add their slip of paper to the can. In August we’ll have a drawing. Chip’s yoga is Tuesday at 3 pm and Friday at 3:30 and is free for members.

Be on the look out for a monthly class staring in the fall called Workshop Your Home Practice. It’s a chance to bring your home practice to the studio and ask questions. I’ll guide the opening and warm-up to help everyone settle into their practice, but for about forty-five minutes it’s all about discovery and playfulness on the mat. I’ll just be there serving in an advisory capacity. It’s going to be so much fun!

Please remember that the Light for Nepal fundraiser is this Friday at Uru at 6 pm. All proceeds benefit those effected by the recent earthquake. The silent auction is on right now, please stop by the yoga studio and have a look. And thank you. Really.

~ Namaste.