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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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.

Root to Rise

salon

Since I was licensed to do hair in the state of Florida fourteen years ago I have not spent a great deal of time working in salons. I have become pretty good at rinsing someone’s color out in the sink with the hose. I learned the hard way that perms aren’t meant to be done in the time span it takes to cook a frozen pizza and I know for certain one should never ever trim bangs while the hair is wet, unless that person wishes to look like they belong in kindergarten.

Whether I’m working in a salon or not people think I’m a professional or something, so they ask me questions and usually don’t take my advice. Also people tell me how to do my own hair while I’m busy growing it out to look like a wild Himalayan sadhu. I believe that’s my ultimate calling – though I’m not entirely sure what that might entail. Sometimes someone will have a great idea for a hairdo, which I might be persuaded to do for them and it turns out really great. When the person hits on the hairdo of their dreams, I can tell you nine times out of ten it’s the same hairdo they had in the happiest time of their life.

I quit coloring my hair approximately twenty years after I began coloring it. I have grown my hair out so it lands between my shoulder blades. Aside from the bangs I have the exact same hairdo I had in kindergarten.

Yesterday my mom was watching a special on the Nancy Kerrigan and Tanya Harding case from twenty years ago. They interviewed Connie Chung who interviewed Tanya Harding twenty years ago and, I am not kidding, Connie Chung’s hair never changed. Google Farrah Fawcett or Dolly Pardon – an icon with a long history in photographs for comparison – and you’ll find there ain’t too much variance. It’s kind of comforting. If Dolly is still wearing those wigs then maybe we’re all gonna be okay.

We all have a way we see ourselves. I want to see myself as a wild Himalayan sadhu and so aside from righteous dread locks, I’m going with that look. It just so happens wild Himalayan sadhus look suspiciously like precocious kindergartners (though I hated school even then, I really liked that age; six was a good year).

How we see ourselves is a powerful thing, driving life choices, holding us back or propelling us forward. Combine this with the element of history, how we were, how things were, the way things used to be, we get caught up in recapturing moments that are, if anything, mists loitering in time.

No posture is ever the same, balance is never the same day to day, back bends and arm balances fluctuate like the tide- sometimes they’re up and sometimes they’re down. No hairstyle or wallpaper like grandma used to have can bring us back into the moment of happiness we remember for that time. We are here in the present to be happy, not to recreate it.

This week in class as we gather in the spacious Uru Yoga and Beyond let’s bring to mind our reason for practicing that day, in that moment and also bring awareness to the heart of the practice – to remember who we really are without the back pain and heart ache and thoughts and feelings from long ago that still effect us. It’ll take years and years to uncover even a little terrain but it’s such a glorious process, it’s infectious and others will want to participate and grow with us.

The more things change the more they stay the same. The more advanced practice becomes the more we should lean on the basics. The smarter we think we are the more careful we should be with the heart, which is where the essence of Yoga resides. As we grow, let’s return again and again to our roots and see what we uncover.

Monday Uru Yoga and Beyond 4:30 pm and 6 pm

Tuesday and Friday 3:30 pm Chips 24 Hour Fitness in Gulf Breeze

Thursday Uru Yoga and Beyond 4 pm Intro to Yoga Flow and 5:30 pm mixed level