It has given me a whole new way to claim being a “hottie”
Everybody knows that yoga is good for you. There are countless benefits for engaging in this ancient practice. Its philosophy is rooted in a physical culture of health and well-being that is still emphasized today and explains why over 15 million people in the world now practice it…including me! However, I am not one to just jump on the bandwagon, or follow the “when in Rome” motto. I want it to be more than just healthy, so I went for (and got) something hardcore, heuristic, and HOT! For me, hardcore means intensely loyal. That is, as soon as my first trial yoga class finished, I signed up for a yearly membership with the LAVA studio, and have gone every single day for nearly 90 days!As for the heuristic quality, each day, each class, and each pose has led me to learn, discover, understand and attempt MORE…and MORE is what I crave! I don’t know anything about the ‘cool’ yoga classes, but I do know why my yoga classes are HOT! It’s because my kind of yoga is bold, intense, charged with passion, a fairly new concept, super popular, and most appropriately, conducted in a room of high heat (approx. 40C/104F) and humidity (40-50%). The other, more burning reasons that I find hot yoga so cool include the following benefits and beauty of this practice.
Sweet SweatIt used to be that it took a lot for me to work up a sweat, but not anymore. Within minutes of entering the yoga studio, my skin is beaded up and begins to drip with a panacea of perspiration. It’s the elixir that opens my pores, eases my aches, and keeps my body temperature steady. Thanks to this daily drenching, my skin is clearer and has more color, and my hair is softer and grows faster. Toxins and tightness are drained from my body, and the best part of being in this steady sweaty state, day after day, is that it has completely extinguished the onset of my hot flashes! It has given me a whole new way to claim being a “hottie”.
Courage, Strength & Flow My entrance into the yoga world was through one of those online challenges where you strike a pose, take a picture and post it online. As I wrote in that earlier post, I am always Up For A Challenge, because it reconnects me with my oft forgotten friends: Courage, Strength and Flow. Thankfully, when I took on this challenge, all three of them came to see me through. Courage was the first to appear on the scene. She, quite literally, opened the door for me, and sat me down in the front row of the mirrored room where 25 Japanese women sat staring at us in silence. When the lights went off for the initial meditation, I panicked for a minute, until I realized Courage was sitting right there on my mat. When I opened my eyes after the ending meditation, I found that Courage had stayed the course, and that with her, I could turn fear on its ear and kick its rear! However, it would take Strength to help me strike that warrior attitude, and certainly the warrior pose.It took Strength a little while to show up, but when she did, I immediately felt her powerful presence. As I continue working with Strength, I can see that I’m gaining on her. That’s what I love about Strength — she always builds me up, and lets me flex my muscle! But yoga is not just about Courage and Strength. To help me get into the spirit of things, my most flexible friend, Flow, moved in. Her high-spirited nature continually urges me to become that hot, powerful, fluid force that the yoga studio is named for — LAVA! Flow has also helped me take the twists and turns, and the ups and downs more calmly and smoothly. She has planted some seeds of balance and grace that I can see are beginning to blossom now. I feel certain they will continue to grow, as long as I go with Flow!
Stillness & Breath Anyone who knows me, knows that I don’t sit still very well. I’m not good at doing nothing, and I am all about action! The word most used to describe me is: energy. So you can imagine how surprised I was to learn that every one of my hot yoga classes begins and ends with meditation, and somewhere in the series of asanas there is always a bout of breathing ‘exercises’.
While this new practice hasn’t changed my energetic nature, it has changed the way I start and finish my every day.
For the first few classes, I kept my eyes open looking at the others in the mirror while they drifted into the depths of stillness. As I listened to the instructor’s soft-spoken jibberish against a backdrop of Buddhist bells ringing through the speakers, my mind was racing. Why are the lights off if everyone’s eyes are closed? I wonder what she’s saying. Should we have sushi for dinner tonight? I love her yoga outfit! How can I get my knees to lay on the floor like that? I should call the hair salon for an appointment. I need to buy some wine, etc…, etc…
However, one day I arrived at the studio quite frazzled and frantic that I might miss the class. I had been detained and drained by the day’s events, so I literally ran to get there and was breathing heavy as I entered the room.I took my usual place and the lotus position, closed my eyes and began to relax and absorb everything around me — the quietude, the stillness, the peace, the warmth and even the prayer (although I still don’t know what it says). By the time we were only halfway through the session, I found myself looking forward to finishing, so that I could have a few more minutes of that releasing of my butterfly mind.When we did stop, we all laid in the ‘corpse pose’, but I was far from dead. That day, I laid there breathing easy with nothing running through my mind, only hot tears running down my face, as my heart was pouring out prayers of gratitude. While this new practice hasn’t changed my energetic nature, it has changed the way I start and finish my every day. I wake up slowly, stretch and breathe fully, and then sit quietly to write out my meditations and prayers. At bedtime, I simulate the yoga class ending, as I lay flat on my back and let my silent prayers billow into the Universe…usually, sans tears.
Mood Swings Aside from that peaceful easy feeling that comes from the spiritual practice in yoga, I have recognized a distinct attitude adjustment that occurs for me because of yoga. For example, one day in the height of hormone hell, I might be ready to bitch slap the first person who pushes by me in order to get the corner locker, or who swoops in and takes my favorite mat in the studio. On those days, I start off as Ms. America, the Ugly, but by the time the class has finished, I’m all hugs and high fives, and throwing around “Arigato” and “Otsukaresam” (“good job”) like I own the place!
Becoming Japanese While traditional yoga are the physical, mental and spiritual practices that aim to balance and transform an individual, my personal yoga experience has the added practice of language learning, as every class, and all written and online information is in Japanese!As a newcomer to Japan, and an English language teacher, I now know first hand how students can learn from the TPR approach (Total Physical Response)! In this way, I have not only learned to mimic the moves, to keep time with the group, and to perfect my form, but also learned to recognize the vocabulary pertinent to the activities in class, to read the monthly timetable, and to speak enough to ask for assistance and to become friends with these HOT instructors, as well as a few of my fellow LAVA lovers!
I think I’ve met my ‘match’, as hot yoga has ignited a fire in my soul that I hope will burn brighter and brighter until I go out in a blaze of glory!