Heated Yoga classes really are a thing. For instance, Forrest Yoga classes run at 29oC, and have done for a long time. Yogafurie classes (in Bristol) run at between 30oC and 42oC, depending on which of our seven class styles is running. In this blog, we’ll talk about why heat works for Yoga, and what this means for today’s Yoga teachers.
Yoga is Breath…
…or so many people would say. As it happens, good breathing is the first thing a student learns in well-led Hot Yoga classes. If students do not breathe well, then they will struggle to relax into practise. A fit person could go through years of room-temperature Yoga practise, and never really learn to breathe – their strength and fitness carries them. But fitness does not make any difference in elevated temperatures: the body-mind is under a distinct load, and the only way to relax into that load is to breathe well. In this sense, each Hot Yoga class is an opportunity to help students understand and realise the power of their own breath to influence their mood, their energy and their day. At Yogafurie, we understand and want to make the most of the opportunity in our Bristol classes.
Here to stay
It’s unfortunate that many schools of Yoga have been hit by scandal in recent years. Sadly, many of the most senior figures have been discredited. However, despite the problems, Hot Yoga is here to stay. It delivers unique results – we’ve spoken about breath already. There are other, measurable benefits too. For instance, due to a property called thixotropy, Hot Yoga can help our bodies to better manage the waste products that our cells produce.
As a teacher, I love concluding a class knowing that I really reached the students. Some kind of magic happened, and there’s a palpable feeling in the air – the things that were said, the things they did, it all landed. They feel great, and so do I. It doesn’t happen every time! So, it’s special when it does.
Yoga teachers reading this will know that same, special feeling. In a way, it’s a call to action: to go outside our teaching comfort zones and reach new groups with different needs and wants. I say that because it’s wonderful to work with the people and methods we already connect with. It’s great then to reach out and extend that connection to new methods and groups whenever we can.
Many Hatha and Vinyasa teachers will never have taught in heat. Often, they have very valid reasons – usually, an unpleasant experience in a studio that perhaps didn’t embody the values of Yoga. Well, it doesn’t have to be like that – all studios are not the same. There are studios that live the tradition with authenticity and use heat. And they have buzzing communities of engaged students, who all share the teacher’s love of Yoga.
Quantum physics says that matter – at the smallest level – isn’t solid. It’s clouds of energy, and it’s impossible to know for sure what it’s doing unless you measure it. When you measure it, all the possibilities it could hold (the wave function) collapse into one outcome.
I think that rings true of any situation. I can’t see the future, but I’ll give it all my best shot and see how things turn out.
This New Scientist article goes on to say, “How did our universe come to be, out of a seemingly vast number of equally likely possibilities allowed by the laws of physics?”
You love Yoga and Hot Yoga, and you’ve been practicing consistently for a while. You love the way it makes you feel, and you really notice when you can’t go for any reason. Life just seems simpler and more manageable when you practice regularly, even though nothing’s really changed. Sure, there are times when you feel like just staying at home and vegging out. But you get up and get to class anyway, because you know that you’ll be glad you did.
Does any of this ring true for you? Yep, you’ve got the Hot Yoga bug alright!
If this is you, then you’ve already come a long way. If you could see the person you were, if you could see your posture shapes the first time you went to class, then you’d be amazed at how much you’ve changed since then. It might feel like that’s all thanks to the magic of Yoga and Hot Yoga. And it is, but there’s more: it’s your hard work that’s moved you forward, and the good guidance of the studio and teachers you’ve stuck with.
We’ve all had wobbles on the yoga mat; the teacher instructs us to lift through the arches of the feet or keep our gaze steady and find our balance, and what happens? We wobble, we sometimes come out of the pose, occasionally we fall over. Thankfully our bodies are forgiving. Hopefully we are forgiving of ourselves; we might giggle, steady our breath and come back into the pose with renewed insight into how we find our balance.
What happens when we wobble in life? What happens when something happens in our lives sends us off-balance? Are we as forgiving of ourselves? And what happens when our wobbles, whether big or small, happen when you’re embarking on a transformational journey like yoga teacher training?
The name comes from the Sanskrit words chatur meaning “four”, anga meaning “limb”, danda meaning “staff” (refers to the spine, the central “staff” or support of the body), and asana meaning “posture” or “seat”. Here is a picture showing utthitha (extended) chatturanga dandasana and chatturanga dandasana:
As you can see, four limbs really are supporting the staff of the spine! In one of the pictures, you can see that we have body-painted a teacher so that we can demonstrate more about the anatomical structure of the pose. You can learn more too – see below for details.
How can the study of anatomy deepen your Yoga and Hot Yoga practice? Well for one thing it can provide scientific guidelines to help you keep your body safe. For example, did you know that the discs that stack between and cushion your vertebrae get rehydrated whilst you sleep, so your spine is literally longer after a nights sleep. Pretty cool fact but how can this apply to a Yoga and Hot Yoga practice. Well, because your spine is longer in the morning this means all the ligaments and tendons that hold the spine together are tighter in the morning than in the evening. And tight ligaments feel stiff and are easier to pull. So, if you are practicing in the morning you should expect the body to feel stiffer in backbends than later in the day, and perhaps you might warm the back up more or go lighter in backbending postures then you would in an evening practice.
Right now is the time when teacher trainees earn our respect the most, at the half-way point of the program. They’ve already learned a great deal: they can plan and hold safe classes, and they can discuss Yoga and anatomy in ways they never anticipated. But most of all they understand how little we all really know, and that’s a sobering realisation.
Training is also difficult because our relationship to practice changes. Yoga was always there for us in the past: the one refuge from all that modern-day madness was the little temple of the Yoga mat. But now in Yoga and Hot Yoga classes, we find ourselves analysing the sequence, checking our alignment – sometimes with self-criticism – and assessing how the teacher is delivering the practice. Naturally, people ask: “Will I ever get MY Yoga back again?”
The short answer is: Yes, you will, and it’ll happen with a new richness of knowledge and depth of understanding about what you’re doing. There’ll be a feeling of new magic in your practice once you integrate your course experiences. But first, something equally magical but very different has to happen. It’s a kind of re-birth, and like all beautiful birth events, it comes with its measure of difficulty.
When Siân decided to take the Yoga & Hot Yoga Teacher Training course at Yogafurie, she had never taught and wasn’t sure if she would ever be able to. But less than two months after finishing the course last October she opened her own studio near her home in Cornwall, where she now teaches four lessons a week.
The ten-month course has given her a whole new career, and brought hot yoga to her area of Cornwall. ‘I absolutely love teaching so much,’ she says. ‘I couldn’t have predicted it as it seemed very daunting, and I have never taught before. I just knew I wanted to find out more and see where it would lead me.’
Each morning, my three-year-old son and I squeeze some citrus fruits for our morning drinks. He has an orange and usually a couple of satsumas as well. I have a lemon and a lime. I cut them in half and we smell the different fruits. For the orange, he says “Yum!”. For the lemon and lime, he says “Yuk!”. Then we put them down and look at the segmented patterns in each, how they all have lots of pockets of juice built around the pith inside. I like doing this, because it shows him that things can be the same, but different. I think that’s a great way for little ones to realise that people can also be treated with the same respect, even though they’re different.
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