Thursday, June 14, 2012

Hot Yoga for Dummies

In this new blog, I will will write about trying new things in many areas of my life. One of my newest adventures is yoga - hot yoga, in particular. It started with a LivingSocial coupon (so begin so many of my adventure to a yoga studio about 2.5 miles from my house. (Let me preface this story by saying I have never done yoga before, at all.)

Imagine that this is me...
I decided my first class should be...Yoga for Beginners (Level 1). I went to this one-hour class twice and I enjoyed it - it wasn't hard but trying to see how to get into the poses and not knowing what the heck I was doing was a little interesting. So I decided to try the hot yoga classes next (I have 20 classes total to use). This yoga studio offers 60 minute and 90 minute hot yoga classes throughout the week and on weekends. For my first time, I chose a 90 minute class. I thought if I did the 90 minute class, the 60 minute wouldn't be so bad. Or I would definitely be going to a lot more Beginner Yoga classes if I came close to death (or, I guess, a lot fewer if I did perish.)

I, of course, went online to read the instructions for the class before arriving the recommended 15 minutes early. Bring a towel and some water, they said. I can handle that, I thought. Trying to find something to wear was a different story. Since I am not a fan of Spandex clothing in general (what normal person is?) and didn't really own any, I decided to go with cotton shorts, sports bra, and my cool North Face sweat-wicking workout tee shirt.

So there I am, 15 minutes early, with my water bottle and towel. After leaving my keys and flip-flops in a little cubbie in the bathroom, I venture into the hot yoga room. It feels hot, but not intolerable. I do what everyone else is doing - lay my beach towel (most people had cool yoga-mat size towels, but at least my towel wasn't like Barney or Justin Bieber or something embarrassing - just green stripes) on top of a regular yoga mat and wait (or meditate or stretch or sprinkle your towel with  little watering can of water so your feet don't stick to it as much) for the class to begin.

To be continued...(lunch break is over!)

Ok, I'm back. Laying on my mat waiting for my first hot yoga class to begin. The teacher came in and introduced herself and we got right into the class. The first half or so was standing poses, and everyone was dripping sweat by the second or third one. I found it pretty easy to follow along, since the teacher would describe in detail what you should do to get into the pose (step your right foot forward, bend your knee, keep your spine straight, etc.) and usually pointers on how to not hurt yourself (be sure to breathe, lift your chest up, sit back further, etc.).

My teacher was great in that she would give a beginner, medium, and advanced option for each pose. Even with just doing the beginner and some of the medium poses, I felt like I was actually participating in the class and not just a loser tagging along with the cool kids, like I thought I would be.

I really liked the fact that you can just focus on your own practice (that's what they call, it yoga practice...not yoga perfect lol) and no one is really looking around at other people and judging them, just trying to do their own thing. I found it really relaxing to not have to think about anything else, just focus on figuring out the poses and then attempting them. I think the exertion from the heat helped me to focus more on what I was doing and kept my mind clearer.

The second half or so was seated and floor poses with core work. I think the abs workout was the hardest of all of the moves in the heat. I'm not sure how many poses we did total - maybe 20? It's hard to tell and you definitely are in the moment and not laying there counting the number of poses. (Side note: Bikram yoga is a more regimented version of hot yoga with 26 poses in 90 minutes and the routine is the same every time. My class was not a Bikram class, just "hot yoga", which I guess could be anything done in a hot room, but variety is always nice...)

After the final pose, you lay on your mat in "final suvasana" (on your back with arms at your sides, eyes closed) for as long as you want before leaving (usually 1-2 minutes; it seems much longer, but is very relaxing even though you are soaked in sweat).

I liked that this class focused on the physical aspects of yoga and didn't really get into spiritual stuff or meditation - that's not what I was looking for. I found it challenging but still felt like I had accomplished something in the end.

The best feeling ever is stepping outside after leaving the sweatbox you've just been in for 90 minutes. It's kind of like when you cook yourself too long in a hot tub and then you jump in the pool and it's really cold! Exhilarating!

I'm really glad I tried hot yoga. I was a little worried after reading reviews online (people felt nauseous the whole time, or dizzy, or had to lay on the mat the whole time because you can't leave the room!) but I did not have any negative experiences. I didn't feel nauseous or dizzy, just super sweaty and definitely exerted. I learned to bring a washcloth-sized for quick wipes of your face, so sweat doesn't get in your eyes or mouth (gross, I know). Take sips of water, not gulps. Don't eat a big meal 3-4 hours before class. I think if you follow the directions, you'll be fine!

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