lure of the hot studio

Since I was first introduced to yoga more than six or seven years ago (I think I first stepped into a yoga studio in the end of 2005), I have gradually fallen in love with it. I won’t say that it’s a sport or an activity, it is supposed to be a way of life although I can’t really say that yoga is my lifestyle. I am still too far off from making such a lofty declaration, it takes much more to be a true yogi (or yogini, whichever), to be one who lives and breathe yoga. I would like to aspire towards such a lifestyle but right now it is still just a thought, an ambition, a dream if I would call it, for me.

The very first time I attended a hot yoga class, I vaguely remember feeling immense discomfort. Even though the class was a 60-minute class, I felt constricted in my breathing from the heat and perhaps humidity, which coupled with the breathing in and out of everyone else in the room, it seemed like I could not breathe properly and with all the perspiration dripping off my forehead, I escaped into the cool comfort of air-conditioning perhaps with the class having another 20 minutes left. Dehydration in hot yoga classes is common, for first-timers, and even for seasoned practitioners who are properly rested or hydrated. At least that was what I experienced. After that first encounter, I had slowly conditioned my body to the heat and as time went by, I could easily go through a 60-minute class without feeling uncomfortable. The vast amounts of sweat that I had in that hour was liberating and it made me feel like my body was flushing out all toxins I had inside. It got to the point where I attended hot yoga everyday, and after which I will have a second class at normal temperatures to either cool my body down or to further stretch my already-warmed-up muscles and ligaments.

I don’t know what happened thereafter. Somewhere along the way, work got in the way because I had to travel for an extended period of time, and with that the time I had in Singapore was greatly reduced, and as well time for yoga and hot yoga in particular, dropped drastically. When I finally had time to go back to the studio, I returned to hot yoga and my body seemed to have become more resistant to the heat than when I first started. Halfway through the class, I felt faint and nauseous, and I laid down and forced myself to rest and breathe hard. When I thought I felt better, I continued, but the feelings returned, and after 60 minutes as I walked out of the heated room, I blacked out, just as I collapsed my body onto the bench outside.

That was quite a harrowing experience for me because I had been through black outs when I was younger and I hated that. I was also worried about the dehydration part so the fear deterred me from going back to hot yoga.

I don’t know how long I stayed away. It was only until late last year that I finally mustered up the courage to put myself in the heated room again. I tried to prepare myself well, to try to have enough sleep and rest the night before, keep myself adequately hydrated throughout the day, and most importantly, turn up early for class to choose for myself an optimal spot in the room where I know will not be too hot. The first class went well, and I welcomed that familiar sensation of detoxification. It had been so long, and it felt so amazing. This, in preparation for my maiden Bikram yoga class.

Bikram yoga is another form of hot yoga; in fact, it is supposed to be THE original form of hot yoga, a series of 26 yoga asanas performed twice, in a room heated to about 41 degrees celsius or more, that takes 90 minutes to complete. It is different from the other hot classes I have attended so far, which were 60 minutes in duration, in a room with temperatures that ranged between 35-40 degrees, and where we practise hatha yoga with various asanas, depending on what the instructor prefers. Bikram yoga is structured, because regardless of where it is practised and with whom as the instructor, the practice is always the same. Maybe that is why some people liked it so much that they can practice it twice a day, or even two back-to-back classes. For me, it is a chance to build my endurance and tolerance, and to use it as an opportunity to improve on the 26 asanas, as another step towards deepening my yoga practice.

I can’t just practise Bikram because it is not all inclusive, there are some parts of yoga that are not touched on by the Bikram discipline, so I always need to augment the various practices of yoga in order to have a more holistic yoga practice. Sounds like Greek? Maybe. But it has made me a little lazy where other exercises are concerned. Just last year, I was rather motivated in hitting the gym to run on the treadmill, but I hated running due to my poor stamina and because treadmills are boring. I don’t like running outside even if that offers better scenery and running is just not my thing. As an excuse, I tell myself that running counters my yoga practice, because it makes my hip joints and flexes stiffer than they already are, which is what I have been trying to work on in yoga, to open up these joints and flexes more. It isn’t like I can’t run totally, I will just need to stretch for an even longer period of time if I were to want to continue running, but I am that lazy. So maybe that is something else I need to work on, and spend time on.

For now, let me just acclimatise myself further with the Bikram studio, and work on those asanas. Perfection is still too far off for me.