August 16, 2010 § Leave a comment
I’ve been practicing yoga on and off for the last 9 years. I started with Hatha, evolved into Ashtanga, dabbled with Vinyasa, and settled into a Hatha-Ashtanga hybrid taught at my gym. About a year into my yoga practice, I read an article about Bikram yoga, which is practiced in a heated room (roughly 38°C or 100°F). I couldn’t fathom how that was possible, because I would sweat enough to eradicate the “sticky” from my yoga mat in my regular, non-heated practice. I knew one thing though, I totally wanted in. I clicked around the internet to find my nearest friendly neighbourhood yoga studio that offered classes in an inferno and found out that they came with a price tag that had one too many numbers in front of the decimal point. Wanting in never felt so bad. Needless to say, the 53¢ in my bank account (I was a still a student at this point) didn’t allow me to sweat it to the yogis.
A few months ago, when writing down the list for my Quest, it occurred to me that I had never tried this sweaty brand of yoga, and since I was writing a bucket list of sorts, why not include hot yoga? I wrote it down, then set out to find a good studio in my ‘hood. My search brought me to a type of hot yoga I hadn’t heard of called Moksha. I had no clue what the difference between Bikram and Moksha was. Even my trusty sidekick in useless information Wikipedia didn’t have an entry about it. What is this world coming to when you can’t count on Wikipedia? But I digress. I poked around enough to piece together some information. Bikram is practiced in 90 minute sessions, with a set sequence of 26 asanas (postures). Moksha doesn’t seem to have those rules, though the 3 classes I’ve attended so far have followed a similar sequence to Bikram’s set. So really, I say the difference is moot. The point is that it’s practiced in a heated room.
So how does hot yoga feel? Let’s put it this way. If you’ve ever sweat enough to shrivel the skin of your fingers, you can begin to understand what it’s like. I would say it’s on par with hiking in a hot, humid, muddy, Mexican forest, mostly because that’s the last time I remember sweating enough to soak my clothing. I was nervous prior to entering the studio, because I didn’t think I could stand the heat. I got ready for the class, opened the door to the studio and did a 180. It felt like walking into a wall of heat, complete with a lightly sour smell of sweat floating in the air. I had to remind myself that I had done this before, the only new bit was the heat. Even the sour stench of sweat wasn’t new, as I would pass by a Capoeira class on my way to the first yoga class I attended. I tiptoed back in, unrolled my mat and lied down. My attempts at zen brought me to daydreams of Mexico, the heat, the readily available poolside, and the realization that, though, at the time, I was floating inside the pool, Sombrero in hand (the drink not the hat), there were bartenders working, fully clothed. I imagined myself as one of those workers. The oppressive heat calmed a little. Then we started the practice.
In terms of asanas, moksha wasn’t tough at all. They were basic, asanas I had plenty of experience with. The heat just brought them to a new level of difficulty. That’s basically the toughest part of moksha (and I imagine bikram as well), battling the heat while you balance yourself in a pretzel-like garudasana (eagle pose). I’m not accustomed to having sweat dripping from my elbows. I don’t usually taste my sweat either. But there I was, sweating through the first 5 minutes of the class, in savasana no less (corpse pose). The one thing that kept going through my head was a Dane Cook bit about the sweating, condensating, talking bowl of fruit punch otherwise known as Kool Aid. I was indeed sweating and condensating.
I made it through the 90 minute class intact. When I finally left the room, the “cool” air outside the studio greeted me, and by “cool” I mean a humid 28°C. That’ll give all the Canadians complaining of our balmy summer temps a helping of perspective, eh? Aside from being able to appreciate the humidity waiting to assault my hair, I left feeling entirely too happy. That’s what got me addicted to yoga all those years ago. Something about using so many of your muscles leaves you feeling high on life, and I haven’t been able to let go of it since that winter semester, 9 years ago when I decided to indulge in my yoga curiosity. So I’ll be going back to that heated inferno of a studio at the tail end of our hot and humid summer, seeking that natural high.
Moksha yoga: a Quest success!