Hot Yoga: Yes, You Can!

Disclaimer: This entry is written from personal experience and hopefully will help encourage you to start this fantastic and difficult (but rewarding) path! I'm not big on brands or gurus but I encourage you to visit Wikipedia and read all about Bikram Choudhury. He gets credit (and lots of cash) for teaching this method worldwide. Perhaps one approach is to like the yoga but dismiss any gurus since sexual assault and harassment are very serious allegations that we must view with solemnity through their legal resolution. For the moment at least, I will continue to attend an affiliated studio (since there aren't yet any other options) and have the CD and have also completed all 26 postures within the comfort of my own home.

Have you thought about doing yoga but can't decide where to start? I haven't tried all styles but hot is my favorite since keeps me from feeling sore the next day and I've been practicing off-and-on for a few months after a three-year hiatus (but more on this in another entry)!  For now, let's talk about YOU! What do you want yoga to do for you? Are you athletic or do you have to work at it? Even if you can only do ONE posture--just start there! Don't try all 26 if it's not for you--just do ONE and call it a day--but start again the next day and each day for exactly one month! Before you know it, each posture will get easier and then you can truly reach limits you never thought possible! The best advice anyone can give about yoga is to push your body as far as you can without injury--this is how you get better! It may take weeks or years but you CAN do it! 

Although I now prefer the classroom environment, here's all you need to start your own practice at home (it looks like a lot but, really, I'm just typing overkill detail). You can easily set all this up within 5 minutes (or less) once you have all the materials:

* One yoga mat (available at Ross and TJ Maxx if you want to save money). Mine is made by Gaiam and is very cushiony--love it!--and the design is beautiful (it's light green with a dark-green bamboo pattern).

* A body-length towel (and hand towel if you sweat a lot). I have a towel that is (allegedly) made for hot yoga. It's nice because it dries fast and isn't as linty as regular ones. On the minus side, it feels very funky--much like that time in eighth grade when I was taking a nap at home and suddenly started dreaming about hamburgers and took a giant bite out of my acrylic-green blanket. Wow, funny how chomping down on acrylic tastes just like fingernails across a chalkboard! Try it sometime!

* Lots of cool (but not icy) water--the ice tends to shock your insides too much and is rather unpleasant

* A room large enough to stretch your body to its full length in all directions without touching the wall. If you room has carpet that's fine as long as you're not allergic to dust because you're going to be getting very friendly with it! If you have enough space for you and several friends this is excellent, too! Just be aware you'll need much more power to heat large rooms to the appropriate temperature! Also, doing yoga with your lover is the ultimate sensual experience!

* A space small enough to accommodate at least two upright heaters. I strongly recommend buying the electric radiator-style heaters that use oil and heat up to at least 85 degrees each. The official Bikram book recommends a room that's at least 105 degrees but this is not necessary as long as your space is small enough. The 12x12x8 space that I use is plenty for one person.  This heater looks similar to mine and it's made by Honeywell. They are fantastic! It takes about an hour for both to reach the correct temperature but they do an excellent job for only about $60 each (got mine at Wal-Mart but don't shop there much anymore because I don't like their tactics).

* Mirrors all around are very helpful but not mandatory. If you can afford mylar mirrors, these are nice because they're much lighter but don't make the mistake I made of buying a roll of mylar (often used in greenhouses for it's reflective quality) and trying to hang it on the wall--it tears easy, doesn't flatten well and ends up looking like a funhouse! The main point of the mirror is to keep your body in alignment which is very important for any yoga practice. Right now, I'm using the sliding-door mirrors from our bedroom closet and they work OK. Much too expensive to buy studio mirrors and the ballet-studio mylar mirrors are also out of my price range. Oh well! Don't sweat it!

Should I go to an official studio?

I used to think this was a waste of money but it got too difficult (and expensive) to try and heat our home year round; plus, there is odd strength to be found in groups even though everyone is working solo.

Another plus is the instructors are all excellent (with very few exceptions) and I have taken classes in Austin, Grapevine, Houston, and San Antonio. There was one time when I felt the instructor was rushing through the postures and the whole class felt very competitive and stressful. Lately, I have felt the competitiveness within the studio environment has lessened (or, maybe I just don't care as much) and this is great since that's never what it's about. Also, seeing so many perfect and flexible bodies in one room often deflates my ego. Still, I practice and maybe will be there one day with confidence, too!

The best part about the hot yoga is that you don't have to be a contortionist to receive eternal benefit from this method! I am very unflexible and have been my whole life--still can't touch my toes at all, for example, and back bends are very difficult (but getting easier) and I hope to progress a little each day and get better all the time. If there's a posture that's challenging (and they will all be challenging at first) just do what you can and forget the rest! That's truly the only secret to whatever yoga you decide to try! Always remember, no matter your fitness level, you are NOT hopeless!

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