Now it hasn’t always been this way, but in the past two years, I find practicing yoga frustratingly slow. Its not as bad while I’m away and I’m nice and relaxed (in India I did yoga daily and when I was in Byron Bay, Australia I even participated in medication circles) but in the city, I end up thinking about tasks I’ve neglected at work and this week’s meal planning while in lotus position. And I usually walk out of class annoyed.
But I feel like a hypocrite because I recommend a good Hatha class to my clients for stress management, but ignore the fact that I, myself, am so ungrounded that I can’t hold enough focus to so do myself. But when my Ayurvedic doctor told me that my muscle quality was low and that the only exercise he recommends is yoga — I had to re-evaluate how I felt in downward dog.
You see, according to Ayurveda, most of us do not have the constitutions for intense cardio or heavy weight lifting. Those of us with high Vata (air) get easily depleted, while those of us with high Pitta (fire) promote internal inflammation with too much stimulation. And slower paced work outs like weights without ample cardio are actually said to push toxins into our muscles and disrupt our muscle metabolism. I recently saw a lecture in which the Ayurvedic doctor speaking plainly said that weights-only fitness regimes were just stupid (atypical lingo for an Ayurvedic doctor, so it had me thinking).
So when a new hot yoga studio opened up less than two blocks away from me, I decided it was an omen.
Now, I had been feeling so cold this winter and there was much heaviness and swelling in my body – what we refer to in Eastern medicine as “dampness” — so the idea of heat actually appealed to me as I figured that it would help enkindle my body to decrease this imbalance.
I enrolled in an unlimited introductory week for only $20 at I AM YOGA and spent that first week in high planks and chaturangas (which seem to me to just be push ups) in a 40 degree room with lovely hydrating humidifiers.
After my first class I was hooked – my body immediately felt lighter and as if I had better circulation – almost like a tingling sensation. My edema had gone down and I felt deflated but activated. And it was grounding to feel this way without having to exert myself to the point of panting. I really liked how you felt like your body was still engaged even when you are in child’s pose as your blood is pumping and your pores are sweating. I also loved that you are much more flexible as your muscles are moist and warm. And with this comes a sense of accomplishment as you can get into the positions and release much deeper than usual. As a Pitta I am highly competitive and detest most things I do not excel at.
I will mention that after that first class I broke out in a rash all over my body. But oddly enough since that initial reaction, I have had no problems since. Perhaps is was simply purging (?) because now I even apply a heating concoction of sesame oil and mustard seed oil to the back of my thighs and tummy (as this oil is good for cellulite and the heat will help push it deeper into my tissues) without any inflammation.
And not only does my body feel better, but my new warming work out also has helped emotionally. As Linda the founder of the studio said “Yoga helps bring you back to the present. We spend so much time in the past or the future that we often find it difficult to just be”. (That’s me! I wanted to exclaim) “…But how can you think of anything but being in your body when your body is being challenged and your thighs are killing you? Yoga is meant to strengthen that connection between body and mind”. She also said that the more we practice being in a peaceful place, the easier it will be to call upon it during stressful situations and therefore we would be less reactive. I really appreciate her very spiritual yet straight forward approach.
And I have actually found it very helpful in how I deal with stress. Any of our staff can vouch that I am very particular and that can make me very high-strung.
But last week we ran out of sample containers, and unlike my usual agitation, I simply saw it as it was – an oversight that we need to prevent from happening in the future. They were ordered before the problem was even presented to me, and we would simply have to deal with this for the next week. There wasn’t a lot that my moaning and stomping would do about it. I know you may think this is common sense, but eventhough I know better, it is easy for me to become very attached to these mishaps.
I think that now I can start to re-incorporate regular yoga again, and doshically will have to as heat in the summer climate will not be conducive for my body type (I will probably alternate with Kula Yoga in the Annex for this as they do both hot and not hot yoga).
But with a newly grounded perspective and a re-introduction to stretching out my body, hot yoga has not only helped my regain clarity of thought, but probably kept the worry wrinkles on my forehead at bay. A true life saver.