Each week, my coach assigns me at least two yoga sessions and I find an excuse for why I can’t fit them into my schedule. The truth is I haven’t found it challenging and I get frustrated with having to spend the time doing yoga when I could be running or biking. Hearing my whines about yoga over the holidays, my brother-in-law suggested I try "hot yoga."
I hate heat. My ideal vacation spot is not some tropical island where I can bake in the sun. Instead, we spend a couple of weeks each summer in Maine where I can wear my sweaters and jeans in the middle of June. However, I was looking for a challenge and doing yoga in the heat definitely fit that criteria.
After doing a little research, I decided against a Bikram class. (Bikram is a trademarked hot yoga class that uses 26 poses in the same sequence for each class.) Instead, I chose a hot yoga class at Prana Studio that is a more "free flowing" form of yoga. I signed on for Hot Vinyasa Flow with Kathleen Schuman, Prana Studio owner and instructor.
I hoped the contact movement of a Vinyasa Flow class would be more challenging than other classes I have taken. In the past, I have made my way through yoga classes mumbling under my breath about what I thought was forced relaxation. I don’t have time to lie still trying to connect with my breathing. I want a class that will reveal my weaknesses and help me to strengthen those areas.
The saying goes, “Be careful what you wish for,” and sometimes that is more true than others. It has been two days since I took Kathleen’s class and I am still feeling the workout. While Kathleen spoke of centering and breathing, she also pushed us to try poses that were far more advanced than anything I had ever tried.
One of the benefits of hot yoga is that heated muscles are more flexible. I definitely found this to be true. It helped that it was 28 degrees outside when I walked into the studio. Instead of cursing the heated room, I was happy to finally be warm again. In addition, I found the research to be true. I really could go deeper into poses than in my weekly Hatha yoga classes. Beyond the heat though, Kathleen has a well-deserved reputation for presenting a powerful yoga class. We were each encouraged to push ourselves and attempt advanced poses.
While I like the idea of the physical benefits offered by yoga, I have always been turned off by the serious, almost religious feel that I have found in yoga in the past. Kathleen’s class was different. There was a lightness to this class. She cracked jokes as we struggled through the balance poses and helped us to feel more comfortable when we fell out of poses that were beyond our individual skill levels. All the while, she reminded all of us that these poses can be done. We can do them if we believe we can and trust in our own bodies.
Combining two elements of physical activity that I care for the least — heat and yoga — I expected my evening to be a strain. I expected to come out looking for something nice to say or not being able to write an article at all. Instead, I came out preaching the benefits of hot yoga. I immediately e-mailed my running friends to see if they want to join me for a class next week.
For the first time, I understand what it is that attracts people to what I have always thought of as "forced relaxation." As I was working my way through the class, I felt the weaknesses in my body that might result in injury if I don’t strengthen them and I found a way to strengthen them at the same time. As an athlete, this was all I needed from the class. However, it isn’t all I walked away with — I walked away with a desire to learn more, to push further and to get back there on a weekly basis. And best of all, for at least one day, I had a happy coach.
Visit the Prana Studio website for more information and a complete list of classes, including beginner workshops. The studio is located on West Street in Annapolis.