It all started on the Ides of March. I had been back from Ireland for 4 whole days, and it was time to start doing something about those potato handles that had firmly implanted themselves on my hips. I remembered going to Moksha hot yoga years ago, and really loved the feeling I got when the 90-minute class was over – so light, calm and detoxified after having sweat my eyeballs out. I also remembered what I thought at the time was a group of completely insane individuals who had signed up to do a 30-day challenge, which consisted of going to a hot yoga class every single day for 30 days in a row. Oddly enough, this seemed like the perfect way to start ridding myself of all the pints I’d ingested over the past 2 years, in the name of Irish camaraderie. It was on!
The easiest way to describe a hot yoga class to the un-initiated is this: picture yourself in a room heated to around 40 degrees C (that’s just over 100 F), holding deep stretches and balancing postures while your body literally puddles around you, like the wicked witch in front of a fire hose. I mean, parts of you that you didn’t even realize could sweat all of a sudden turn into faucets – we’re talking your ears, scalp, fingernails… There is not one inch anywhere on your body that isn’t absolutely dripping after thirty minutes. It’s strangely not as gross as it sounds. The room has a cork floor, which keeps it all fairly hygienic, it miraculously doesn’t smell, and everyone brings a bath towel that they lay on top of their mat that seems like it was dunked in the ocean by the end of the class, plus a hand towel to wipe the salt from your eyes when you can no longer bear to keep them open.
Classes vary in length from the traditional 90-minute marathon, to 75 minutes, to the ‘quickie’ one hour variety. One of the first things I noticed partway into week one was that there were good days and then there were other days, which coincidentally seemed to follow any evening that involved partaking in anything more than a sip of wine. I quickly developed an insatiable thirst, and started drinking everything in sight in a quest to maintain some form of hydration. I also noticed that sometimes my balance was fairly decent, and other times, I felt spastic, like an earthquake. I became aware of how imbalanced I was (not just mentally), and tried to embrace even the postures I despised, like Dancer’s pose, where I wobbled around like a figure skater on crack, teetering all over my mat.
But it didn’t matter, because there were days when I was sure that this was how I looked:
The instructors were always supportive and encouraging, making tiny adjustments to my form whenever my mind wandered off somewhere to either drink a fountain dry, or to lie on a glacier. Yes, there were moments of dizziness when I moved too quickly or tried to do too much, but those were swiftly rectified by adopting child or corpse pose for a brief rest. Even after 30 days in a row, I don’t think I made it through a single class where I was able to do absolutely everything. And that’s ok – it is precisely this kind of physical and mental challenge that keeps you coming back for more. As well, while the basic moves and sequence are the same, every class is a touch different, as each instructor likes to bring their own little (at times seemingly sadistic) twist, which keeps it interesting and shiny for us magpies in the crowd.
One of the unexpected benefits of the challenge was that it helped me to reacclimatize to the heat. After two years of perma-drizzle and temperatures hovering between 5 and 15 C, room temperature in North America suddenly seemed sweltering. By contrast, the Irish do not really believe in heating their homes. The second you leave a room, the rad is switched off. I could never figure out if this was because they simply liked to suffer and have something to go on about in the pub, or if they merely saw heating as an unnecessary extravagance that cut into their booze budget. Probably a bit of both. No wonder the pubs were always so tightly packed – people were just huddling to stay warm for chrissake!
Anywho, after class, I often felt so peaceful, yet so exhausted that it was all I could do to put one foot in front of the other. Case in point, I started walking home yesterday, and passed a funny (at least to me) sign in front of a travel shop, that was advertising a cheap trip to Puta Cana, that slut. About two steps later, I thought, I really should reach into my beach bag on my shoulder to grab my cell phone and take a picture of that. And then I realized that the effort to lift my arm and retrace my steps or to even giggle out loud required more energy than I could muster. Thank goodness the walk home was downhill, because without the help of Mr. Gravity, there were several days that I don’t think I would have made it.
So, was it all worth it? Well, I managed to drop a grand total of about 3 pounds, which is actually pretty remarkable given how much I’ve been socializing and eating out since I’ve been home. And I’ve rediscovered some long lost muscles that I hope will stick around, at least for the summer. It has definitely motivated me to try and stay active and flexible, which is always a good thing. In fact, I’ve even been toying with the idea of extending the 30 day challenge into 40… But then, common sense pipes up, and I know my mind and body deserve a welcome break.
If you are still curious about hot yoga, and Moksha in particular, I encourage you to read the following two links written from two significantly different perspectives, both of which I found very entertaining: Click here for a somewhat stunned take on the experience, and how it measures up to Bikram, and here for an even better account.
And with that, I wish you happy sweating, as I’ve got to get back to my fries and fish tacos, not to mention my delicious, long-lost friend Mr. Wine, today of the Semillon varietal. Ah, the sweet taste of freedom. Namaste!