Some Like Their Yoga Hot

Bikram Yoga - with Bikram Choudhury

Image by tiarescott via Flickr

I have resisted the Bikram yoga thing because it seemed gimmicky and … stupid. Extreme yoga? In front of mirrors and wearing hot pants? It reminded me of that terrible Jamie Lee Curtis flick about aerobics from the ’80’s. Or Jane Fonda meets wet heat.

I am sweaty enough without an external compulsion, and it seemed counter to the idea of building heat using the breath. Yoga is all about the breath. Breathing stokes the internal fire figuratively and literally.

But okay, hot yoga is everywhere. It’s often what first sucks people into the idea of yoga at all, so I tried it.

And it is fucking hot. 37c and 50% humidity and that’s before everyone started moving and breathing.

The Bikram sequence is actually pretty easy. I can completely understand why heat is introduced as the poses themselves are not going to cause anyone but the most unfit person to break a sweat.

I didn’t go to a Bikram studio. I tried Moksha. A variant with a much more challenging set of asanas. One that provokes sweat with only one’s own combustion and then turns up the volume to 11 with external sources.

Moksha is not easy. Beginner’s should be wary and maybe even try a lite version to start.

The allure of yoga in a heated room was not lost on me. As the practice progressed, I could totally envision how awesome a passive yin class could be in that kind of warmth, but an active asana practice is not yin and the heat makes it harder.

And a bit more dangerous.

I sweat easily. Years of running in sweltering Iowa summers primed my muscles well and taught my body how to cool itself.

It didn’t take me long to realize that I wouldn’t have enough water for the practice. And that I needed an extra towel. And Jamie Lee’s hot pants.

“I need to get yoga shorts if I am going to do this regularly, ” I told Rob at supper that evening.

Dee, who is no stranger to yoga duds, was appalled.

“You mean those little short-shorts? On you?” she gasped.


I also realized that I can’t do a 90 minute class in extreme heat. Mostly because it is a lot of forward bending and couple my scary low blood pressure with the up and down of inversion to standing and throw on some heat? It’s a small miracle I didn’t pass out.

When I was a kid, a crowded 8AM Sunday mass in mid-summer would have me seeing spots and listening to a train roaring through my eyes with all the up and down from our knees to feet. Hot yoga is surprisingly similar but not as mindlessly bobbing.

The next day, I was sore but not tremendously and most likely because the heat fools your body into giving you the extra length beyond what simply warming and breathing into a pose will allow.

I could get used to that. I would do hot yin in a heartbeat, but active poses give me pause because unlike most people, my body actively checks my more foolish tendencies to push it in ways that mother nature didn’t intend.

The Moksha studio offers a short version at 60 minutes and a cooler version of about 27C, so I am not going to write it off as a yoga option just yet. The hot adventure does have me looking forward to home practices in front of the fireplace Rob is installing in our new living room. Possibilities abound.

But short-shorts?

Well, I did strip my shirt about half way through the practice and finished up in my sports bra. The shirt was so wet that when I threw it into the wash the next day, it was still heavy and damp.

The shorts I was wearing were knee-length and sweatshirt-like. Far too thick and equally soaked through by the end of the practice.

I could wear the tiny yoga hot pants. I wouldn’t look great but that’s not the point in hot yoga. It’s seriously too dimly lit in the room to see anything clearly anyway, so I am still wondering why there were mirrors.

And nudity doesn’t bother me. I strip, shower and redress without any towel acrobatics. It’s a women’s change room (and omg, it was luxurious!) and wish more women could just relax and change without the whole eye avoidance thing.*

I could do hot pants yoga style.

Tomorrow I will give the short class a go. Can’t hurt. I am more prepared and as my birthday is coming up, will consider it a gift to myself.

*Though I try to respect the discomfort by not glancing about too much. Women and body image issues is something I know personally. I am just too old to really care much.

3 thoughts on “Some Like Their Yoga Hot

  1. The studio that I take my Yoga classes at used to have individual shower stalls in the women’s changing room. But the studio started getting so busy that the woman who runs it had the showers converted into a group shower room with no stalls. The showers are all on polls with 4 shower heads per poll. There were 7 shower stalls, now 24 people can shower all at once.

    I thought that I was going to hate that when the change was made. But like daisyfae said, it was quite liberating. I think that myself and many other women in the class have become much closer friends as a result as we are able to carry on conversations while we shower. It’s a nice bonding experience!

    Even before the shower change at the studio I could never understand the women who would change in a filthy toilet stall or do the towel acrobatics as you referred to it.

  2. wear the hot pants – without apology.

    there’s only one other woman i occasionally run into in the ‘executive’ locker room at work (not many senior tech women, it seems). she and i are getting pretty used to naked conversations. it’s liberating…

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