Sunday, August 22, 2010

Hot Yoga – Meditations Beyond the Mat

I started going to hot yoga at the beginning of the summer when I was looking for an alternative to running. Don’t get me wrong, running is still my preferred activity, it’s just been throwing a wrench into other (ahem) goals and well, I need to cut back on my mileage. When a hot yoga studio opened in my neighbourhood, I took it as a sign.

When I lived with Bree in Ottawa, I used to do a lot of Ashtanga at lunch with my boss and co-worker. It was the perfect yin to my running yang. But being prone to heat stroke, I was never all that interested in practicing hot yoga. Although I tried to get into hot yoga it a few times in my mid-twenties, I shied away from it because I wasn’t (and am still not) all that great at bound poses. In particular, how anyone gets their foot wrapped around their standing leg in the Eagle pose is a real mystery to me. Now that I am in my early thirties, I think this is how I got hooked - I don’t like not being good at something.

As you’ve probably already guessed, I’m competitive by nature. Really competitive. Try-to-race-you-from-three-treadmills-over-at-the-gym competitive. I think it comes from being born between a genius and a beauty queen, but I digress – I’ll save my Freudian analyses for another day. I know my competitiveness is not a very attractive trait and negatively impacts my desirability as a gym partner, so I’ve been trying (with varying success) to turn the competition inward. With hot yoga, I’m forced to turn the competition inward. If I look at anyone else while I’m trying to get into a pose, I will fall. Today I learned that if I try to look at myself in the mirror, I will also fall (with a very loud bang, I might add, out of my crow pose and onto my face). There’s vanity for you. The only thing I can do in yoga is think about breathing. When I’m immersed in the rhythm of “breathe-in-lengthen-breathe-out-get-deeper-into-the-posture”, I don’t think about anything else and my mind is silent. No to-do lists. No questions about whether I have any food in the apartment. No wondering whether anyone can see my muffin tops.

The funny thing is, now I think about my breath at other times. It’s so simple. Breathe in, breathe out. We do it all day without even thinking, but I’ve noticed that when I am really stressed out at work, I hold my breath. I once had an instructor tell me that class is a practice for life; that what we do on the yoga mat extends into the everyday. At the time, I took her comment literally and thought it was just hippie drivel - I definitely wasn’t propping myself up into shoulder stand in my cubicle. But as I think more about breathing and this absence of breath, I can see that she was right. Be present. Breathe in and out. Keep your focus on your own mat. These are all things that help me like my life more; no matter how far away I am from getting that foot wrapped around my calf.


Brianne said...

I just joined hot yoga too! A Moksha Yoga just opened up down the street! I agree with you totally about the breathe in breathe out - it has helped me more than I can imagine dealing with the inane mutterings of my mind!

I can get my foot wrapped around my leg in crowe but I cannot get my hands right... it's driving my nuts!

Anonymous said...

Hehehe I'm sitting at my desk right now with my foot wrapped around my calf :P

Go Pinchie!

Pinchie said...

Yeah, I can't even do it sitting down. I'm going to blame my powerful thighs. ;)

StevieP said...

Pinchie is that you in the photo?

Pinchie said...

That's not me, though I really like that you think it could have been!