The Glow of Hot Yoga

My friend Shannon has been on an amazing journey over the past few months training and teaching yoga classes, both here in Minneapolis and abroad. In early April, she invited me to attend one of her classes at Modo Yoga. While I have been incorporating yoga into my overall fitness routine for awhile, thanks to another great friend and teacher Wendy, this class was going to be my first experience doing hot yoga.

In anticipation of the class, most people I mentioned it to warned me to be prepared and to bring plenty of coconut water and extra towels and to wear as little clothing as possible. So despite the chilly weather, I showed up in my short running shorts and a tank top ready to go.

What no one told me (and I didn’t bother to look up in advance) was that the room is hot before the class even starts. Not hot – stifling. It was like walking into a sauna and then having the horrifying realization that you are going to be stuck in there for an hour. I thought during hot yoga they turn up the heat as you go, but obviously I was wrong.

Thankfully, I had a few minutes to just lay down on my mat and acclimate to the temperature of the room. Shannon then calmly welcomed the half-dozen of us in the class and calmly guided us through the movements and positions for the next hour. Compared to my experience-to-date doing yoga, what is unique about the Moda Yoga series is the set pattern it follows, as quoted from their website:

Savasana – Savasana, or corpse pose, is how we begin. Lying flat on the back with the palms turned up and the feet slightly separated, we start a challenging practice in relaxation, allowing our expectations to fall away and be replaced by the potential for a pure experience.

Intention Setting – In any activity, setting goals or intentions breeds accomplishment. Often a teacher will set a theme for a class – for example being more aware of your breath, or building the core muscles of the abdomen. Especially for those with a busy life, this brings the experience of a hot yoga class into focus.

The Standing Series – The standing series is a cardiovascular set of postures. The focus is on building strength, stability, balance and endurance through hot yoga postures done from a standing position. Postures are held anywhere from 10 seconds to a minute, allowing the skin to sweat and detoxify the body.

The Floor Series – The floor series works on strengthening the upper body, spine and abdominal muscles. Having thoroughly warmed the body in the standing series, we now begin to open the hips and focus on the health of the spine. The floor series can relieve tension, help treat lower back and knee pain, and improve posture.

Final Savasana – Final Savasana ends the class the way it began: lying flat on the back. The standing and floor series have warmed, strengthened and opened the body, and now we’re ready to relax. At the end of class students leave at their own pace, each with greatly reduced stress levels, a rejuvenated internal system and a little yoga twinkle in the eye (you’ll see!).

Amazingly, while I was warm even at the start, this flow made the class more bearable than I thought it would be. I didn’t feel like I was sweating that much through the standing series. It wasn’t until we laid down on our mats for the floor series and I had to grab my knee did I realize how sweaty I was. I could barely hold my knee to my chest as it kept slipping out of my grip.

Despite the slippage, I made it through the full hour. Some positions I had to step out of as I wasn’t there yet in terms of my ability and flexibility. Shannon was extremely kind and generous with the class in making sure we all felt comfortable taking water as needed or just laying down on the mat if needed and making us understand that wherever we were in our yoga practice was absolutely fine and there was no pressure to go beyond our limits that day. She also was helpful in making adjustments to our form and clearly explaining some of the more complex positions.

And a quick note on the facility itself – Moda Yoga Minneapolis is extremely clean and the staff was as friendly as can be. There were lockers and showers and plenty of extra equipment and towels on hand as needed. The setting was appropriately quiet and comfortable to help you get in the right mind set for hot yoga.

While it was far from easy, hot yoga didn’t scare me away on my first attempt. The heat has its benefits and I am definitely interested in returning now that I have a better understanding of how it works and the challenges it entails. More than anything, my main takeaway was a greater sense of peace and relaxation afterwards. I am not sure yet how to incorporate hot yoga regularly into my training, but I will definitely be pursuing opportunities to partake in future classes this year.

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