Yoga 101/Hot Yoga
Hot yoga is a set
sequence of postures performed in a room heated to 105 degrees. There are 26 postures and two breathing
exercises and everything is practiced twice, except for spine twisting. Each posture prepares you for the next, allowing
you to slowly work deep into your muscles.
It is a beginning yoga class, utilizing simple postures that stretch and
strengthen every muscle, ligament and tendon in your body. The purpose of the heat is to help prevent
injury by keeping the muscles loose and warm.
It also helps to cleanse the body of toxins through the sweat and allows
a deeper, safer workout. The heat also
provides a mental challenge to overcome fears and keeps you humble at just the
- The essentials- savasana, stillness
- Savasana is the most important pose in
classical hatha yoga. It is the
easiest physical posture in concept and the hardest to practice correctly. For some, it is downright excruciating
and for others, it is sheer bliss.
In hot yoga, it serves to balance the active asana and acts as the
foundation for creating all other poses.
Much like the “a” in between every consonant in its spelling, it
will go between every pose performed.
- Stillness, as it is a quality of
savasana, is also sought within the active asana. After the set-up and entry into a
particular pose, absolute stillness should be held. This restructures the neuro-pathways
(muscle memory) and accentuates the ever-present movement of breath. This infuses the essence of savasana in
every pose, keeping you true to your source.
- Breath is your life-force energy,
your sustenance and solace, your meditation and mantra, your fuel for the
fire of movement. An entire book
will not do it justice. During
hatha yoga practice, breath control (pranayama) is essential to keep your
mind’s attention and therefore keep you safe from over-exertion. When losing awareness of your breath,
you will easily strain and enter into stress responses and holding
patterns. Excluding the first and
last breathing exercises in the series, always breathe in and out of your
nose. This keeps you from invoking
your fight-or-flight, sympathetic nervous system response. (Fight-or-flight response is necessary
when running from wild hungry bears but not in yoga!) Nostril-breathing also requires more
focus and concentration from the mind.
This is good. 80-20
breathing is a specific technique utilized for certain backward bending and
compression postures. This means
from 100 percent capacity, you use 20 percent of the breath off the top
of the lungs during the pose, thereby keeping the lungs mostly full
during the asana.
- The body- intelligent, imperfect,
- The body has its own smarts. If the superficial egoic mind can be
ousted from power then the body can usually find a healthy equilibrium
within its own needs. Every cell
has innate awareness of the larger whole and will adjust accordingly; whereas
the mind will quickly burn out with the burden of details. This is why we want to put the mind
into the body and not the body into the mind. The body just won’t fit into such a
small space anyway. Yoga as we
know it is a marriage, and like human marriage, the two entities begin to
share qualities of the other.
Therefore the body becomes wise and the mind becomes strong.
- The body is an amazing machine very
adaptable and yet very fragile. It
is naturally imperfect with varying lengths and widths. This has to be so if we are to be
individuals; diversity is the way of nature. Knowing this, accept that some things
will not be correctable. However
some things are and our continued practice should reveal which is
which. In most cases, our bones on
opposite sides vary only microscopically.
If one of your legs is noticeably longer it is probably due to
prolonged localized muscle tightness that pulls on the entire network of
muscle and fascia. If we can break
the holding pattern with yoga and bodywork and learn to unlearn, the
lengths will even out.
- The body will instinctively adjust to
imbalances. For example: if your right hip is collapsed, the
right shoulder will raise up to keep you from falling over or walking
funny. This is good because we can
continue to function but bad as our shoulder will soon begin to hurt,
causing even more problems elsewhere.
The entire body is interconnected, kinda like the planet and even
the universe. What is true in the
smallest thing is reflected in the largest.
- The mind- right, left, ego and perception.
- The right hemisphere of our brain is
creative, irrational, abstract, and simultaneous, to name a few. This allows us to pick up on humor,
intent, context and sarcasm and is how we can appreciate and process the
multiple lines of music and art.
In yogasana, this is good for synthesizing all that’s happening
and following our intuitive cues.
- The left side is analytical,
rational, linear and sequential.
It serves basic functions, like listening to the teacher, memory
and simply breathing. In practice,
we need this to keep us grounded in reality and connected to our
immediate environment. All too
often, we can be stuck in this linear thinking trying to practice from
memory. Could we possibly know
that our knowledge is in there and let it shine through our intuition?
- The ego wears many masks and is very
good at playing to your weaknesses.
Anytime you catch yourself judging, criticizing, competing or
comparing, your ego is probably at work.
This puts us inside of expectation and agendas which are setups
for failure. We need to let our
practice unfold daily, just as it happens.
- How we perceive ourselves is usually
what we become. We need to know
that we are the creator and “createe” and that what we give we will
receive. This is universal law and
one limb of yoga called Karma. As
Craig Villani from Bikram’s teacher training says, “Your focus determines
your reality.” Some physicists say
that perception creates the world around us. It’s true that humans hear what they
want to hear and see what they want to see. Is it as easy as changing your mind?
- Savasana is the most important pose in