(And to clarify, I'm not referring to Bikram. That's a different conversation).
It is hard to challenge those deep-seated opinions that one has. They are so, ehm... deep seated that become part of the fabric of our lives. Like thinking "This isn't for me", "I'll never be able to do that pose", "I prefer chocolate to crisps", "I'll never like classical music". We like the comfort of what we know, as we are - generally speaking - creatures of habit, and our known environment is a safe playground we happily run around in.
Sometimes, however, it is important to be challenged. Be challenged in our belief system in order to re-calculate boundaries, check if the opinion we hold of ourselves and others can be revised, make space for new input and, ultimately, grow. But it is a de-stabilising process at the same time. It takes willingness to approach what we do not rate, have an open mind, recognise if there is anything good in there and, maybe, adopt a new vision. It's hard work.
When it comes to hot yoga, some of my deep-seated ideas sounded like: "I don't like the heat", "hot yoga is for people whose ego says that they should lose a few pounds", and "I don't do it". Then, I started hearing about a great teacher called Kristin Campbell, who trained many teachers I highly respect. Shame that she taught hot yoga.
After a few year's resistance, I finally gave in as I really wanted to study with her and signed up to her hot teacher training. I thought "I'll disregard the hot part of it". And we embarked in a 60 hours immersion where we were required to practise two hot classes per day for seven days. After the first two I decided I had been mad in signing up.
Kristin's teaching is sharp, intelligent, useful to any yoga teacher of any style - absolutely no doubt about that. But the practice? I was bothered by the heat, the sweat dripping into my eyes, the feeling that I just came out of a swimming pool, the necessary showering afterwards, the necessary re-hydration process, the necessary change of clothes you have to carry with you. The whole of it.
But as we progressed through the week, it slowly started to dawn on me. When I finally gave up fighting the bother, the sweat, the logistics and focussed on the practice only, I started to understand. The sequence designed by Kristin is called Tapasya which means "to be with intensity for the sake of transformation", and so it is. I started to work out how I could be in an intense and uncomfortable environment and keep my cool (excuse the pun).
Could I drop the thoughts about how uncomfortable some aspects of this practice is (certainly not the most glamorous either), and keep my focus on my breath instead? How can I pace my energy in this near-hostile environment? Can I respect my body and my strength levels - which are different every day - and complete the tasks at hand? This is all good training not (only) for the hot room, but for life. Off the mat. Out there. Just like any asana practice, of course, but with added intensity.
So I have been mulling over these questions and started to see the potential for transformation. My new thoughts about hot yoga were starting to diverge from my old certainties. How annoying. This is undoubtedly a strong practice, but the intensity makes it a real gym for the mind, more than - or in addition to - for the body. An interesting lab for exploration.
And I came to the conclusion that hot yoga is not that bad, and that there is real depth to it. I had to admit to myself that I had been too quick in judging. Out of the whole teacher training, one of the most valuable learnings I took away with me is that sometimes it's good to change your mind. Thank you Kristin for that, as well as for the rest of your teachings.
If you fancy practising hot yoga with me, have a look at my Upcoming Cover page.