For us weekend warrior type Yogis this graceful meditative yoga activity often becomes an exercise in survival. We furtively check the clock on the back wall to see the minute hand languidly move towards the 90 minute mark when we can collapse into the deadmans pose. No need to breathe anymore, perchance to sleep….
If this is your first experience with Hot Yoga you probably won’t come back, even the experience of being in a room apparently full of lightly clad bodies will not be enough incentive. After the first ten minutes your vision is gone, sweat impaired, this breath that is talked about has deserted you, the 40* heat is driving you insane, the fashionable clothing that you carefully chose to wear now looks like a bad choice from the Op shop – let me out of here! Let’s imagine that for some irrational reason, maybe after your friend from Dubai said, ’40*, that’s not hot’, you convinced yourself that it’s worth another try. Here’s how to make it work….
Live frugally for a week and spend the money you save on buying some really good quality appropriate gear. Generally you get what you pay for, after ten minutes a thin light cotton top will feel like a thick heavy clingy rugby jersey, even classy light weight cashmere will not do the trick, it gets lighter and lighter after every wash and quickly becomes your expensive duster. Courage My Love uses manmade fibres that are designed to wick away most of the sweat as you work through your routine and they are designed for yoga. Try them and you’ll finish your session looking good and soon find yourself going straight from the studio to the café.
Now, the breaths – get to your yoga session early, and be lying on your mat at least 15 minutes before the instructor comes into the room. 40* or even a bit less takes some getting used to so this 15 minutes is to prepare you for the session and acclimatisation is part of that. The aim is to be in such a relaxed state that when the lights go on and it’s time to start the program, you are no longer fighting or even thinking about the heat, you are at peace with it, you have given it time to do what it’s good for, relaxing your body and making the moving of bone and muscle easier, more relaxed, more beneficial.
Position yourself in the deadmans pose, Savasana. Back of the head on the floor, imagine the back of your neck is as close to the floor as possible, hands more or less at your side, comfortable, strive for everything to be just comfortable, legs straight down, heels more or less together, toes splayed a bit. Squiggle around and be as comfortable as you can be on a hard floor. Right now it’s all about the nose. Breathing only through your nose helps slow you down, relaxes you… breathing through your nose is not exactly restrictive but certainly it’s physically not possible to inhale as much as you can through your mouth. But right now lying on your back doing nothing, how much air do you need anyhow! So now your quietly lying there, go on, yield to temptation. Take one more look around; it’s your last chance for 90 minutes!
Let’s begin. Right now, breathing is about serious mind control.
Eyes closed. Using your nose only, take a steady breath in while in your mind counting to eight. As you breathe in imagine your breath going right down into the bottom of your lungs, so much so that you feel your tummy rising, push the breath down further and feel your lower ribs spreading to the sides. This ‘in’ breath in your mind should take the count of six which will be around six seconds, take an obvious stop, then counting at the same speed take a count of 10 to breath out. Be comfortable with the count. Initially you will probably only get to say 8. Whatever count you are on, aim for the out to be towards 50% longer than the in.
Breathing is nearly all about the ‘out’ – it must be smooth, controlled, steady. This is how the body takes control of its circumstance. Start your ‘out’ at the bottom of your lungs, feel them contract as they empty out. A momentary stop, then a mindful breath ‘in’ and on it goes. Concentrate on just one thing, controlling your breath. Know where you are in your breathing cycle. Feel and imagine what’s happening with your breath and the effect on your body. If you are running out of breath on the ‘out’, cut down on the count until you are comfortable. Choose an in and out pace that allows you to do this exercise forever. When you have become in sync with your breath you will drift into your own cocoon. The sound of the stressed late comers hustling for some space on the floor will not bother you, you won’t hear the instructor come through the door, the lights will bring you back and you will be ready to begin.
You are relaxed, the room is warm, and your mind is settled. You are prepared for your yoga session.
Traditionally Yoga was an exercise to prepare you for meditation. Be in no rush for the showers, take time to acknowledge the effort that you have just made, drift off, enjoy the moment.