zondag 25 oktober 2009

I like it hot

Do I need to explain what Hot Yoga is? Well, I'd better. Cause the online info is usually quite biased, all because of Bikram's antics.
  1. So, there's a 90 minute sequence of yoga postures - starting out with Pranayama breathing, followed by a standing series, a floor series and finishing with Kapalbathi breathing - which is identical in each class. [Easy peasy, it may seem. Or: boring, if you like variation. Neither is true, as you are the changing factor: your attentiveness - or mindfulness - will vary from day to day, and so will your body.]

  2. Each time, the teacher talks you through the class. [He or she's never quiet: the very detailed instructions come incessantly and if it weren't for the interjected appreciative words ("you are doing well", "nice pose"), well, a cd player could do the job. Or not?]
  3. The glitch is, that it all takes place in a heated, highly humid room. [Think sauna, 'cause that's how it feels once you start moving. ]
  4. You start out, in a mirrored room, standing on a towel on a mat and then it gets all sweaty. And by sweaty I mean: more than spinning-sweaty. So not just drops crashing on the wooden floor but actual puddles at the end of the mat. First there's breathing exercises ("to warm up"), next a series of asanas. [Seemingly doable, if it weren't for the pace combined with the heat and the slippery limbs you have by then. And yes, it is hard, balancing on one leg, holding a wet foot against an dripping wet leg. And no, I don't like slippery.]
  5. To compensate for the loss of fluids, you get to drink in between - some - poses. Little sips though, as most of the drinking should be done before and after.
Now why would I go through all this 4 times in 5 days? Because I read what's on their site and understood what it was about. It's a unique way to combine cardio, strength & flexibility in one session. And it was kinda fun, once I got over my fears. Karl and Mareike are professional teachers who pay just enough attention too each individual participant. Karl's analysis of my yoga level - after the third lesson - was rather accurate. And oh, like the site, the classes are in English - so it helps to know your body parts in that language. Moreover, the Hot Yoga Gent studio is close enough to my home - getting there in time was manageable - and I liked the place. It's in an old warehouse, nothing fancy, but nice enough. And most of all: even now, after 4 classes, I see & feel the difference. I am way more flexible than a week ago and my skin looks fine! (it never does)

Now what about the fears? Well, the first time my heartrate went up high - over 180 bpm - and though I am accustomed to calm down and cool down, the heat did not exactly permit a speedy recovery. Even lying down I had no control: my heart fluttered and I felt dizzy. Which made me panic, later that night. Having seen too many House MD episodes I imagined clots of blood moving through my veins, bringing me close to a final heart attack. And well, I'd also been stupid enough to Google all possible Hot Yoga risks ... like that you may stretch too far, as the heat permits you to go further without pain. But I soon realised that I was in control, and the next lessons I took care not to try too hard just to please the teacher. And ok, I felt my knees and hips this week, but not in a bad or scary way. Not worse than after a strenuous body pump session or after running 10 km.

So I'm convinced that Hot Yoga could be a nice addition to my weekly programme - if only it weren't that expensive. Maybe it's something to combine with "regular" yoga. I'm sure it would do me good to work on the asanas in a non heated class too.

Who's testing?
I'm a 43 yr old female who's in reasonably good shape. On average I spend 3 to 4 hours on spinning/striding/running (usu. a 5 km lap) /bodypump/Pilates a week. I'm used to monitored workouts (both heartrate and Nike+) as a result of which I am able to tell my heart rate and running pace accurately without monitoring. My blood pressure is just fine and my cholesterol's great. My spinal flexibility usually surprises people: I can easily put my hands on the floor, knees locked, without any warm up. As to core stability, I'm doing quite well: there's muscles under the lard. I've got no medically identified injuries but there's the wear and tear age brings. To run, I wear orthopedic soles. I've got a varicose vein on my left calf (it's been there forever) and my left shoulder is my weak spot. Too much stress and the muscles there freeze & hurt like hell. My hip flexibility is limited, especially on the right side - I am a sucker for sitting cross legged. I'd never realized there was a link between the former until the osteopath suggested it and I'm sure he's right. No (left) shoulder pain equals limited (right) hip movement, I see now. My knees are my age. Not bad, but one has to be careful. The bad: I'm on a few meds and I'm a casual smoker (less than 15 cigs a month, but I smoke). And this very moment I am overweight (BMI 25,20) - I let the "food rules" slip and added some 10 pounds since last July. I need them gone. Quickly. Soon.