I've been practicing hot yoga on and off for about two years now but about six months ago began to commit to regular weekly classes and the difference has been particularly noticeable. My mood is lighter after class, my body is stronger and my periods are a less intensely painful and gruelling experience.
The yoga I practice is called hot flow, described by the studio as below:
This vinyasa-based practice moves quickly, focusing on a marriage of breath and movement. Experience familiar postures in unfamiliar combinations, with an emphasis on the strength of the upper body as you flow from posture to posture. Enhanced with fun and funky playlists, the teachers use music to add energy and flare to this practice. For yogis with experience, or athletic beginners.
This was the first class I attended and so fit under the "athletic beginners" category. I ran 100m sprint, relay, 200m (if pushed) and did high jump in school. I played lacrosse and was the school's netball captain at 18. I went on to play a little at university and still love sports as an adult so I was suprised when I first started doing yoga to realise how difficult I found it. When you run you have your "starting foot", when you play netball you have your "best side" and when you play lacrosse you have your "strong arm". With all of these, we're encouraged to build upon our "bests" and to keep training with the focus on making that foot, arm or side as strong as possible.
With yoga, everything is about balance. Each posture is followed by a repeat on the other side of the body so that our whole body is engaged in the practice. We're actually encouraged to focus on the side or part of us that is not so strong or used to being the lead. As a writer I often wish I was ambidextrous after hours of writing or typing. Imagine if, instead of deciding whether we are right-handed or left-handed and sticking to that; we alternated between the two so that we strengthen our ability in both?
Mental health is the topic on everyone's lips right now. Most of us are working too hard, some of us are playing too hard and pretty much all of us are struggling not to obsess over various social media. The extremes are often the cause of our internal and emotional struggles. It all seems too much. Too much or too little.
Apportioning equal(ish) amounts of time can seem unimportant when you're in the midst of things but that's the only way to live a truly healthy and balanced life. If you rush through something now, your body or mind will pay for it later. These days, when I feel as though something is taking up too much of my time, I remind myself of my yoga teacher's instructions to practice on both sides and I'll say to myself, 'okay you've done that, now do something else'.
And, like the seemingly obvious instruction you hear in a yoga class, I remind myself to breathe.