Where There is Fire, There is Heat
OK, Clever Tribe- you have asked me fantastic questions about hot yoga and since I seem to need a Ph.D, in every single thing I do- I went to an authoritative voice in the field. Tanya Davis is co-owner of three Sunstone Yoga studios, in McKinney, Plano and Dallas. I was able to visit with her for a bit to get YOUR questions answered. Bearing in mind, when you are done reading this post- NO MORE EXCUSES.
I have to tell you, in the process of “chatting” with Tanya, she became curious about my practice and how it had evolved in the two years I have been diligently practicing. This is important for you as well. Turns out- while I have progressed- I have a LONG way to go.
That’s why they call it a “practice.” I do know I feel better than I have in my life- I look better and my debilitating allergies are GONE. I sleep better, I finally have a figure I can stand to glimpse in a shop window without bursting into tears and I have a place I can go to UNPLUG.
Can you even fathom taking 90 minutes out of your insanely hectic day and closing the door behind you, devoting that time to nothing but yourself and emerging energized and ready to get back at it? It can happen, and while I am reluctant to use the term “you deserve it,” I think everyone deserves some time to decompress and exercise.
The first thing I needed to know from Tanya was – what makes Sunstone different? The tagline is pain-free yoga, so I inquired as to the role of heat in Bikram and Sunstone yoga.”It’s essential. Yoga was developed in India and it’s really there.” Following that logic- HEAT is a critical component of the proper practice of yoga. I’m inclined to agree.
When I tried yoga the first two times, at two different studios, I recall being so cold in the basement of my gym I was running in place before class. No one else was doing anything but sitting. Within five minutes I wanted to run for the door- my joints and muscles were screaming at me. I stuck with it and managed to leave with a pulled hamstring and having aggravated an old injury from gymnastics. It was the VERY last time I went to yoga until eight years later when I found myself in a Sunstone.
The heat intimidates people in theory- I talked to several people who had done boot camp-style workouts at two in the afternoon in parking lots on blacktop. My gosh, the temperature in Texas could have been close to one 160 degrees, radiating off pavement. No wonder they are terrified of the word “heat.” Sunstone’s specially designed rooms are climate and humidity controlled and the only class more than 90 degrees is FIRE. The rest are under 90. In addition to warming your muscles and joints- the heat causes you to sweat. The release of toxins from your body leave you feeling refreshed and invigorated.
The key to managing the heat and the sustained workout is hydration and replenishment of electrolytes. Sunstone offers packets of electrolytes to add to water, coconut water or acai juices (I recommend green tea or G2 for less sugar).
Unlike other forms of yoga, Tanya explained that Sunstone teaches the form and asks you to concentrate more on developing strength than to push for flexibility. Many of you said- “I’m not flexible.” That comes with time, and in my case, VERY slowly. Every day of my practice is totally different. Some days, my balance is exceptional and I can rest in a difficult standing posture- other days, I cannot stay in one for longer than five seconds. Sunstone encourages patience with yourself and where you are in your practice. Accept each day for what it is.
For those of you who have grown frustrated or reached a plateau- reach out to an instructor. They are not just there to guide you during class. Tanya suggests you listen during class. Do not advance from one posture to the next without being guided. Each instructor does so differently. On her recommendation, I did this- clicked off auto-pilot and paid attention to how Anice was instructing me to enter a posture. It changed how I entered and my alignment. I’d asked her prior to class to offer me “adjustments” during class and those minute adjustments evolved my practice so much.
Another answer to moving to the next level in your practice is twofold. Take the beginner class- listen to the philosophy and start over. You’ll be shocked by how much you’ve forgotten. Then, do a private lesson with your favorite instructor. I moved through a few postures with Tanya and realized I was capable of going so much further than I thought I could.
I need to clarify- this is not a lose-weight-quick workout- don’t look for weight loss immediately. This is a transformative process and it starts from the inside out. You will work and in some cases, develop your core muscles, strengthening and building your powerhouse. From there, you are learning balance and tapping into areas of your body you have never noticed before. <o:p></o:p>
For example- I’d always had a problem keeping the area between my buttocks and my hamstring toned and tight- until NOW. Learning how to isolate that connection during several of the postures has strengthened and sculpted the portion of my leg to a place of which I am proud. The next thing you will notice is that your clothes are fitting differently, and once that happens, things really start to change. By listening to my instructors, I learned the post above- bridge- can work that area by trying to “pull the heels” toward your butt though they are firmly planted.
Several of you expressed intimidation. This is an accessible concept. Sunstone even offers a beginners’ series, in which you learn the basics and build upon them. Anyone, any age (as long as they are cleared by a doctor if they have health issues) can benefit from hot yoga. It will be the best thing you ever do for your long-term health. Can you imagine being as strong and fit at 80 as you are now? It can happen. You are in charge. Forget the scale and sign on for 90 minutes of true mind-body connection. The emotional benefits of doing so will change your attitude.
Dispense with preconceived notions of yoga. We all have them. I find in my parodied mental images a pot-smoking Owen Wilson was always present. Weird. You will not find incense, a cult-like atmosphere, attempts at spiritual conversion, intense meditation, chanting or anyone with castanets clanging in your ear as they swirl about you. The beauty of Sunstone is that it is whatever you want it to be. 90 minutes. No phones. No e-mails. No traffic. No boss. No kids. No divorce. No work. No demands other than those you have placed on yourself. Can you even imagine? I can. Every. Single. Day.
Here are two pictures of Tanya correcting triangle posture. You can see a big difference in my stance from the top photo and the bottom photo. Notice also she has to brace my straight leg so I don’t fall on my booty. However, as my inner thighs strengthen, I will be able to work into this flexibility AND not fall down.
I want to remind the Clever Girls- most classes are 50 percent MEN. So … if you want a place you can meet someone with a similar interest- this is a great way to connect. I do need to acknowledge some people really quick. Natalie- I am so glad you are still devoted to your practice! Cindy- So Very Proud of you! Dusty- I talked you into going at 6 a.m. and now I have punked out for awhile, but I am impressed by your commitment. Marcus- we need to get you back in- it will elevate your baseball skills from the inside OUT.
OK, I feel like there is so much percolating in my mind. I’ve had some interesting experiences lately, so things might get a little, uh, uncomfortable next week.