Heat yoga. The name itself rings with an unspoken challenge, a call to the masochist and exercise aficionado alike. From the first time I tried it I was hooked. On Sunday nights I would ride downtown with an aqua yoga mat tucked under one arm and wait in line to reserve my spot on the floor.
Without fail we were mat to mat each week, catering to a full house as yogis of all levels came to battle the heat. Depending on the instructor I could be dripping within twenty minutes. The heat would rise with each flow series, and if you paused for a second to hold a pose or take a break, the sweat would ooze out of your pores landing in steamy puddles on the mat. It’s tough, but it’s beautiful.
Each vadrasana, sun salutation, trichonosana, takes on a new dimension in the dim studio teleported into another hemisphere by the heat. Movements become elastic, more dynamic with the heat soaring above body temperature and flowing through your veins. Not an oppressive heat but the kind that wraps you and lifts you, purifying and fortifying, distilling your every movement and breath down to your intention. Just when you think you can take no more, that your muscles cannot lift or pose or bend for another minute, the class winds down relaxing back into the mat.
The heat becomes a soothing blanket and your mind, concentrated for so long releases your body as you drift into the best chavasana you’ll ever get. The worst part of the whole class is leaving. After the harmony of ohms and the high of accomplishment, the world outside the studio feels cold and unfathomably large. Things that were simple, heat, breath and movement, become complicated by a world of pressure and demands but even for one night, it is worth the time to feel refreshed and alive.