It is a very cold morning in Northeast Pennsylvania in mid January. My face hits the freezing cold air and I questioned why I left my warm bed on a Sunday morning with my kids and hubby playing around me.
Maybe Hot Yoga today I ask myself?
My mind keeps wandering on the possibility. I promised myself this year to take on challenges of different practices and guide my own practice to a deeper level. I have been hearing the Hot Yoga Buzz throughout the Lehigh Valley since before Christmas and figured this may be the day to take on the challenge. I see myself creeping into the hot environment, comparing it to my past studies in Bikram, and wondering if my heart and mind would be up to the challenge this time around.
I will take you back seven years before the birth of my first child Penelope. I was training and performing as a professional dancer in New York City and teaching dance/yoga/gymnastics at a wonderful facility called Chelsea Piers. In my spare time, which wasn’t a lot, I was always trying to scope out the yoga/Pilates/and dance scene. My friends would always joke and say “Lindsay, You are a Professional Class Taker.” I loved class what can I say and still do. I loved the energy from teachers and fellow dancers, yogis, or movers of any kind around me. I felt inspiration from it all and always knew it would lead me down the road to be a giving and wonderful teacher.
One day a friend approached me about a new class in yoga involving heat. I said, “Heat and me do not really get along except for when I can be in a bikini on the beach.” Well, the friend reminded me of how I am always open to classes with challenges and wouldn’t let it rest. On a beautiful Spring Day in New York City I hit a hot yoga class known as Bikram Yoga on Broadway and 23rd. It was an experience that I will never forget.
On that day, we arrived 15 minutes before class to the Bikram Yoga Studio. The studio was very clear about arriving early to allow your body to adjust to the heat. You felt the intense heat hit your face and extremities the minute you walked through the studio door where class would be held. The studio was filled with mirrors on two walls and a wonderful window overlooking Broadway. I will tell you this, mid way through class seven years back I wanted to jump out those windows. “Please take me away from this Torture Chamber of Heat.” Bikram Choudhury himself would call the studios filled with heat, torture chambers. He often stated that you needed to heat the body first in order to change its construction. Your bodies will then soften, become more flexible, and reshape themselves.
Bikram Yoga was an eye opener to say the least. The studio encouraged you to take seven classes in a row to allow your body time to adjust to the environment. After the seven days, I understood the principle behind it all. The first day I was ready to cry afterwards. The heat made me nausea and dizzy at times. I questioned myself almost every minute during the first class. Then I noticed the first class was hard. Second class was even harder. But, then the third class shined the light down on me and I didn’t want to jump through the window anymore and hide.
The third class I let the heat just be around me. I imagined myself swimming in the heat and moving through it instead of feeling trapped by it. Once I embraced the heat, my body took on the breath and the 26 poses before me. Each pose got easier on the second repetition. As a dancer, the instructors wanted to push me to go deeper and deeper with my flexibility. I share this with you because in Bikram Yoga and Hot Yoga both you need to know your own limitations. You can very easily in these heat filled classes of 100-105 degrees go further with your flexibility. Your body may not want to go there yet and this is when injury can occur. I say this to all practicing Bikram Yogis and Hot Yogis- “Practice with Care, Know your Limitations.”
The seven day challenge did not end at seven days with my Bikram Yoga Practice. I continued to add Bikram into my yoga studies along with Ashtanga and Vinyasa. The Bikram Yoga had many strict rules that I tended to rebel from. The mirrors were always present in each class. As a dancer, I was always in front of mirrors and wanted yoga class to be my escape away from them. Do the mirrors help in ways for practicing Bikram yogis? I actually believe yes, they do. They can help studying Bikram yogis find alignment and adjustments in their bodies quicker. Plus, the mirrors can give them a whole picture of class and make them work harder. Staring yourself in the face does push you to do more. I personally, love the no mirror rule in yoga class unless you are a student teacher of yoga. No mirrors require you to go deeper internally and to find the alignment with your own voice. www.bikramyoga.com
Fast forward seven years, many yoga classes have been explored in Bikram Yoga and beyond. Travels have taken me outside of New York City and now to the Lehigh Valley. Bikram is not the Buzz word in the little town of Bethlehem as it was years back in Chelsea district of NYC. But, instead Hot Yoga Buzz is what the yogis are speaking of. Instead, of a seven day challenge it is a thirty day challenge.
Ashtanga and Hot Yoga teacher, Randi Perrett, R.Y.T. at Lehigh Valley Yoga has developed a spin-off of Hot Yoga and Bikram Yoga called Hot Yoga 40. It is a class that has developed from her love for Ashtanga and Bikram Yoga. The Hot Yoga 40 is a series of 40 postures that is practiced in a room of 100 degrees. The class is 75 minutes in length and yogis are asked to arrive 15 minutes in advance to adjust to the heat. No mirrors are present in the room or carpet as in Bikram Yoga. Lightness and a working together attitude were more present in the Hot Yoga scene at Lehigh Valley Yoga then in past Bikram Yoga studies. Gail Brown, Hot Yoga instructor at Lehigh Valley Yoga offered the 40 poses to her students with care and demonstration. There were key points in this class that brought me face to face with the challenges I once felt in Bikram Yoga. The heat was there. The intense poses with repetition were there as if practicing for perfection. But, the difference today was my heart was more open for the challenge of Hot Yoga. www.lvyoga.com
Even though a Level I Hot Yoga 40 class stood before me, I was able to adapt it to my own needs. In Bikram years back, the knowledge and openness was not there to do this. I was struggling with just getting control of the breath to move through the posture work let alone master it.
The environment at Lehigh Valley Yoga today helped to guide all the Hot Yoga students into a different place. Tensions and chatter were told to be left at the door with the guidance of Gail Brown’s voice. Through countdown of poses 5, 4, 3, 2, and 1 each student knew the duration of the pose. It helped us all to stay connected and in sync with one another.
I guess one can say “Lindsay, you still do love taking class.” I will take the Professional Class Taker name card no problem these days. I am glad the openness has come my way to venture into all these classes whether in the Lehigh Valley or in New York City. My Bikram Yoga fears have been laid to rest in Hot Yoga 40 thanks to the Lehigh Valley Yoga crew. As a professional movement specialist I can just hope that teachers will continue to offer guidance to all their students. I can only hope the Bikram Yogis and Hot Yogi Instructors continue to educate themselves through their own practice on a daily basis. These styles of yoga require much knowledge so that students will learn their own limitations without injury.
Bikram yoga, yes was developed through Bikram Chaudhury, a yogi since age 4, marathon runner, and Olympic Weightlifting champion. The intense training can be seen and felt in every pose. You need the stamina and endurance of your breath to carry you through the practice. Bikram was injured after training as an athlete and found himself back in the hands of Guru Bishnu Ghosh where the Bikram Yoga of 26 poses developed. Who would have thought that an injury would have developed such an intense practice? But, who could think less of anyone who was an athlete at that level listening to a doctor tell them they would never walk again.
I thank Bikram Chaudhury for his developments and making me come face to face with challenges and fears of non perfection seven years back. I thank all the Hot Yoga teachers at Lehigh Valley Yoga and beyond for developing their work and spin offs from Bikram Yoga. Hot Yoga Buzz I may be following you. I am quite interested in seeing the challenges Hot Yoga may bring to me and the further developments it may lend to my own personal practice and teaching. Lindsay, you officially have taken the Hot Yoga Challenge. Now Practice with Care, Know your Limitations!
This blog is written and created by Lindsay Schaefer. For more information on Movement for You, A Way of Life Practice or Artists in Unity please visit the following sites.
Lindsay Schaefer has been performing and teaching professionally throughout the U.S. After completion of her BA in Dance from Point Park College, Lindsay taught and directed a high school dance program in Arizona and performed with Arizona Movement Source Company in Phoenix, Arizona. Furthering her dance training and performing opportunities she headed to New York City to study with Paul Taylor Dance Company and Taylor II and performed with various modern dance companies and independent artists throughout N.Y.C. Lindsay was co-artistic director of NY Dance Collective and Odonata Dance Project. Her choreography has been performed at Cunningham Studio, Wax, St. Marks Church, 92nd Street Y, and SUNY Purchase. She also directed a recreational dance program for Chelsea Piers and taught at P.S. 163 outreach program in Manhattan. In connection with her dance training, she trained in gymnastics and completed her yoga certification through YogaFit. With her extensive study in Yoga and Pilates, Lindsay has had the opportunity to teach independently throughout Manhattan. She is currently teaching Yoga, Pilates, and Dance independently in PA, NJ and NY. She is the creator of Movement for You, A Way of Life Practice and founder and collaborator of Artists in Unity. Lindsay is excited to be working as a delegate/writer for Yoga Stage as of November 2011.