I went to hot yoga tonight. It was full 90 minute Bikram-style practice. Tough and intense. And utterly what I needed after the cold, dreary day lying in bed and feeling under par with the tail end of a stubborn ear infection that has refused to let up since Christmas. I feel like I have been steam cleaned.
I have to admit I was a bit unsure, but I’d made a commitment to help out with cleaning up after (Karma Yoga – service to others) and it was important to me to keep that. Partly my fear to do it came from past experience. I had a very consistent Bikram practice back in Shanghai before my thyroid issues took over and I had to stop because it was contributing to the crazy endocrine imbalances I was experiencing. I loved it, but my body did not. But today is not the same as then. I’ve learnt that sometimes I have to override my brain and listen to my body. I was feeling cold, achy and stuck. Hot yoga was just the thing.
I’ll never go back to an exclusively hot yoga practice. I’ve learned a lot since then and it can be summed up in three words – balance is key. Finding balance (for me, which may be different to someone else) and learning to trust intuition has taken time and experimentation. Not to mention getting to know my limits and what my body likes. Today it was 90 minutes of Hot 26 and thank goodness for having that option. Other days it is sitting still and finding a space just to get very quiet and calm. I've come to learn what is needed when.
What does that mean for you? Well, I’d say it means try things and find what you like whether it’s hot yoga, hatha, ashtanga, vinyasa, pranayama, yin, pilates, a walk, a run, weights, or just some simple meditation…and learn the basics well to build a strong foundation for whatever variations you then try. It’s like trying to write a good detective novel. You have to know and understand the form before you can play around with it safely. This, I find, is also true in most of life. Mix it up. Rest when you're tired, move when you're not, but always be honest with yourself and tune in to your body - sometimes a walk or a stronger yoga practice brings energy to a mind that feels tired and tells the body it is too, even when it is not.
As I’ve mentioned before, all yoga comes from the same place and is a variation on a theme. Start with learning the basics first. Why not try a Yoga Fundamentals or Yoga Basics course with a teacher near you? If you are in my area, I’m running one again in February following a highly successful workshop series in January! Learn to listen to your body…. it really is smarter than you. Getting on the mat is a great way to do that. Peace and Namaste.