Friday 30 November 2012

Put A Soc In It!: Hot Yoga

This week I got hot and sweaty with the yoga society...

It’s getting cold in Cambridge. As my fingers freeze to my handlebars and my nose turns purple on my cycle ride to lectures each morning, I could think of nothing better than some searing sunshine to perk me up.

So when I heard that there were classes of hot yoga available in Cambridge, I signed up without hesitation. An hour and a half of 105 degree heat! Bliss! Removing layer upon layer of woolly jumpers and donning ‘minimal, cool clothing’ in accordance with the rubric, I couldn’t get to class quickly enough.

When I arrived, the speedo-clad instructor gently told me that, since this was my first time, my main challenge would be just to stay in the room for the full ninety minutes. Pah! I thought – that was precisely what I’d come for! I unrolled my mat directly underneath a glowing heat lamp and embraced the sensation of growing warmth that was suffusing my formerly goose-pimpled body.

Five minutes in, I found myself dripping with sweat and gazing longingly at the frosty conditions outside. The instructor noticed I was struggling. “Bring your focus to the room, to your practice, to your being,” he cooed. Although inside I was dreaming of diving into the frozen-over Cam, I tried to outwardly project a vision of zen as we worked our way through the series of twenty-six postures and focus on the benefits that twisting myself into all sorts of bizarre shapes promised to bring: detoxification, increased vitality and mental clarity, weight loss, and reduced stress – all of which assume a greater effect in high temperatures, so I’m told.

The next sequence involved the delicate balancing act of standing on one foot and holding the other leg high in the air. I looked around the room to see how the others were coping and caught sight of a gorgeously toned man wearing only a pair of shorts, his biceps glistening with sweat, a vision of masculine strength in this posture…

I toppled over. “Focus on yourself alone,” the instructor said softly. “The body betrays the mind’s thoughts. Clear it of clutter, and you will balance better.” No chance of me stealing another glance of those beautiful biceps then, unless I was to risk another embarrassing tumble.

Attempting to close off thoughts of my classmate’s physical attributes and instead put my mind and body through each systematic movement, I began to feel more at ease with the heat, the postures, and myself. The instructor gently told us that we could leave the room when we wished, and whilst earlier on I would have made a run for the door given the opportunity, I stayed lying on the ground a while longer, reluctant to let back in all that “mind clutter” that I had cleared and face the cold reality of the outside world again.

I remembered that gorgeous man on the nearby mat, thinking I would be happy to make an exception and welcome him into my “mind clutter”. But when I saw my beetroot-red face, soggy t-shirt and frizzy hair post-class, I abandoned any hope that he would be willing to do the same. I’d learned my lesson: yoga is a personal experience. It’s about focusing on your own practice and becoming more at ease with yourself, so that you can give your mind and body some well-earned time off. Beautiful as he was, I had to respect my classmate’s right to do that too. Not that that will stop me going back for another class…

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