Hot room etiquette

10:52 PM

For a few years now I’ve had a regular home practice. I’ve tried out different types of yoga, done the beginner passes at a heap of different schools and had bursts of enthusiasm for different focuses and styles. Somehow I have never managed to stick to one school. I wouldn’t say that it’s a bad thing; I’ve had many teachers pass on their wisdom and each of them has impacted my practice in some way. But as much as I love my home practice, it’s never the same as taking a class, having someone else look at your practice with new eyes and point out the things you can’t see for yourself.
Towards the end of last year a friend asked me to come to yoga with her. I kept putting it off because my ego got involved and I didn’t want to take a class that was ‘too easy’. (By the way, that’s not a thing. Everyone can learn something from the ‘easy’ class.) Eventually I decided to go and in the process of booking online realized that what she meant by ‘there’s only one level’ is that it was a hot Vinyasa yoga school. This means that everyone is in together, doing the same postures at their own level.
It had been a while since I’d had a regular Bikram practice and the idea of a new kind of hot yoga was really exciting. I did my first class and loved it so much that I got a 30 day pass, and then another, and then another. And it has now been nearly 6 months that I have been practicing at the one studio. You learn different things when you practise in the same space, in the same style for extended periods of time. You get to know one teaching style and what the instructor actually means when they say 'let your brains spill out your head!'
There have been a lot of new people at my studio recently and just last night I overheard a few girls freaking out about what you're 'supposed' to do at hot yoga. Your first class can be quite daunting, especially if there's other yogis walking around with chiselled abs, drinking coconut water, and you had no idea you even had to bring a towel! There are the classic do’s and don’ts that everyone hears while nervously preparing for their first hot room class; what to expect, where to set up, where to dump your sweaty rental towel after class. But the practice is full of details that I wish I had known before I started Bikram and Vinyasa...

1) Sweat is sexy. I know it seems gross. It’s not. I know you’re jealous of the girl next to you who doesn’t seem to be sweating at all, while you look like you might drown and you’ve never sweat so much in your life. Don’t be. Sweat means passion, dedication, detoxification, health. Learn to love it.

2) ‘I’m not flexible enough to do yoga’ is literally the worst excuse ever. Fitness and flexibility come from going to class. Start where you are now. You are the best you can be in this moment.

3) Vinyasa and Bikram yogis love our bodies. We are definitely not perfect, but we love and are proud of the incredible things that our bodies are capable of. This also means we are not afraid to wear the smallest yoga clothes possible. (Can I just add that they're quite expensive considering the lack of fabric!) And nudity in the change rooms doesn’t bother us. We gave up embarrassment in the change rooms around our fifth class. You will too.

4) Don’t set up in the front row on your first class, but make sure you can see the mirror. You don’t like the mirror? You hate how you look in yoga clothes? Don’t worry that’s why you’re here. You are here to learn to love yourself and love your reflection (not to get that yoga butt you've heard so much about - that's just a side effect!) You are here to kill the critical voice inside your head; what we call ‘monkey chitter’. You are here so that one day you can look yourself in the eyes in that front mirror and kindly bow down to your own elegance and strength.

5) It’s not all about the workout. You might think hot yoga is all about the workout when you begin because that’s all you can think about while drenched in sweat. But this practice is about embracing stillness, controlling your ego and your monkey chitter. It’s an intensely spiritual meditative practice; it just takes a while to get your mind to shut up long enough to realize it!

6) Listen to yourself. The poses are progressive so if you feel too challenged by a pose, go back a step and work on that first. Forcing yourself won’t impress us; we’ll just be worried that you might hurt yourself!

7) Sitting down doesn’t make you weak. Sitting out means you are respectful of yourself and also to others; if you don’t sit down when you need to you are probably fanning yourself, breathing loudly, guzzling water… All of those things are much more distracting and disrespectful to others’ practicing than quietly sitting on your mat. It means you are brave, present in your practice, connected to your body and humble, not practicing from your ego. Never let your pride stop you from taking time out. (Of course if you could do a pose but you’d rather chill on your mat and watch, that’s weak. But that’s not normally why we come to class.) When you do sit, sit proudly because you are truly living your practice.

8) On that topic, leaving the room will not help you. I promise. I’ve seen people pass out in class and all of them were trying to leave the room when they did. Sit or lie down on your mat, breathe and let the instructor and the community energy support you. Stay in the room.

9) Savasana really is the hardest posture. It’s difficult to be still, in both mind and body. But that’s okay! Also don't talk if anyone else is in Savasana. The last thing they need is you distracting them while they try to relax and forget that they face planted in crow pose!

10) Get ready for a community more supportive than you ever imagined. If you stick with this, get ready for huge challenges and huge rewards. Get ready to cry in poses you never thought it was possible to do and to let go of things you thought you’d never get over. Get ready to crave the hot room and wonder what you ever did without it. Get ready for yoga to change your mind, your body and your life!
Take the challenge. I dare you!
xx Courtney 

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