Tantric Vinyasa Yoga Retreat in Mexico, March 18 – 25, 2017

Posted by & filed under Yoga Retreat.

 

Join me for a Tantric Vinyasa Yoga Retreat at Mar De Jade in Mexico from March 18 – 25, 2017. Mar De Jade is located in Chacala, Mexico alongside the ocean and right next to the jungle, about 90 minutes outside of Puerto Vallarta. Give yourself a week to unplug and enjoy days of yoga, meditation, restoration, rejuvenation and time for self-reflection. Located in a small fishing town on the ocean with an organic farm on the property, Mar De Jade has many activities to take advantage of including hiking, whale-watching trips, surfing, fishing, day-excursions to surrounding towns, napping in hammocks, as well as massage and spa services onsite. Learn more about the Mar De Jade here. 

The Tantric Vinyasa Yoga Retreat will include 2 daily led yoga classes. The morning practice is of a more vigorous and enlivening pace, while the late afternoon class is of a more restorative and calming nature. Classes are accessible to all levels of practitioners; capabilities and limitations will be considered with modifications available. The center will provide 3 daily meals, prepared with fresh food that is directly from the farm onsite. Dietary restrictions will be honored.

Reservations for the retreat should be made directly with the retreat center by or before December 1st. Book early in order to have wider selection of rooms. Half of the reservation amount is due to Mar De Jade upon sign-up and the remaining amount is due upon retreat checkout. Instructor fee is $200 before December 15, and $250 thereafter. Full instructor payment is due by March 1st, 2017. Accommodation details and pricing per person listed below:      

Sign up with the retreat center by booking online directly, calling Mar De Jade at 1-800-257-0532 or emailing info@mardejade.com. Please note that the online booking system will only reserve complete rooms. If more than two people are booking together and wish to split the deposit on multiple credit cards, please call Mar De Jade directly.

Flight arrangements should be made independently. Direct flights should be purchased to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico and we will be coordinating a shuttle system to pick up and drop off groups from the airport. If you are interested in learning more about joining the Tantric Vinyasa Yoga Retreat in Mexico, please reach out to me directly to arrange details and logistics at keely7jones@gmail.com.

 

The Power of Silence

Posted by & filed under Asana.

For the month of June, my teacher and I had the privilege of teaching a free Saturday morning yoga class downtown at Millennium Park. Lucky for Chicago’ans, the park district sponsors occasional free classes held on the lawn of the Pritzker pavilion. Every Saturday, with the weather on our side, hundreds of people brought their yoga mats and each week the amount of people seemed to grow exponentially. MeditationPark

Everyone needs some quiet and stillness in their life. Our physical yoga practice is the time that we dedicate to work and stretch the muscles and physical body, so that the body can sit in stillness and be present. We each have an internal guidance within us that helps lead us to living the life we were intended to live. But we can only listen to that internal guidance when we quiet the mind and observe our thoughts without judgement.

The Chicago loop is typically filled with so much noise and an overwhelming amount of congestion to try to navigate through. Hundreds of thousands of people walking rapidly from one work obligation to the next, cabs and cars honking aggressively at one another, and enough construction at every other intersection to drive anyone crazy. Living in an urban environment with 2-million people means constant visual and mental stimulation. Everything surrounding us serves as a distraction from that of one’s personal and internal experience. Add that to our constant connection to some type of portable technology device that ensures we are engaged socially to the rest of the world via the interwebs, and our time dedicated to ourselves is non-existent. Very rarely do us city-dwellers get to experience quiet and stillness outside of our homes.

Yet early on Saturday mornings, the loop is quiet and somewhat still. Everyone fills into the pavilion at their own time, sets up their mat, and with a light melodic soundtrack in the background, gets to move through an accessible yoga practice. At the end of the practice and a short savasana, students are instructed to sit in silence for the last few moments and practice being present. Those last few minutes of the practice where hundreds of people are gathered in the same place and sitting perfectly still with their eyes closed, in the middle of Chicago’s Millennium Park  is quite possibly one of the most amazing and humbling experiences I have ever felt as a teacher. The amount of energy and power that emulates from such a large gathering of people who are still and silent juxtaposed next to Chicago’s concrete jungle is truly fantastic.

 

To all those who ‘can’t touch your toes’

Posted by & filed under Vinyasa, Yoga-Etiquette.

Let’s just clear something up about yoga before you offer me an excuse about what you cannot do. You do NOT have to be able to touch your toes as a pre-requisite for attending a yoga class. I am not sure when or where the myth began that flexibility was a prerequisite for practicing yoga, but I assure you, it is not. Everything takes practice, yoga included. Yogis do not wake up and get out of bed every morning and jump right into headstands, one-legged standing twists, and dropping into backbends. In fact, it takes quite a bit of guided teaching and warm up to get into the poses we practice. But practice is what we do, to continue evolving and working towards the more complex poses and subtleties that yoga offers us.

Working in the field of physical health and wellness has given me the privilege of having a great deal of friends who run marathons, do CrossFit training, dance in professional companies, train martial arts, and every single one of them practices their discipline on a regular ongoing basis. Yoga is no different. Flexibility does not come naturally to most of us, and as we age it becomes all the more challenging. We don’t practice yoga because we already can touch our toes before stepping onto the mat. We practice yoga so that we can work towards touching our toes and continue deepening our practice in an authentic way.

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Come as you are. That is all we ask of you. After a practice or two, you will begin to learn what poses are accessible for you, what feels amazing, as well as which poses aren’t so comfortable. Notice and learn from the cues your body and mind offer you. Don’t judge them or yourself, simply be the witness to your own experience on the mat.

Any given student in my class may have a previous injury, a minor limitation, a stiff back, a busted knee, a mental-health issue, a pregnant belly, or an autoimmune disease I have never heard of in my life. But all of these things offer us an opportunity to challenge ourselves and explore poses in a unique way that works for our specific physical body. Don’t let limitations make you feel bad or guilty about what you can’t do. Own the limitations, and work with them. You will overcome these challenges in the same way you have overcome other obstacles in your life.

The biggest challenge and obstacle in front of you, is simply to show up to practice yoga and arrive on the mat.  The prerequisites are that you come to class, have a body to work with, turn off your cell phone and leave your shoes and socks outside the studio. Leave the rest up to the teacher. Allow yourself to be guided in and out of postures. If you don’t like the teacher, find another class and keep trying new classes until you find a teacher that resonates with you. Practice yoga without offering an excuse for what you can or cannot do. Open your mind to the possibility of practicing and allow yourself to be mentally present as you do so. In the back of your mind, just remember…. Savasana is on its way.

On Being an Urban Warrior Activist

Posted by & filed under Activism, Yoga-Etiquette.

 

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I have always considered myself an activist, and tend to fall on the left of most social issues. Being an activist has always been an important part of my identity. I fight for the things I believe in and feel passionately that we can create a more peaceful existence with the world around us; if we make intentional choices about the way we live our lives. For me, this has meant fighting on behalf of those that are less visible in the mainstream, people who are imprisoned, families living in poverty, vulnerable youth, LGBTQ rights, and animals that are neglected and subject to cruelty. I often use the term ‘urban warrior activist’ to describe the ways I have applied yoga into my life as an activist. But, I have struggled with a great deal of internal conflict around what it means to be both an activist that fights for social justice, while spending a great deal of my personal time committing to my yoga practice. Practicing yoga is a luxury and a privilege not many can have, and I can’t help but often feel selfish about the time I spend on my mat.

Let’s face it, yoga can be a very selfish practice. Yoga (in the way it is practiced in the western world) is a practice that is geared and intended for the self. For most of us this means taking a chunk out of your day to commute to and from, and take a class. Your yoga practice is a gift you give to yourself that is comprised of just you, your mat, and your time. For those with families, full-time work, extra-curricular activities and obligations, devoting yourself to a regular yoga practice can be a challenge. A challenge that we occasionally submit to by not going to class because we feel so guilty taking the time to practice. So why should we continue to fight for our practice?

When practiced with the right intentions, yoga offers us a chance to restore our energy and therefore  be more able to give ourselves to our efforts and people outside of the studio. If you walk out of your practice feeling better than when you walked in, your yoga practice has fulfilled it’s mission. Incorporating the proper amount of movement, breath and meditation is good for your health, your soul, your well being and your actions with others. You cannot serve others if you are depleted or running on low and stagnant energy. This is the same reason why we are told to put our own oxygen masks on before putting one on anyone else. Filling yourself with prana (life force) allows you to be more fully present, energetic and able to give yourself to the work you do, and the people you share your time with.

Your yoga practice should allow you to live your life better as a result of your committed time on the mat. Create a consistent practice that compliments what you do outside of the yoga studio. If you have a stressful, high energy, run-around life, maintain a yoga sequence that is grounding, restorative and helps you to regain a sense of calm. If you sit hunched over a desk every day with not enough exercise in your daily routine, commit to a practice that is more energetic, vigorous and gets the whole body moving. Every practice should include some breath work as well as meditation because it completes a yoga practice. Our physical postures are not much other than a work out routine, if we have not incorporated some time for breathing and clearing the mind. Having a practice that compliments your life can make things whole for you in a way that other activities cannot.

You wouldn’t want to take a huge test on a day in which you went out partying the night before and didn’t sleep. You wouldn’t go take a nap an hour after you woke up from a solid night’s sleep. But you might live a better more vibrant day after a solid yoga practice each morning. You might rest better at night if you take some time to slow things down and prepare the body to sleep well. These things give us the fuel and the energy we need to sustain and maintain. Maintaining a regular yoga practice has the same ability to fill us with the energy we need to live a better quality of life outside of the studio. I couldn’t be an activist if I did not have the consistent yoga practice that I do. Nothing helps me fight for the causes I believe in more than my yoga practice. By igniting the warrior within, I am reminded of the focus and strength needed to continue to push through on causes I feel passionately about.

Creating Space

Posted by & filed under Asana, Yoga-Etiquette.

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In a class that I took around the holiday season, the teacher began by laying us down on our backs with eyes closed as she talked about “how stressful the holidays could be with family drama, too much food, gift-giving, and other obligations”. As she described her experience of the holidays, I thought ‘wait a minute, that isn’t my version of the holidays. I love seeing my family! And eating too much food, holiday parties, and giving gifts!’ Then I spent the next several minutes trying to tune her out and focus on the physical practice. While the yoga class itself was lovely, she could not help but describe things in a way that were relevant to her experience only. She was completely self-absorbed, and tried to make our practice, hers. Her opinions and descriptions left no room for the students to have our own experience on the mat.

Using your personal experience to try to relate to your students understanding of yoga, does nothing but take away from their personal practice. As teachers I think it is extremely important that we respect each individual’s process on the mat, by keeping our own experiences outside of the our instruction within the class. Philosophy, light humor, and stories are all appropriate given the right timing, and add to the personality of the teacher. We want to know our teachers and understand their philosophy on yoga. We should be able to approach them and learn from their stories and teachings. While students want to know their teacher is a unique and authentic person, students do not need to know every detail of their lives or hear about their ongoing life stressors. Teachers should teach and create space for students to be their own authentic selves and have their own lived experience on the mat. Practitioners should have the freedom to process the sequence in a way that supports them, rather than have to hear what a pose or emotion is for someone else. Teach in the way that feels authentic to you, but do so in a way that creates space for others.

We all have different likes and dislikes of yoga poses, teachers, practices, breathing practices, etc… Because we are all uniquely different with authentic constitutions and makeups. A pose that brings one student happiness, can bring someone else a feeling of fear and depression. I dislike utkatasana. I love savasana. I dislike when teachers disregard the use of breath. I love when teachers have an intelligent sequence planned. I dislike when teachers offer no support to students who  are struggling. I love hands-on adjustments. But that’s just me, and it doesn’t reflect the same likes and dislikes of my teacher or my students. When teachers use their own experience as a way to guide me through a yoga practice, I get so distracted and feel like my practice somehow has shifted to them. Can’t I have my own judgement of how a pose feels to me? Shouldn’t I be able to reflect internally on what a pose does for me? Or does it have to be the same as my teacher’s?

During a recent class, I instructed the students to ‘sit back into my oh-so-favorite pose, utkatasa!’ in my most sarcastic voice. As the words came out of my mouth, I immediately regretted cuing the pose in that manner and thought of the teacher who made me feel bad about loving the holidays. The students laughed and smiled as they sat and sweat through the pose. After the class a student said to me, “I know it’s funny, but I actually kind of like utkatasana because it makes me feel charged up”. The student reaffirmed exactly the mental note I had made to keep my experience to myself. A painful pose to me, is a delightful one to someone else, and who am I to take that delight away from them? Create the space for your students to experience every pose in an authentic and unique way for them personally. Having a yoga teacher you follow is an extremely important part of being a committed yogi. Having a teacher that encourages and empowers you to have your own authentic experience on the mat is maybe the best gift a teacher can offer you.

Your Pet Practices Yoga Better Than You

Posted by & filed under Asana.

I admit that I am an animal advocate and a crazy dog lady. I have 2 dogs and a fish, and if it was socially acceptable to hoard animals in my third floor walk up apartment in Chicago, I would probably have about 4 more dogs, a few cats, a cow, pigs, some turtles, and perhaps a lizard. I stopped eating meat at an early age, because I could not fathom how odd it is to eat things that once had a heart and face. For many people, my feelings towards animals are over the top and even silly. But I believe animals to be far more advanced than we give them credit. They are at the core for so many yoga postures, and as a yogi, my admiration extends beyond that of a companion to cuddle. Animals keep the world evolving, and they respect the earth far more than most of us humans have the capacity for. They naturally adapt to the change of seasons, and evolve over time in a way that is in harmony with nature. And quite frankly, my dogs inspire me because they have the most amazing upward facing and downward facing dog, ever. No really, they essentially have mastered savasana because they practice it all day, every day.

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Does it ever seem funny to anyone else that as yogis, we get together in a warm room and mimic a bunch of animal gestures with our bodies and very serious faces? Our yoga practice is essentially people in physical manifestations of animals, cobra, eagle, upward/downward facing dog, cow’s face, sphinx, pigeon, camel, frog, crow, crane, one-footed flying pigeon, noose, the list goes on. Yet it often occurs to me that very few of us are actually thinking about the postures of these animals as a way to guide us into a pose. We are basically playing charades without the guessing and time restraints. Animals don’t have to practice yoga, they just do it naturally.

During my classes I teach and use both the Sanskrit and English translation of postures. It is important to respect that of the original name of an asana, but also relate it to a language students are familiar with so they can better make the connection of how the posture should look and feel. The original yogis used the natural world around them to create postures as a way live in harmony with the natural world surrounding them. Yoga is now practiced in studios around the world, saturated heavily in urban areas and cities. We cram into these studios and turn up the air to increase circulation, rather than breathing in oxygen from the outside. Are you really thinking of a snake when breathing into cobra? Does imagining a cow’s face actually help you in Gomukhasana? How about Ustrasana… can anyone locate the shape of the camel when you are reaching your hands for your heels and puffing up your chest?

Every morning we get up, I excitedly tell my dogs we are going outside for a walk. I watch as they do their own variation of a sun salute, no props necessary. From laying down, they stretch and extend through all their limbs, they move up to all four legs, then transition from downward facing dog to upward facing dog, take a big yawn and wind up their tails in excitement for our walk. They didn’t have to be taught that sequence, nor does it ever get old for them. They don’t need mirrors to see how the posture looks. They just feel it. It is just what they naturally do each day, as their morning ritual to open and begin the day anew. So give props to your pet if you have one, and look to them for inspiration for your yoga practice, because they got it down.

Yoga Etiquette videos

Posted by & filed under Yoga-Etiquette.

One of my home studios here in Chicago Tejas Yoga put together a few ‘Yoga Etiquette’ videos for your viewing pleasure.  While there aren’t any technical rules for being in a yoga studio and/or class, we thought it may be a humorous way to bring up some of the common things we as teachers, see in our yoga classes on a daily basis. Every person is entitled to their own experience when they enter a yoga class, but it is always a good practice to be conscious of others around you before, during and after your yoga practice.

Consider these gentle reminders for practicing self-awareness and mindfulness towards those around you.

Hopefully you find them funny as we did creating them. Look out for yours truly in videos #1, #3. Enjoy!

 

 

 

The Fall is upon us…

Posted by & filed under Uncategorized.

fall

The last few days of summer I find myself dragging and anxious to get back to a routine. I feel dried out, worn out from festivals, barbeques, and crave nothing more than a slight chill in the air to keep me home, snuggled up under blankets and exploiting football season to justify my Sunday naps. The season of summer vacation comes to a close. The heat begins to fluctuate up and down every other day. The leaves dry up and fall as the winds kick up a notch. The daylight shortens and  sunsets seem to creep their way earlier into each evening. The school year begins, our schedules fill up with commitments, the winds gain speed, the rain becomes cold, and fall officially settles in.

The first day the temperature drops below 60 degrees, I find myself relieved and soothed that the fall is on its way. I am overwhelmed with comfort thinking about wearing hooded sweatshirts, high-laced boots, shuffling through orange and yellow leaves, and eating all things spiced and pumpkin-related. Autumn romances me and rekindles my love and for Chicago yearly because it invokes a sense of calm, quiet, and rest.

While a detox or cleanse can be beneficial for the body, it is not a privilege  everyone will be able to take on, and can sometimes be too much of a shock to the system when not done properly. Here are a few things you can incorporate into your life to get in tune with the fall season and keep your body and mind in a balanced place that will aid in replenishing and vitalizing your immune system.

Nourishing your belly (Food & diet)

  • Increase your intake of room temperature water and warm liquids such as almond milk, chai tea, ginger tea and other spice-filled teas. Reduce iced beverages, sodas, juices, white wines and other cold liquids.
  • Increase warm comfort foods such as rice, qinoa, wheat products such as cous cous, pasta, and oatmeal. Enjoy things such as homemade cheese, honey, sugar, olive oil, ghee, sweet juicy fruits. Increase your intake of well-cooked vegetables such as beets, carrots, sweet potatoes, asparagus, arugula, cauliflower, cabbage, kale and collard greens. Eat nuts like cashews, almonds, and pistachios to serve as good protein sources. Sesame seeds are especially balancing during fall.
  • Avoid dry cereals, crackers and chips. Limit your intake of barley, corn, buckwheat, rye, dried fruits. Cut down on raw vegetables and salads. Keep away from un-ripened fruits that aren’t local.

Nourishing your body (Yoga asana)

  • Standing Postures : Your yoga practice should include postures that are grounding to counteract the outside winds and help you stay rooted. Standing postures will help to reduce irritability, keep the mind clear, and help one feel stable. Postures such as Virabhadrasana 1 (warrior 1), Vrksasana (tree), Trikonasana (triangle), or Parivrtta Parsvakonasana (revolved side angle).
  • Twists: Utilize twists to help bring movement and compression to the internal organs to facilitate moving toxins out and creating space for nutrients, oxygen and blood flow. Twists provide an internal massage to areas such as the digestive system, liver, kidneys. Poses such as Garudasana (eagle), Parivrtta Trikonasana (revolved triangle), Parivrtta utkatasana (twisted chair), Ardha matsyendrasana (half lord of fish)
  • Restorative poses :  Make sure to practice poses that help to calm the body and mind and allow yourself to let go into poses. This will help you to reduce stress, calm anxiety and relieve yourself of anxiousness. Balasana, (child’s pose),  Setu Banda Sarvangasana (supported bridge), Supta Baddha konasana (reclined cobblers pose), Janu sirsasana (head to knee forward fold) are all poses that help keep the mind in a calm state and keep one grounded.

The autumn season gives us yet another chance to start again, to get grounded and create a new routine. As opposed to the spring season when we are trying to clear things out of our system and shed our winter layers, the fall offers us a detox that is about slowing down, getting rooted and keeping the system nourished and healthy as we prepare the body for winter. Take the opportunity to stabilize your senses, get your twist on, drink your chai and take a nap.

 

My vegetarian proclamation

Posted by & filed under Uncategorized.

veggies

I stopped eating meat when I was 12 years old. While I don’t have a vivid memory about the day I decided to make the change, my mother does. It was during the mad-cow disease epidemic of the 90’s, and apparently I had witnessed an image on TV of a cow going into convulsions and dropping to the floor. It broke my spirit and my mind was made up. I marched home that day and announced to my mother that I no longer wanted to eat meat. Bless my mother, who already had enough managing an acting career with 3 children, my princess-self stood before her and proclaimed that I would no longer partake in the homemade meals she made for everyone else, but would rather my own variation. Little did I know that that very decision would become a huge part of my identity moving forward and impact every part of my life.

I get asked why I am a vegetarian quite often. Because I genuinely love animals, I adore vegetables, and I care about my carbon-footprint on this planet. It really is that simple. If animal hoarding was socially acceptable, I would have 8 rescue dogs (3 with some type of disability), 2 cats, a few piglets, some birds, a 3 limbed porcupine and a turtle. We would all eat vegetables grown from the soil we live on, and live happily ever after. Alas, that is a little more complicated when one lives and exists in an urban environment such as I do. Given that I live in Chicago, in an apartment in the city, I do what I can to contribute to the well-being of this planet, and everything that exists on it.

I would be lying if I said that I have not dabbled here and there, and occasionally jumped back on the other side of the fence alongside my carnivore friends. There were a few years when I decided I could go back to eating white meat. I lost quite a bit of weight, and enough gained muscle definition I never had before. But I still didn’t feel right about eating turkey sandwiches or chicken dinners. My friends would have you believe that I would order vegetarian omelet’s at brunch, and whisper ‘with a side of bacon’, to our waitress…. simply not true…. but I have been known to have bacon a few times a year… don’t judge…. I know other veggies who have fallen victim to the same seduction bacon brings! Alas, every single time I dabbled with eating meat…. I happily went right back to being a vegetarian.

I have had the privilege to enjoy meals full of delicious vegetables, grains, fruits, proteins, beans, cheeses, greens, and every color imaginable on my plate. My palette is just as curious as the next, and I have never felt as though I am missing anything from my diet. I eat anything and everything I want, without the guilt. I enjoy my food, I savor the flavors, the juices, and sensations that I am left with after devouring all of the earth’s bounty. Guilt is an emotion that never plagues me when it comes to eating vegetarian meals.

Here are some other awesome things about being a vegetarian…

  • It helps the environment by reducing pollution
  • Your arteries are happier and therefore your heart is stronger
  • You don’t get bit by bugs as often (no really, I am serious)
  • Your digestive system moves smoothly, gets rid of the bad and makes room for the new
  • You have less options to be overwhelmed by when going out to restaurants
  • You don’t get as full as fast as your steak-eating friends
  • Animals like you more because they will know you are an advocate for their lives and well-being
  • You become an elite member of an amazing community of other vegetable lovers, animal advocates, and environmentalists
  • Your taste palette expands and you get to eat amazing things from around the world
  • You will avoid digesting toxic chemicals into your body
  • You can eat as much kale as your body can take

There are 7.3 million vegetarians in the U.S., and the movement is growing strong. Vegetarian diets are known to ward off disease, reverse heart disease and reduce the risk of cancer. We live longer, up to 13 years longer than those who eat an average American diet. We have strong bones. We have more energy throughout the day, and become less reliant on chemical-filled flesh. We minimize pollution levels by reducing the demands on the meat industry that dirty our rivers, streams, farmlands. We care about the senseless slaughtering of animals and want it to stop. Promoting a vegetarian diet could help reduce famine. If we were to feed all of the grains that we currently feed our livestock to people, we could feed nearly 800 million people. This list could go on, but simply put, the individual and worldly benefits that vegetarian diets promote is hard to ignore.

Most of my friends, family, loved ones, and dogs are carnivores. I would never suggest to anyone to do anything that did not feel right and authentic to their beliefs. However, I would encourage anyone who has ever thought about being a vegetarian, to give it a shot, even for just a week. You may open your mouth to a world unexplored, and a body full of health.

Inspiration for this blog piece comes from thugkitchen.com – if you need a good laugh, more reasons to eat green, or some delicious vegetarian recipes, this is the blog to check out.

Getting heated

Posted by & filed under Vinyasa.

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Recently on a trip out to the Bay area, I was tricked into going into a hot yoga studio. My dear friend and a fellow yogi had told me she was going to one of her favorite challenging vinyasa flow classes. She assured I ‘would sweat and love it’. I had spent the weekend vacationing, which meant I was eating a great deal, and not getting my daily asana practice in. I figured a vigorous vinyasa would be an ideal detox from my fun-filled weekend and I was in need of a class.

‘I grabbed us a spot right in front of the stage,’ my friend told me a few steps before I walked into the studio. I put my bag and shoes in a cubby outside the room and entered the space. The studio was a stuffy and moist 96 degrees. People were already dripping in preparation for their vigorous vinyasa flow session. I had officially been fooled.

I love a challenging practice where heat comes from inside the body allowing us to take our physical practice to the next level. I believe in stoking the internal fires to clear out blockages and challenge ourselves to move into poses we think are unattainable. But the type of internal warmth that takes me to a deeper place, is not a result of turning up the thermostat. Setting the studio temperature to 96 degrees, is externally forcing heat into one’s body. This encourages a superficial type of practice that I can’t seem to get down with, no matter how hard I try. That being said, I try to approach every class with an open mind, gratitude for the opportunity, and a vibrant heart. Regardless of the style of yoga, the seniority of the teacher, the reputation of the studio, I want to be open to it all and take it for what it is. I seek the chance to learn of other philosophies, listen to how other teachers are cuing, and want to know what is being taught in the yoga community at large.

But…. This room was really hot, and I began to get really uncomfortable. My pants were damp and clinging to my legs. My attitude was souring thinking about the next 2 hours and the class hadn’t even started. The studio was filled to capacity with about 70 yogis packed in like sardines. There was beautiful natural light beaming from all the windows, but none were to be cracked, and I felt deprived of fresh air. People were enthused to be there, and I told myself I was also. The teacher gave us an intention to keep in our hearts, and we began our practice. We went through our vinyasas rapidly, as if dancing through them. There was a carefully selected soundtrack that encompassed chants and transitioned into folk-ish melodic tunes. We held our standing poses, taking the optional binds, practiced various inversions, did intensive core work, and ended folding over in pigeon for several minutes. Sweat poured out from all of us. We had worked diligently, we had been conquered, we happily submitted. There was no silence, there was no meditation, there was no talk of the breath, the use of bandas, or any other subtle elements of Yoga.

As I rested in shavasana I tried to convince myself that the things we dislike and make us uncomfortable can actually be extremely good for us. I tried to find the reasons why this would be true for me in this last practice. I couldn’t think of any. Everyone else’s toxins were overwhelming me at this point and I couldn’t take a deep breath. I tried to ignore the feeling that I was covered in other people’s sweat from the studio-rented mat I practiced on. I washed up and ran outside as soon as I could to get some fresh air and find space.

For the next few hours I was irritable, rushing from one thing to the next. I felt charged, hungry, aggressive and generally on edge until I fell asleep that night. My sleep was even off. I was wired.

As someone who lives and works in the urban environment of Chicago, I am already wired. I work 70 hours a week, teach yoga, manage a number of extra-curricular events, have social obligations, familial commitments, among everything else on my plate. I don’t need one more aggressive force in my life that is over-heating, or stimulating for my nervous system at every waking moment. I need something to off-set the chaos of existing in an urban city where nothing is still. Vigorous and rapid is what moving through10 hours of my day feels like. I can maintain a vigorous practice without blasting the heat. I can move through poses slowly and it actually assists in deepening my breath. I can still feel amazingly vibrant and strong after a restorative practice. I can find mental clarity after 20 minutes of sitting in silence. What this class actually had done for me was reaffirm why I love my practice, and why I teach what I do in the way I do.

While I know hot yoga is not for me, I have a hard time writing it off completely. The trend of turning up the temperature in heated yoga studios has brought so many people to the mat, that might not have showed up otherwise. I personally have benefitted from people finding my class, after having been injured or disappointed from their experience at a hot studio. I have fellow yogis and friends alike who started living healthier lifestyles, shed excess weight, and have opened a part of themselves that never had been discovered before. So while I may not fully understand or embrace hot yoga, I may still show up to a class here and there. Perhaps only as a gentle reminder of why I practice the way I do, and continue to commit to that practice on a daily basis.