Let me put this out there first: I enjoy yoga. I really do. I love bending and stretching and having someone help you focus your energy on what's going on inside you, your breath and what your body's doing.
That said, hot yoga always seemed scary to me so I had never tried it. Okay, maybe not scary but also not really appealing. I was intrigued only in the sense that I'm the kind of person who hates not knowing what's going on/has constant FOMO, so I was curious about it. But never enough to actually *do* it.
That all changed with the Space & Flow class at Indaba Yoga in Marylebone. To start with, let's just say they're not lying when they call these classes 'hot'. I don't think I've EVER sweated so much in my life. Like, dripping with sweat.
Hold on--I'm getting ahead of myself.
First off, as an entry to hot yoga, Indaba was a fantastic studio to do it in. The welcome was friendly, the changerooms were immaculate, they had towels, drinks and snacks available for reasonable prices (as well as chilled, filtered water on tap if you had your own bottle) and lovely soaps and lotions in the showers.
The studio space itself was clean, open-feeling and comfortable with plenty of mats available to use. Raphan, the yogi leading our practice, was extremely welcoming and made a point of speaking to every single person individually about whether they had any niggles or injuries he needed to be aware of. This is a big one for me as I really hate when instructors (especially for yoga) stand at the front of the room and ask people to call out if they've got any problems. Awk-ward.
Anyway, from then, Raphan was hard core. We stretched, we posed, we were told that our movements were not smooth and beautiful enough. We were told to smile. We were then asked if we had been forced to hold the pose long enough (yes!)--and when we said yes he said we must be lying because we were smiling (very funny. Dying!). Raphan was firm, funny and fair. And it was brilliant!
By about 30 minutes in I didn't think I could do the full 90 minutes (oh yes, first hot class was 90 minutes long... I think I may be a glutton for punishment but, in all honesty the class was not entirely my choice but one that was made for me). By 45 minutes in I had to leave the class to go to reception to get a small towel since I hadn't brought my own and could barely see from the sweat going in my eyes in inverted positions. By 70 minutes I knew I could survive and had actually started liking Raphan's style and how my body was feeling, the strength I was getting in some of the positions and the transitions I was able to move through smoothly (at least for me -- I'm no ballerina). When we came to the final savasana I felt wrung out, pretty convinced that I had lots at least 5lbs in sweat, glad it was over (I'm not going to lie!) but also proud of myself and... I don't know how to describe it. At peace? i feel like that sounds a bit hippy-dippy. But it was a nice feeling. Not a euphoric high but not a low either. Raphan actually mentioned the idea of 'equanimity' being achieved. Maybe I got to a little bit of that.
Highly recommend Indaba as a venue. I wouldn't necessarily rush back for the hot yoga--even though I enjoyed it, I don't love working out in heat so it's not likely that it will ever be my first choice either for fitness or yoga practice--but I enjoyed it a heck of a lot more than I expected and I'd encourage anyone who has done yoga but not tried hot yoga to give it a go.
...maybe start with a 45 or 60 minute class though. ;o)
(Image not mine -- if it's yours or you know whose it is, please drop me a line so I can credit you!)