I tried Hot (Bikram) Yoga for the first time at Pure Yoga yesterday. I have to say, I didn’t care very much for it. 25-30 extremely sweaty bodies cramped in a sauna-like room with perspiration beads being dripped and flung about… and with so little space in between yoga mats that I couldn’t even do a sun salutation properly without hitting the people on either side of me? Ech.
The instructor warned me beforehand that the heat will get to me, and to just give 30% of my capacity since it’s my first time in a heated room. The heat definitely did get to me. Quite a few times I felt dizzy and couldn’t breathe and I almost wanted to bolt out the door to gasp in some cool air. I didn’t though… managed to calm myself by steadying my breathing and meditating through the asanas.
Why didn’t I like it? First of all, there’s something counterintuitive about sweating so much without doing very much work. Normally when I perspire this much it’s because I’ve really worked out and I feel that the perspiration is indicative of how much exercise I’ve had. This time I didn’t feel like I ‘earned’ the sweat. There seems to be something ‘artificial’ about it, and yoga and artificial just don’t go together for me. I sweat nearly just as much when I practice ashtanga yoga in a non-heated room, and the asanas in ashtanga build a lot more strength and stretches me a lot more deeply than what I did in the Hot Yoga class.
Secondly, it didn’t feel good. Yoga, as I’ve come to learn, is about respecting your body. For me at least, I didn’t feel I was doing that in the Hot class. The heat made me tired, but something still felt like it was missing.
I was in two minds about giving Hot Yoga another shot after the class yesterday. A part of me thought maybe it was because I wasn’t used to the heat. Still feeling skeptical that there are no dangers to this practice, I went online and did some searches. Apparently the medical community doesn’t think that Hot Yoga is that hot either. There are also Yoga purists who feel that the philosophy/spirit behind Hot Yoga belies true yogic principles. (It’s more ‘short-cut’ to get the results you want rather than becoming one with your body, mind and spirit and changing slowly from within.)
As of right now, I don’t think Hot Yoga is for me.
I continue to be disappointed in my search for a new Yoga home in Singapore.
Gaia Yoga, where I’ve been practicing since I returned to Singapore, closed down a couple of weeks ago because the owners could not afford the new rent hike. Its members have been diverted to Pure Yoga where we can use up the remaining classes we had purchased with Gaia. But of course, Pure Yoga is trying to get us to sign on with them as well. And while they are not doing the extreme hard-sell (as is the case, I’ve heard, with True Yoga), it still grates on my nerves a little.
I’m still trying out Pure Yoga. But so far, 2 classes on, I’m not impressed. Their facilities are a wonderful convenience (showers, towels, lockers, hair-dryers, toiletries etc provided), but that’s not what I look for in a yoga studio. All I really need is one excellent yoga instructor to study under. It would be a bonus to have different types of yoga to try, but that’s only good if the instructors are good.
Perhaps my expectations are high. For me, a good yoga instructor and a good yoga studio should embody the spirit and philosophy of yoga. A good yoga class should be a time and space where the student can, even through the most challenging asanas, discover inner tranquility and learn to bring integration and balance to mind, body and spirit. It may sound harsh, but so far in my experience with Pure Yoga, I feel that it has no soul. I don’t feel that ‘yoga vibe’ from the instructors, the classes are too crowded, the students too ‘goal-oriented’ (it’s like people working out in a gym!) and ultimately, the sense is too strong that this is a profit-making business rather than a center of yogic tranquility.
So to my yogi-readers in Singapore, please tell me where you practice and what your experience is like. I’m still in search for a new yoga home. And I hope to find one soon! Meanwhile, my most satisfying yoga practices have been at home with Mark Darby on my DVD. :P
P.S. I miss Myriam Khouzam from The Yoga Sanctuary in Toronto so much. After having attended yoga classes with so many teachers, she is still, without a doubt, the best I’ve encountered. Not only does she have mastery in yoga, she has a gift for teaching yoga in its entirety – body, mind, and spirit… AND heart. Her classes literally changed my life.