Oh… it’s not hot Yoga? Never mind! Not Vinyasa???? What’s the point? Beginner level? Puh-lease! Somewhere along the way, the no name, no “distinguishing marks”, plain old Yoga became not good enough anymore. Seems like if it’s not the hottest, strictest, hardest, most challenging poses type of Yoga, it is somehow … lacking. Can’t be quite sure, but if ego had a smell it would probably smell somewhat like this.
104 degrees for ninety minutes, drenched from head to toe, the hot yoga class is just like an internal shower. Yes, the stretches go deeper, the body and mind feel thoroughly cleansed from the depths of the smallest cell. The experience is unparalleled. But this doesn’t mean that the flip side or everything in between is without merits. As it turns out, 90 degrees and even 80 degrees also leaves puddles around the mat. Furthermore, Yoga in 50 degrees is also a unique experience, especially outside.
The practice starts with lots of layers because let’s face it, it’s cold. Socks? Definitely! The first forward bend does not inspire. In fact, everything kind of groans and the body is sluggish, slow, and reticent. And so, we slow down. We notice. We notice the breath suspended in front of the face, the smell of the air, coolness in warm nostrils, the warmth of the body despite the cold. As we continue to move and wait for the body to catch up with the mind, we notice more warmth, fewer layers, no more need for socks, warm fingertips and toes, the first trickle of sweat shyly sliding down the back of the neck. Sure, three pounds of water stay in the body and full splits take longer to get to, but somehow we notice the scenery. The fact is that we are NOT in India so why not work with what nature provides here? It’s just as good.
Fast paced Vinyasa classes are wonderful. They challenge the body and mind and leave the practitioner feeling light and vibrating with life. But when did “slow” become a four letter word? Considering how easy it is to get caught up in the fast fury of our lives one would think the opportunity to slow down and remember who we actually are would be welcomed. Of course, it is exactly the fast pace of our daily life that makes it so difficult to slow down making it exactly the thing we need to do. Slow Yoga is too easy? Try holding a Warrior (take your pick of which one) for ten minutes and see the benefits of moving slowly. Hold a Double Pigeon at max for five minutes a side and see how easy that is. The fact is, in real life flow is not always possible and we find ourselves having to stay in very uncomfortable positions for a lot longer than ten minutes.
Constant forward movement is so nice. Always growing, advancing, one asana progressing into fancier versions of itself. Inversions, binds, arm balances, deep back bends… we love advanced classes! Beginner class? Actually, there is no such thing! A “basic” forward bend can be downright torture when done right. Most back bends are in need of correction or adjustment even in ’advanced” practitioners. Often, the wrong muscle groups are being used for holding poses., and letting go of them… well years can go by before one learns how to disengage the trapezius. Never mind about engaging the lats… The fact is, life is not always linear. We are constantly going back over the same things, the same lessons being presented until we finally get them right. So go ahead, practice your basics.
Has the “middle of the road” become the path less traveled? Is the answer always found in the exotic or can it be found in the “normal“? Is putting down a mat in some non-descript yoga class taught by some no-name teacher simply not distracting enough? Who knows.