Body

My First Time: Hot Yoga

by BHAVYA MALLADI

You walk into the CorePower Yoga lobby for the first time, and you can already feel that it’s a couple of degrees warmer than it is outside. After picking up a yoga mat and filling your water bottle, you enter studio 1, where you’re about to have your first CorePower Yoga class. You are immediately hit by a wave of heat, and your eyes slowly adjust to the dimly lit room. Soft music is playing from the speakers above you, but otherwise there is complete silence even as others enter the studio and set up their yoga mats. You can already feel beads of sweat form on your face as you sit down on your mat and stretch out your arms and legs in anticipation. The instructor enters the studio, introduces herself, and your first hot yoga class begins.

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BEFORE

I haven’t had much experience with yoga in general; I was in middle school the last time I took a real yoga class. After doing some research, I learned that hot yoga could have potential physical and psychological benefits. A 2013 study showed that an 8-week Bikram yoga program, with 90-minute classes three times a week, helped to reduce stiffness of arteries in younger adults and reduce the prevalence of insulin resistance in older adults. Additionally, a 2014 trial found that life satisfaction improved after a 60-day Bikram yoga program. Hot yoga is a fairly new trend, but preliminary research suggested that it has multiple benefits, and I was eager to give it a try.

Through a friend, I heard about CorePower Yoga, which specializes in hot yoga and has a branch right here in Westwood across from Trader Joe’s. I learned more about their free week trial program and decided to sign up together with my friend!

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DURING

Day 1

Class: C2 (CorePower Yoga 2)

Intention: I learned here that every class was prefaced with an intention or theme of the instructor’s choosing. On this particular day, the intention was to focus on the present moment and find a balance between being grateful for the routineness of our lives and being open to change.

Activities: In 98 degree heat, the instructor guided our movement through various yoga poses, core-strengthening exercises, and healthy breathing exercises.

Thoughts:

On the intention:

Having the instructor constantly remind me of the intention during the exercises definitely helped me move with purpose and focus on the present. I forced myself to stop thinking of all the future homework and studying I had to do and simply think about the position my mind and body were currently in.

Afterwards, my body felt more relaxed than before, and my mind felt clear. I had never sweat that much before, which was a little uncomfortable when walking through the chilly air back to my dorm. I was also pretty exhausted when I came back from the class; at about midnight I realized my legs, arms, abdomen, and hips felt sore, but I was looking forward to what the next few days had in store for me.

Day 2

Class: C2 (CorePower Yoga 2)

Intention: The focus of this class was on appreciating the present moment, being grateful of and learning about the body’s limits, and getting rid of distractions.

Activities: We were led through exercises very similar to the first C2 class, but I realized that the instructors were flexible in choosing exercises based on what they liked to focus on. For example, this instructor liked focusing on body-twisting poses.

Thoughts:

On the intention:

The intention of this class was very similar to the previous class, which had its benefits and drawbacks. I felt that I was more experienced in focusing on the present and consciously pushing away thoughts about the past and the future, but I was also hoping for more variety in insight and yoga experience. Overall, though, I still think it was beneficial for me to continue practicing mindfulness.

Physically, I felt a little more prepared for this class because I now had some experience under my belt. Interestingly, during the core workout, I felt like I was in an ab workout video because of the accompanying loud and energetic music. Afterwards, my body was still a little bit sore, but I was excited for my next class.

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Day 3

Class: C2 (CorePower Yoga 2)

Intention: This class focused on thinking positive thoughts and being kind to ourselves, whether we’ve had a good day or a bad one.

Activities: This day’s class included a pretty grueling ab workout that I was not able to maintain without taking many breaks, but the rest of the exercises were pretty similar to the first two classes.

Thoughts:

On the intention:

The intention of this class was different than before, but personally it was just as important. I have a habit of dwelling on my faults and berating myself about it sometimes, but this intention forced me to be kind to and forgiving of myself. I realized that without being explicitly told to do so, I don’t usually bother to think positively about myself and embrace my faults. During the class, even if I was unable to hold a pose or do the exercise, I forgave myself and my limits. During the ab workout, I reached a point at which I couldn’t continue, but those around me were still going strong. Before scolding myself, I remembered what the instructor had said about being kind to oneself, and I forgave myself for having different physical limits than those around me. I reminded myself that it was perfectly fine to exercise at my own pace and to be comfortable with my limits, so I took a breathing break and rejoined the group when I felt was ready.

By this point, I was beginning to understand and remember the names and correct implementations of certain poses. I also began to understand how the flow of breathing connected to the flow between poses, and how much of a difference a regular breathing pattern makes. However, I still wasn’t used to constantly being drenched in sweat.

Day 4

Class: YS (Yoga Sculpt)

Intention: This class focused on owning power and strength, and taking that same attitude outside of the yoga studio.

Activities: This class was a little more intense than the C2. The focus was on working out different parts of the body (e.g. arms, core, legs) with weights while in various yoga poses. It was definitely the most crowded class, and it seems to be the most popular one at CorePower!

Thoughts:

On the intention:

I appreciated that the intention of this class extended from that of the last one. Being kind to ourselves and knowing our limitations includes owning up to and being proud of our strengths, which was this class’s focus.

So far, this seemed to be my favorite class because I felt like I got a good workout. Not to mention, it was nice to have the instructor motivate me while the others around me were struggling just as much as I was. I also began to notice a pattern; at the end, the instructor would lead us through savasana (lying on our backs with our limbs long and our palms facing upward). During savasana, we relaxed completely in silence for a few minutes as we focused our breathing and thoughts, and then worked our way upwards to sit with hands held together at the apex of the eyebrows. The instructor then ended by saying, “The light and teacher in me honors and recognizes the light and teacher in you. Namaste,” after which everyone in the class replied “Namaste” in return. I enjoyed the savasana because it brought with it a sense of peace and calm that I have experienced very rarely with my busy schedule.

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Day 5

Class: HPF (Hot Power Fusion: Candlelight)

Intention: This class focused on santosha, or the feeling of content; the instructor stressed that it is important to be content with the limits of our body and project that into our daily life.

Activities: The room was almost completely dark for most of the period. There was no intense, grueling workout; just simple yoga poses with slow and smooth transitions. Emphasis was also placed on balance and posture.

Thoughts:

On the intention:

I noticed that by this point, the intention of each class was not a distinct entity, but they all wove together to create a positive psychological effect. The intention of this class was very similar to those of the past few classes: being kind to ourselves, knowing our limits, and respecting them. As a result, I watched myself become a more positive yogi each day, which also improved my mood and attitude outside of the yoga studio. I would take breaks when my body was pushed to its limit, and remind myself that it was okay to do so each time. I wouldn’t let everyone else’s progress or abilities affect how I thought about myself when I couldn’t balance on one foot. Instead, I closed my eyes, focused on my breathing, and enjoyed the calmness that flowed through me.

HPF definitely replaced YS as my favorite class. It was still quite challenging, and I still sweat more than a comfortable amount, but the smooth flow did wonders for my tense body and mind. As a dancer, I had always considered myself relatively good at balancing, but it was definitely more difficult in the dark! I was pretty frustrated that I kept tipping over, but I came to appreciate that my limits were tested by changing and challenging environments

Day 6

Class: YS (Yoga Sculpt)

Intention: This class focused on choosing a word that resonates with us, and thinking of that word when we inhale and exhale; my word was patience.

Activities: We did exercises that were very similar to those of the Yoga Sculpt class from Day 4, with a lot of exercises focused on the arms and core. I made the mistake of not eating before the class, which effectively caused my energy to be depleted quickly and affected how well I was able to participate in the exercises without breaks.

Thoughts:

On the intention:

Being given such flexibility and freedom for the class intention was a stark contrast to what I had become used to. Initially, I was stumped that the instructor wasn’t guiding us through every thought process. However, I appreciated that we were given control in this last class because I realized how much I learned about my physical and mental limits. I was patient with myself as I pushed my body as much as I healthily could.

I had stopped feeling sore after classes by this point, and I was able to push myself a little past my limits and be pleased with whatever my body was able to achieve.

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AFTER

Before I had started the free trial, I knew close to nothing about hot yoga or its benefits and drawbacks. I was apprehensive about trying it out because I had little experience with yoga, and was afraid of how unrelenting and inflexible my body would be. What I didn’t expect was how impactful a week of classes would be on my body and on my mental state. Although attending regular classes can, quite frankly, cause a significant dent in your bank account, I would definitely recommend at least doing the free week trial at CorePower Yoga in Westwood. At the end of the week, I felt more mentally and physically healthy than I had been in a really long time. The instructors guided us through the practice while reminding us about the intention of each particular class, which helped me focus on being positive during the class and extending that positivity beyond the yoga studio. By the end of the week, I was also much more comfortable with and knowledgeable about my body and its strengths, faults, and limits. I observed that the lower half of my body is fairly flexible, but the upper half is not. My arms are weaker than I would like them to be, but now I see it as an opportunity for improvement rather than a fault to dwell on. I realized that, probably due to my experience as a dancer, I am relatively well balanced on my feet as long as the room is well lit. Overall, I learned to think more positively about myself, be grateful for the present moment, and appreciate the experience of consciously learning about myself.

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