Return to Hot Yoga

By Kate Willoughby Hall | May 6th, 2016

A personal experience about returning to the mat.

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Four years ago, a harrowing experience in a 90-minute hot yoga class left me nauseated, depleted, green on a bench outside of the classroom. Even though the instructor encouraged me to stay in the 105-degree room as long as possible, I simply could not make it any longer, my stomach doing flip-flops as I ran out.

It wasn’t that I was terribly out of shape. It was just that I couldn’t take the heat. Literally.


Hot-YogaI’ve always tried to stay active, often running and most recently kickboxing in an effort to keep up my strength and energy level. When a friend recently urged me to join one of her hot yoga classes at Hot House Yoga, I cringed at the memory of sitting on that bench, cheeks flushed while all those limber yogis walked by, urging me to “keep at it” and assuring me “it gets better as time goes on!”

I didn’t listen. The whole experience deflated me like a balloon the day after a Chuck E. Cheese birthday party. While I’ve never been a super-athlete, I’d never failed so miserably at a physical activity.

Last week, I picked up my dignity and a yoga mat at the encouragement of my friend Anita and tried, tried again.

In the first few moments, we held gentle stretches as we were encouraged to “dedicate our practice” to someone. This was easy for me as I have a dear friend who was recently diagnosed with breast cancer. I would stay focused on her, thinking that was a meaningful way to start a workout.

We started.


First things first. Sweat pouring down my forehead, I am thankful for the towel they’ve given me.

Thank goodness I’m in the back of the class. Lord knows I do not want to look at myself in the giant mirror facing the folks in the front row. I start hyperventilating a little from the heat, but our instructor starts us on looooooong, slooooow breathing exercises. His voice is so gentle my breaths slow down to a calmer pace. We literally say an “Ohm.” And I have to admit, it feels pretty darn relaxing.

“OK, I can do this!” I think to myself, as I notice that there are women likely twice my age in the room. If they can sweat it out while doing a downward-facing dog-and-cobra pose, then darn it, I will, too. We are encouraged by our instructor to clear our minds from outside clutter. I happily comply because I am trying to learn all the poses and hold them as well as I can while keeping my core tight. That, I am told, is the key to strengthening.

Before I know it, we are in corpse pose or savasana. (Have I mentioned this is my favorite pose? I can do a corpse like nobody’s business.) My shins are sweating. (This is possible! I never knew.) My mind is focused on what I am doing (a rare task for this mom-of-three, who compiles lists in her head for groceries, activities and work to-dos). Our instructor thanks us for spending our practice with her and asks us to go out into the world peacefully and with light….

I did.  I even went back, three times that week. Now it’s part of my routine.

As for stillness, peace and serenity outside of the yoga room?

Well, let’s just say we’re still working on that.

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