10 Tips to Survive a 30-Day Hot Yoga Challenge
Truth: I have been an on and off the mat kind of yoga student for the past five years, but have recently made the decision to spend more time on my mat. In doing so, part of my renewed practice was to participate in a 30-day hot yoga challenge. At times it was tough, but completing the challenge and reconnecting with my “yoga-self” has been one of the most rewarding and rejuvenating experiences of my life.
The following is a list of practical and personal tips to help you survive and thrive your 30-day challenge.
- Embrace the Kula!
Kula, or community, was one of the most integral parts of the challenge experience. Notice how a natural Kula forms as you see familiar faces and congratulate each other for finally realizing that crazy balance pose! Everybody in class has the same interest as you, and has equally made the effort to be on their mat. And as with most of life’s challenges, having the support of those around you will keep you motivated and feeling strong.
- Celebrate Your Accomplishments
Made it through the first class? Great! Made it through the first week? Even better. No accomplishment is too small to celebrate, even if it is just with an extra strong hug-style Garudasana pose.
- Stay Hydrated
This tip is especially true for hot yoga challengers. It is important to drink water throughout the entire day before and after your practice. Gulping water between poses will not help you. You should not be dependent on the bottle of water that you bring into class. Many teachers won’t cue for a water break and some studios discourage students from even bringing in their water bottles. But, if you have been hydrating throughout the day, chances are you won’t even need your shiny BPA-free bottle.
- Electrolytes! Electrolytes! Electrolytes!
A great tip given to me by one of my teachers and registered holistic nutritionist, Samantha Sowassey, was to re-mineralize my filtered water. She recommends using Himalayan salts that actually contain the same 84 natural minerals and elements found in the human body. These pink-coloured salts will promote healthy water levels in your body and will reduce muscle cramps. There are also over the counter electrolyte replacements like Replenisher or Luna if you prefer a more fruity flavour. In a pinch? Add a wedge of lemon or lime to your water. They too contain trace minerals and can help regulate fluids in the body.
- Avoid Eating Right Before Class
This tip is super practical and relevant. Lying on your stomach, if it’s full of food, is neither enjoyable nor relaxing. As a general guideline you should try not to eat anything substantial three hours prior to your class. If you need to eat, stick to a piece of fruit or other small non-salty snack.
- Be True to Yourself
Use a block, use strap, ask for help. Practice your poses with integrity. This means having the inner-honesty to know where your limits are. It is good to challenge yourself, but it is very important that the challenge comes from within. Let the rest of your classmates “fog-out.” Your practice is about you and where you take your poses. This will be completely different from your neighbour; You are completely different from your neighbour.
- Rock the Childs Pose
Knees together, or knees apart. Hands above your head, or hand along your sides. Whichever you choose to do, do it with purpose. This is not the “OH MY BUDDAH I AM GOING TO HAVE TO GET BACK UP IN 30 SECONDS POSE.” Let your heart gently melt into the mat and not come crashing down. Regulate your breath and come back to why you are in this class in the first place.
- Buy a Hot Yoga Towel
Now I know this may seem like a bogus tip but it will change your practice! The first thing you will need to get over is the price; I will never tell my mother how much I paid for a “towel!” My thought here is, you deserve it! If you are going to hot yoga everyday you should be able to practice in peace and not be sliding all over your mat or having your old beach towel bunch up under you. Plus they come in a range of patterns and colours, so express yourself!
- Less is More
Do not be afraid to sport the short shorts. It gets really hot in there and the last thing you will be thinking of is the cellulite on the back of your thighs. I also find cotton-based clothing items to be extremely uncomfortable as they inevitably become drenched with sweat. Wear clothing that is light and breathable and ideally has some sweat –wicking properties.
- Just do it
I know you can! Don’t be afraid. Starting something new can be really intimidating, especially if you have visions of a room full of super fit and bendy yogis. Even if you are unsuccessful with your first attempt at least you tried, and you can try again. Taking the time everyday to come to your mat will bring peace, clarity and awareness into your life – which you deserve. So, take my last tip and just do it!
Yin Yoga Benefits and History
Maybe you’ve heard of yin yoga but don’t really know what it is. Maybe you’ve tried it but lack some understanding of its origin or purpose. Or perhaps this is the first you’re hearing of it.
This exploration of the benefits and history of yin yoga will provide you some understanding of where yin came from and how it benefits people. If you find it compelling, get on your mat, keep learning more, and let us know how your journey unfolds.
To prepare for this article, I interviewed several Boston-based yin yoga teachers and regular practitioners. This is their scoop, filtered through some of my own experiences on what the benefits of this slow, meditative practice are.
What are the Benefits of Yin Yoga?
When practicing this turtle-paced yoga style, unlike other varieties that are fast-moving and fancy looking, there is no wow-factor for spectators. Because yin yoga stretches connective tissue, especially at the joints, difficult inversions and impressive poses wouldn’t be safe considering how long they are to be held (anywhere from a couple of minutes up to around 20 minutes). To experience the wonders of yin, practitioners simply hold well-aligned, basic poses.
Doing poses in stillness promotes the cultivation of the inner life.
As yin yoga enthusiast Kourtney Hartmoyer has so eloquently put it, “the shapes are simple, perhaps even boring. To the outside world, it doesn’t look too interesting. However dull from an outside view, what I have found is that the quiet stillness of yin allows me to better observe the inner self a bit more clearly. It magnifies everything. That is where I find the magic.”
I have felt the magic, too. Yin yoga helps me to see myself on a deeper level through the cultivation of stillness. When I practice it’s not always easy or even possible to become physically still. Yet when I am able to “drop-in” and become motionless, the depth of awareness is simultaneously awe-inspiring and intrinsically peaceful. I can watch the inner play of my mind and subtle body as an observer. I can see within.
If you are planning to start a yin practice, it’s okay not to be absolutely still. It’s okay to struggle. The struggle contains information you can observe with kindness and curiosity. And when it finally subsides and you can be still, you can move deeper into yourself and into greater states of euphoric relaxation.
Moving Into Deeper States of Relaxation
Joanna Barrett told me that her daily yin practice helps her “to sit with sensation, moving toward or into deeper states of relaxation.” Moving quickly cannot promote deep trance-like states in the manner utter stillness can. If you’re curious, swap out the vinyasa flow for a yin vibe to appreciate what Joanna is talking about.
The depths of relaxation may require some preparation and commitment of time. It wouldn’t make sense for you to rush into a meditative state.
You’ll need time to allow your body to slowly drop into the depths of each pose. Completely support yourself with props, breathing deeply with lungs that move air like the bellows that feed fire.
Sure enough, the depth of sensation will tempt you to get out of the pose. I urge you to remain still while breathing deeper to experience the peace and meditation of true surrender. Can you stay just a little longer and relax just a little more? That might require a great deal of patience.