It is hard to challenge the deep-seated opinions we have. They become part of the fabric of our lives. Like thinking “this isn’t for me”, “I’ll never be able to do that pose”, “I am [fill in the blank]”. We like the comfort of what we know as we are – blanket statement – creatures of habit.
Nothing wrong with that. Although, sometimes it’s also useful to be challenged. Challenged in our belief system in order to re-map boundaries, check if the opinion we have of ourselves and others can be revised, make space for new input and, ultimately, grow. But this is also a de-stabilising process which takes willingness to approach what we do not rate, have an open mind and, maybe, adopt a new vision. Questioning oneself is hard work.
When it comes to hot yoga, some of my deep-seated ideas sounded like: “I don’t like the heat”, “hot yoga is for people whose ego says that they should lose a few pounds”, and “I don’t do it, I’m a Vinyasa teacher”. Then, I started hearing about Kristin Campbell, who trained many of the teachers I highly respect.
After a few year’s resistance, I finally gave in as I really wanted to study with her, and we embarked on a 60-hour teacher training where we were required to practise two hot classes per day for seven days. After the first two, I decided I must have been mad signing up.
Kristin’s teaching is sharp, intelligent and useful to any yoga teacher of any style – absolutely no doubt about that. But the practice? I was bothered by the heat, the sweat dripping into my eyes, the need to shower afterwards, the re-hydration process, the change of clothes you have to take with you. All of it.
But, as we progressed through the week, I finally gave up the fighting and focused solely on the practice. Then I started to understand. The sequence designed by Kristin is called Tapasya which means “to be with intensity for the sake of transformation”, and so it is. I started to work out how I could feel okay in an intense and uncomfortable environment.
Could I drop the thoughts about how uncomfortable some aspects of this practice were and keep my focus on my breath? How could I pace my energy in this environment? Could I respect my body and my strength levels – which are different every day – and complete the tasks at hand? This is all fantastic training not only for the hot studio but for life. Just like any asana practice, of course, but with added intensity.
New perceptions about hot yoga started to diverge from my old certainties. How annoying. This can undoubtedly be a strong practice, but the intensity makes it a real gym for the mind, more than – or in addition to – the body. An interesting platform from which to explore letting go of your deep seated certainties.