Don't sweat the sweat.
Hot yoga. Hot yoga in the summer. Hot yoga in the summer in Florida. Which of these phrases is most likely to make you think twice before you head to class? Maybe all of them. And yes, the last one in particular may seem a little counter intuitive sometimes. It can easily feel just as hot and humid outside as it does in the studio in Florida in the summer.
The first summer I practiced Hot 26 on a regular basis I had those same thoughts. Do I really want to go to a hot room and sweat for an hour or so during class when it’s so hot outside that I work up a sweat just making my way to the car in the morning? Some days I really struggled to make the decision to go to class, and some days I definitely talked myself out of going to class with the “it’s hot” excuse.
But then I looked at it a bit more closely. Was fear of sweat my excuse? It couldn’t be! I’m one of those people who sweats buckets. I’ve been a long distance runner since high school and most of that time I’ve lived in Florida. My body learned it needs to start sweating early and keep sweating – because it never knows if I’m going to stop after 20 minutes or after 4 hours. Sweating is our natural cooling system - and I’ve been happy that my cooling system works so efficiently – if it didn’t I wouldn’t able to participate in many of the activities I love.
Puddle around the mat at the end of class? Yeah, that’s me. Sometimes it seems like I must be the only one in class who’s sweating so much – and indeed every once in a while I am. Early on one of my yoga teachers challenged us to stop wiping away the sweat during class, to just ignore it, let it flow. It’s there for a reason – to help cool your body. If you wipe it away your body has to work to create more cooling sweat. You won’t win this race! And wiping sweat is a distraction, it means you either miss those precious few seconds of stillness between postures, or it means you’re missing part of the posture itself to pause and wipe sweat. I accepted the challenge and gradually, with attention to sweat every practice for several weeks I stopped wiping sweat away. Sometimes we look for distractions in class – anything to take our mind off the hard work and focus required. When I stopped wiping sweat I became less distracted, found more stillness during class, which also helped still my mind. Now I just stand there and let the sweat drip – it’s a visible sign that I am working hard, that my body is strong and powerful, that I am able to do this practice.
So no, it wasn’t fear of sweat that was stopping me from going to Hot 26 in the summer.
Does life get sort of crazy in the summer? It definitely can. Often summer is a time of change. If you have kids they are usually out of school – and that is a BIG change. Depending on their age it can mean a lot of organizing activities, juggling your own schedule with theirs, trying to make sure they have things to do to stay out of trouble, a lot of stress. When my kids were that age I would love it when school ended in June (no more tight school schedule, no homework to supervise, no last minute projects, no packing lunch every night) and I would love it equally, maybe even more, when school started up again in August and our schedule returned to normal.
With or without kids, summer can often include a vacation, or friends and family coming to visit (especially if you live in Florida!). At work the load is often affected by colleagues taking vacations at different times. And of course there can also be the occasional tropical storm or hurricane that comes along to throw things into disarray (if we’re lucky that’s all it does). We humans are creatures of habit and when our normal routine is disrupted it can be stressful. Summer often includes disruption to our routines.
Was it “summer disruption” that was stopping me from going to class? Sure, summer was busy, the schedule was different. But it was still just life. Changes to one’s schedule always happen at every time of the year. The kids may not be out of school but they can get sick anytime and require a juggled schedule. Friends and family come to visit – often at holidays, when things can get really crazy. And colleagues go out of town or big projects come along to change the load at work.
So I went to class.
I discovered that maintaining my hot yoga practice in the summer was vital! Some days it seemed I needed it more in the summer than at any other time during the year. And my excuses? It’s too hot, my schedule is crazy – what about those? They were just that, excuses. They were small items that I allowed to become big – I gave them the power to keep me from doing something amazing for my body and my mind. Yep, it was hot – and I was going to sweat, a lot. Was my schedule disrupted – yes, it was. But I was in control of whether I decided to interpret that as “crazy” or just as “different.”
Did yoga help me see these things? It did. When I stopped finding excuses and just went to class I saw all sorts of amazing things. Attending hot classes in the summer helped bring stability to my disrupted schedule. That hour and a half was time just for me – time when no one could ask me questions, demand my attention, and interrupt me. Afterwards I was able to handle the disruptions, interruptions and demands of summer more calmly.
Attending hot classes in the summer also generated a productive sweat – a sweat born of focus, determination, concentration and muscles working hard. This was not the mindless sweat of walking out to get the mail in the summer – this was the sweat of tensions and frustrations being left behind, literally dripping out of me, if only for an hour or so – leaving calm in its wake.
Hot 26 in the summer, in Florida. Absolutely.
Jen took her first yoga class at a London YMCA in 1984 – and loved it. That was over 30 years ago and she’s been practicing ever since. A long distance runner and triathlete, Jen credits yoga with keeping her body healthy and injury free. Yoga was the calming influence in her life when running her own business and raising 3 children.
Jen has her 200 hour teaching certification and enjoys sharing her love of hot yoga with her students. She believes incorporating yoga into every day is key – postures, breathing or meditation – just take a little time for yoga every day to reap timeless rewards. Jen loves the outdoors - hiking, biking, camping, traveling – always taking her yoga with her.