I know, I’m a bit obsessed with breathing these days. From a period of time where I’ve discovered the curiosity and determination of becoming better at inversions to this. It’s like learning how to breathe for the first time. If you don’t breathe correctly in yoga, you really get suffocated and everything becomes really hard.
I tried a Hot Flow class yesterday and it was like coming home. For those who are following along my yoga journey, I did about 1 year of daily Bikram yoga which is a set sequence of series in a very hot room, about 40 degrees celsius. I stopped after a while though as I wanted more variation and didn’t like the philosophy of the Bikram “clan”.
I’ve been going to Flow classes for a while though and even the normal classes seem to be a little bit heated here in Shanghai. So I went into this room which was not as hot as Bikram but still about 35 degrees I would say. I know some people really don’t like the heat and the thought of moving in such hot temperature can discourage a lot of people.
For me though it has the opposite effect. Maybe I was living in a really hot country in a former life but when it is that warm I just feel alive into my bones. The heat makes me much more focused somehow. In a “normal” Flow class I sometimes get distracted. By the other students, what the teacher is doing, my own thoughts or the monkey mind which sometimes wants to do anything but focusing on yoga.
In the heat, I get this “super focus” where I really have to pay attention to everything I do. Not breathe too much to get out of my breath, not open my mouth, move slowly, no unnecessary movements and just control myself and my body to move through the sequences together. I really like Hot Flow. After a brief and slow warm up, we were all warm. That took less than 5 minutes to start to sweat.
Breathing correctly here is maybe more important than in other types of yoga since if you are doing it wrong you just can’t continue. I noticed my neighbour yogi next to me had to stop several times since she was out of breath since she was breathing either too much or not enough. The key is to keep everything constant, like a clock. Long inhale, long exhale, keep the same rhythm no matter what.
The pace of the class was a bit slower and there was no upside down postures. I guess it’s risky as you might faint with the blood pressure. It is also a question of mind over matter. Sometimes I would tell myself that “hm maybe I do feel a bit dizzy”, or “can I really do this?”. That’s just the monkey brain teasing with me. Then I decide I can, I just have to focus and boom, I feel better. We can always do more than we think we can do.
Towards the middle of the class, I had this wonderful experience with Lion’s breath as you call it. So what is it? It’s normally when you breathe in fully, then you breathe out strongly but through the mouth so it creates kind of a sound as of you would make fog on a window. We do sometimes as well towards the end of the normal Flow class. What made it so special was that it was so synchronised.
Figure a room with 50 sweating yogis in the heat. We are all in the same warrior pose, we breathe in and the all out at the same time. It’s a really powerful feeling that I just loved. Something else also caught my mind during this practice. I’m really starting to get strong now and it feels great! Before I used to hate Chaturanga Dandasana (when you go from plank and hover down towards the floor). It was a real pain and I felt so weak and just wanted to collapse on the floor.
This teacher pays a lot of attention to get our core, arms and shoulders stronger so we can start to do other poses. We had to hold a chaturanga for 5 full breath and what I would normally think was a complete impossibility was somehow easy. I heard that many in the room were struggling and suffering but I felt so strong that I even think I could have held for 10 breaths!
That’s just a fantastic feeling. Not so much of being flexible, but the sensation of getting strong again. You feel kind of like superman. Mixed with a lion. If you’ve never tried hot yoga before you should try. It’s also great if you have some kind of muscular pain, it all disappears. It’s like yoga and sauna at the same time. And afterwards, you feel so refreshed, like a new person. Just remember not to eat anything before, and don’t close your eyes!