Did you know that using heat for healing is old-school?
Far from being a fad, heat therapy has been used in many cultures (as far back as ancient Egypt) as a medical treatment for a variety of aches and pains? Makes sense if you think about it, since an increase in temperature to an area of the body promotes circulation and blood flow there. And blood is how each part of your amazing body receives the nutrients it craves, and removes the waste it needs gone
What heat does:
Heat relaxes tense muscles and (by improving circulation) helps heal damaged tissue, ease soreness and relieve joint pain caused by arthritis or just being a stiff dude. Heat therapy can be "dry heat" like using a heating pad or sitting in a sauna, or "moist heat" like soaking in a hot spring or applying steamed towels. At 105 degrees and 40% humidity (your clothes basically become steamed towels!) our hot room environment here at Home is kind of... both.
Heat has even been found to be an effective treatment for depression!
This area of research is relatively new, but already this study has even looked specifically at using heated yoga to treat depression and anxiety and (surprise surprise!) it works. Bonus: no crummy side effects like other anti-depressants.
There's lots of evidence exposure to warm temperatures can elevate your mood. Scientists have observed that brain areas which process pleasant stimulation activate when the skin is warmed. Activity in the medial orbitofrontal cortex for example is low in depression, but it’s increased by warm stimulation.
While being in the heat helps us feel happier, doing yoga poses in the heat also provides an added challenge to the mind, and through that challenge hot yogis cultivate the oh-so-practical mental qualities of Faith, Self Discipline, Concentration, Determination and Patience!
Athletes use heat training for improved endurance.
A rapid increase in the volume of blood's plasma when it's hot seems to boost performance in athletes! It does so by helping move excess heat out to the skin and cool you off, among other things. The jury's still out on whether heat training helps improve endurance in regular temperatures, but... concentration and determination definitely do.
Heat may also keep you saf(er)
Check out this blog post here for what science has found about the effects of heat and humidity on COVID-19 transmission rates. (Hint: it's good news for Bikram yogis!)
A blacksmith doesn't try to take a piece of iron and change its shape by just pounding away at it cold. You have to heat it up first! In the same way, we're trying to change (improve!) both both body and mind when we practice yoga. Keeping toasty helps you do it!
Ready to try? Book your next heat therapy- I mean, hot yoga- sesh here.
Our psychic powers tell us you may be wondering: is wearing a mask in hot yoga even safe?
Are you prepared to take excellent care of yourself during class?
That means breathe through your nose, and rest when necessary (Hint: if you find it hard to keep breathing through your nose, you need a rest:
When you first return Home, you will probably need to take more breaks than you are accustomed to. It's true that a mask will be in the way of air headed into your nose, but also don't forget that you haven't been in a hot room for 7 months!
Everyone is going to be out of "hot yoga shape" at Homecoming, masks or no masks. We all get to re-acclimate together.
If you think about it, that's kind of awesome.
Never in the history of the studio have we ever had a class where everyone was still getting used to the heat!
What a gift that we all get to support and inspire each other in this way.
Look, if you have any concern (and especially if you have any respiratory issues) you should definitely ask your doctor if wearing a mask in hot yoga is for you.
Having said that, there may even be some benefit to exercising while wearing a mask!
For years, athletes have used "elevation training masks" which decrease levels of oxygen to simulate working out at high elevations. The idea is training the lungs to perform with less oxygen, will make performing with normal oxygen levels that much easier.
It's important to note that wearing a regular (non-ETM) mask does not actually decrease oxygen levels (though it may feel like it sometimes)
Bottom line: athletes have been training in masks for years. The word "training" is the key: it's a practice. Like yoga.
Doing your yoga in a mask is going to take practice.
So are you prepared?
If you're prepared to try- mindfully and patiently, practicing in a mask will be way less lame.
By the way, just like trying ONE class in a mask is not really enough.
Because, imagine if you only tried Standing Bow Pulling pose ONCE, and then decided you couldn't do it?? You've got to give this (and yourself!) an honest chance. Just like when you first began practicing in the heat: 2 or 3 classes in your first week will help you adjust the quickest.
Who knows, your respiratory system may actually get stronger from the experience! Your ability to tune in to your body's signals and manage intensity accordingly definitely will.
And that's a bonus worth training for!
Check out this post for more thoughts and tips on wearing masks in class.
Hey everyone, it's Stacy and I'm thrilled to be writing this post. I appreciate the little pockets of "creative outlet" I can find in this whole new normal we're living in.
Let me share a little about myself so you can catch my perspective. I'm a wife, a mom of 3 kids, we have a bunch of little animals at our house (7 chicks, a dog, and a bunny! - and yes, you can come to our urban petting zoo when this is all over!)
We are one of the families impacted by the astounding lay-off statistics which happened to account for 95% of our family's income. We have 2 school aged children and are navigating distance learning for the long haul, our other child is in the medically vulnerable population, and we're just doing our best to live life and be happy and make this whole crazy thing work.
We're happy, worried, soaking in all the family time and utterly exhausted by the end of each day all at once.
On top of that, I'm also trying to make sure I am taking care of myself by doing things that fuel my soul and make my body happy - one of those being Bikram Yoga.
I am no expert... at, well, any of this. I am not a long-seasoned yogi. I am certainly no expert at managing a life and a household during a global pandemic. I mean, is anyone? But I do want to offer a couple ideas that have been extremely helpful in finding peace, balance, and time to practice yoga.
First, let’s chat about peace.
It almost seems like a taboo topic right now. Peace? In the middle of all this?? Isn’t that completely neglecting the reality of the world right now which feels pretty full of unrest? Are you actually being a toxic-positive person?? Yikes. No, definitely not. I don’t know about you - but I cannot just sit and soak in sadness and despair. It’s already here, I don’t have to do anything else to help it exist.
Don’t get me wrong, I could get completely caught up in the endless amount of news floating around, but my peace would suffer. Right now I must keep my peace for my own sake and also for my family’s sake, since we are cooped up together 24/7. So how do you do this when you’re busy and being pulled in a thousand directions from your kids, spouse, life, etc.
You must decide you are deserving and worth it and peace is as essential as water and air to live and thrive and you must must must make it happen.
Finding peace looks different for every single one of us. It could mean dedicated quiet time, exercise, laughing, reading, napping, fresh air, praying, meditating, journaling, painting, creating, the list is endless. Whatever it looks like for you, do it. Do it as often as you can. I'd love to say I carve out pockets of peace every single day, but I don't... I wish!! But I do the majority of the time. And in my life, majority rules.
After peace, I try to create a little balance in our day.
Ah, the great "balancing act." I can’t possibly fit in everything I want and need to do every single day in our busy household, but I can find a sense of balance that makes me feel like I’ve got a (small) sense of control to what’s going on around here.
Even though we are not going out as much, I notice feeling just as busy (if not more) at home! Kid's school work, house projects, Zoom meetings, the endless amounts of cooking and cleaning, getting in some exercise, carving out time for yourself and/or your partner, and each kid, and walking the dog... did I mention cooking and cleaning yet? Don’t forget you need to rest! And and and… am I right? It’s a lot!
And it’s totally ok to feel like it is, because hey: IT IS. I mean, there have been multiple days where I had planned all the things, and then just sat around, re-dried the same load of laundry 3 times and ate snacks all day.
Well, I quickly learned that was not going to work for me, and just as quickly realized balance is possible. Thank goodness, too!
Here’s what works for me, and if you’re struggling to “fit it all in,” maybe this can help you feel less overwhelmed with it all:
1. Make a list of "non-negotiables"
These are things that are absolute musts for yourself and your family. Family dinner, time outside, breakfast together, quiet time… what are they in your life? This list doesn’t have to be long, but I encourage you to evaluate all the things you are busy doing, and pull out those key things that keep your household functioning and moving forward.
2. Set a schedule
Don’t you feel better when you know what is coming next? This schedule doesn’t have to be strict or even down to the minute, but more so a guideline to what and how you will move through your day. A rhythm. The rest, listen closely: IS OPTIONAL. I know… I know! Give yourself, your family, and your day the grace it needs and deserves to be fluid enough to feel good. It's called balance
3. Do yoga
Ahhhhh... yes, the yoga. My brain already feels a sense of calm coming over it just thinking about it. How do I fit this in? Like seriously, I can barely take a 10-minute shower without interruption let alone dedicate 90 whole minutes to myself, inside my house, with all these people and animals.
Before, I could go to the studio, I could shut off all the things, the hot room was a sweet and sweaty escape, I could "hide" away and just... do something for myself. Yoga looks pretty much the opposite of that right now in every way, except that it is still yoga - and it's for me - practiced by me - and the benefits are all mine.
Having to practice at home has uprooted all the "feel good" things I love about yoga and has forced me to a realization that yoga is so valuable to my life, even without all the frills of the studio environment.
Is my space hot? No. It's a little hot with chaos some days. Do I have a mirror? Also, no, not really. Does my toddler mimicking me count? Can I get it humid enough? Not nearly. But sometimes, I have a couple kids or a dog breathing right in front of my face and it feels a little humid... (kidding. not kidding.)
Do I get to focus and meditate completely? Ehh... not entirely. And by entirely, I mean not at all. Am I able to complete an entire 90 minutes, uninterrupted? Negative. I don't even always get a chance to complete 90 minutes at all.
I have learned that in order for me to have a successful home practice, I had to reconstruct what the word "successful" means.
I often practice in the middle of the living room floor, or when it's nice out, I throw a mat down outside. Always, I have a couple kids bopping in and out and lying down next to me, or on me, or trying to crawl through my legs, a dog rolling around on the floor thinking it's playtime, or kids taking their own sweet savasana on top of me while I'm in one too...
The commotion is endless.
But the yoga is timeless.
I've learned to let go of my idealistic perfect yoga experience, and realize that yoga IS the experience.
Some is better than none, and I've had to adjust my mindset from tolerating that, to celebrating that, and remarkably I can say that my body and mind are still reaping the benefits of a "not-so-perfect" yoga practice. My family and I are better for it, and I’m really glad I decided to just get over the fact that yoga is different now, and get to doing it for any amount of time, at any time of day.
The truth is, some of us haven't been in a good habit of practicing yoga since the stay-home orders have been in place. That's ok... kind of. If it's truly just not for you, not important to you, and yoga has not been a positive impact in your life, then sure, it's ok to not be practicing
But some of us need to check our yoga-egos (I know I did) at our own front door.
We need to realize that the benefits of practicing at home, an imperfect practice in a less-than-ideal environment, win out by far over the consequences of not practicing at all.
And here's the good news: it's a practice. This is quite possibly the only time we will be forced to practice peace, balance, and yoga in a world that looks like this, in a home space that exists like this, and in a mindset that feels like this.
I for one am optimistic for my future self - that I will have learned so much during this time in a way that I never would have before. I mean, can you even imagine how good my savasana will be when we get back into the hot room after all this practice with my kids jumping all over me? Ha!
So here's to you, and me, and all of us. Making an attempt for joy in our life, through the practice (and grace!) of peace, balance, and yoga.
See you at Home!
Studio leader, yoga-doer and life-lover, Kay D.