I don’t think I could have arrived at yoga from a more foreign place. My athletic background is in sports like ice hockey, soccer, football, tennis and lacrosse. Obviously, yoga has none of the volatile, fiercely competitive aggression of those sports. And yet, interestingly, I’m much better at all of them after spending more time on the mat. Yoga originally started as my occasional, ‘down day’ workout; it was the activity I would do when I wasn’t batting a tennis ball across a net or skating with my local hockey pick-up. But gradually, yoga has evolved into the glue that connects all of the other sports I do together. The more classes I can attend in between more traditional workouts, the fitter I become at everything else. I have better stamina to sustain longer runs. I have more explosiveness on the tennis court. I have greater flexibility and get injured less in everything I do. Thank you, in particular, hot yoga.
I appreciate learning about all different types of yoga but the edge of hot Vinyasa flow keeps me coming back at least three times a week. Perhaps it’s the guy inside me who was weaned on competitive athletics, the same one who relishes the difficulties of serve-and-volley tennis or scoring a goal on a one-timer, but the combustible fire of hot yoga reminds me of the sports I grew up with. It has a lot of the same challenges, rendered in a completely different arena. I know I probably shouldn’t look at yoga in this context, but I do. Breathing fluidly through each pose: that is my primary objective: never an easy task in the lofty temperatures. Staying in the moment is next. As my wife so often asks, are you being mindfully present? Hot yoga is a great barometer of this. If I’m not staying completely present, I might not make it through the entire sequence of poses, which is always my goal. And finally, if I can breathe and focus on remaining within myself, I’m honing my alignment in a safe and thorough manner. I’m trying to get deeper into each asana, hold it longer and evolve my practice. The heat keeps me honest. It keeps my attention centered on the teacher and the instruction. It brilliantly limbers up the muscles and pushes back in a way that’s similar to some of the most challenging, invigorating sports in the world. And that’s why I don’t just salute the sun during yoga, I salute the heat.