Hot Vinyasa heats up the yoga experience

My first time taking a yoga class — Hot Vinyasa, to be exact — was everything I imagined it to be but also full of surprises. Let me explain.

Everyone who works at Earth’s Power Yoga seemed extremely welcoming and friendly, as I expected. After all, it’s their job to practice yoga all the time, so they must have a lot of inner peace stored up, right?

To my surprise, however, the other participants in the class were also very easygoing. Before walking into the space, I pictured a class full of bougie, plastic surgery-enhanced L.A. housewives. Instead, it was a diverse group of beginners, flexible dancers and yoga enthusiasts. I didn’t feel out of place at all, and I wasn’t even the only guy!

The studio was open and airy, and initially only slightly warm. I didn’t know what to wear to a yoga class so I just chose a black T-shirt and some running shorts, which was acceptable. The other guys were wearing bike shorts and tank tops, a smarter choice considering the yoga class was a hot one. And I mean that in the temperature sense of the word.

As our spiritual selves lifted upward through poses and meditation, so did the heat in the room. And, by extension, so did the sweat level. The class is not called Hot Yoga as a sexy marketing technique.

By the end of the first stretch sequence, my yoga mat might as well have been a Slip ‘N Slide. It’s actually pretty miraculous I didn’t fall over during the various balancing acts known as yoga poses. Tree pose, I’m looking at you.

Dangers aside, the class was a fulfilling experience. Vinyasa is a Sanskrit word that roughly translates as “to place in a special way.” It became the repeated mantra during our class, the reason for which I didn’t understand until later.

Vinyasa is a dynamic form yoga whose flowing style is meant to form a continuous series of movements, all connected by calm, measured breathing. As the instructor reminded our class, it is important to try to complete each pose transition slowly and in one breath. A union between breath and movement is the goal of each transition.

For me, maintaining composure was the most difficult aspect of yoga. In addition to my beginner’s confusion about the various moves that everyone else in the class already seemed to know, balance was my main battle. Most of the moves ended up being fairly simple to accomplish — the real art of yoga is making smooth, graceful transitions. You really have to listen to your body and let it guide your session. Unless you’re standing in a pool of sweat. In that case, proceed with caution.

A few of the moves that the instructor suggested were intended only for advanced or at least intermediate yoga practitioners, but being the semi-adventurous soul I am, I figured I’d give these a shot as well. Lesson learned: Peace of mind won’t overcome a distinct lack of arm strength, so someone with not-so-defined biceps should not attempt to do an arm balance position. Google that pose and you’ll know exactly what I mean. In the words of our instructor upon looking at my attempt, “Oh, that’s certainly creative. Stick to pigeon pose.”

One aspect of the class that I wasn’t expecting was a middle section that transitioned into a core workout. As much as I loved running high school cross country (at a very labored pace), the segment of practice that involved core training was the bane of my existence. Thus, when our instructor announced we’d be doing some core exercises, a fearful groan escaped my mouth.

Fortunately, and surprisingly, the core workout wasn’t that bad, probably because it didn’t last a very long time. Also possibly because I took some questionably earned breaks, but we’ll ignore that. For the most part, including a core-focused section in a yoga workout is dependent upon the specific instructor, so don’t let that be a deterrent in trying out a class.

Did I mention how warm the room became? Because this really can’t be stressed enough. At first, I was worried about sweating too much and looking gross, since I tend to worry about my appearance when in public, but halfway through I stopped caring. All of my anxiety must have escaped from my pores and evaporated, along with the rest of my body’s water supply.

Speaking of the human body under stress, yoga is not just standing on one foot and spreading your arms like a bird. Certain poses actually require some strenuous bodily contortion and, as a result, these poses might inspire some not-so-flattering bodily functions. Just ask the girl who was next to me in class.

The section I was most skeptical about, the meditation part, was actually one of the most enjoyable. During this time we were expected to keep our eyes closed and our minds open, silently sitting cross-legged. I felt silly for the first few seconds. The lotus pose felt so cliched, not to mention the music had switched from new-age noise to soaring flutes from a temple in the Himalayas.

After a quick one-eyed scan of the room, I realized I was the only one not “letting go,” so I did. I let go and just sat quietly. I ignored my thoughts as best as I could and, as per the instructor’s advice, tilted my head slightly backward as if an open space were floating in front of my neck.

Call it what you will — inner peace, nirvana, the zone — but meditation actually turned out to be fulfilling. I don’t know if my aura actually expanded or changed colors or anything, but I felt not only calmer, but also energized after yoga. Namaste.


Nick Cimarusti is a senior majoring in English. His column “#trending” runs on Wednesdays.

Follow him on Twitter @NickCimarusti