Vail Daily column: Hot yoga is not a competitive sport
July 5, 2014
Yoga, in general, is not a competitive sport. Repeat.
How's that for a mantra? This past week, I tried hot yoga, or bikram yoga, for the first time. I've done yoga on my own for years on and off — basically in times of high stress such as finals or to combat freaking-out-about-work induced insomnia. I practiced and learned yoga when I was 14 years old. I was staying (read: exiled) at Sacred Heart Monastery in Richardton, North Dakota, for about a month with my aunt who was a nun there. During my time at Sacred Heart, I volunteered for the sisters, helping out with the llamas, potato patch, dishes, cooking, etc. One night, another volunteer at the monastery asked if I wanted to practice yoga with her in the evening. I told her in the same breath that I had no idea what she was talking about but, yes, of course! During our time there, she taught me about the importance of breathing during yoga and how to turn something which feels and looks like a simple stretching routine into an actual workout. A non-competitive workout.
The anticompetitive nature of yoga is honestly why I've only practiced it on and off for the past 10 years since I learned the basics of it. I like sports to make me fight for a win. There is no winner or loser in yoga — you can't exactly make a competition out of trying to out-breathe the person doing pigeon pose next to you. Also, the mental part of yoga that asks you to shut your brain off and just focus on your breath is hard for me, akin to asking the Hulk not to get angry. I think that's true for most people. We spend so much time worrying, wondering and planning or focusing on our electronics, social lives or what we're having for supper, giving our brain a break from life seems impossible.
Hot yoga, however, does actually force you to focus on your breath in order to avoid noticing the 105-degree heat of the studio. Even with this intense level of concentration, you will still notice your shins sweating. Your shins have sweat glands? Who knew? This distraction and realization aside, you'll notice your heart rate slow if you do the yoga-breathing properly. If you're not doing the deep breathing properly, then you are just a person sitting in a hot box contorting yourself into strange positions at 6:30 a.m. because either your nightmares are that bad or you've got issues, bro. You'll find it easier to move through the positions as your body adjusts to the heat — it's actually been recommended for people with stiff joints or who have muscle injuries as a low-impact way to rebuild strength.
There is no winner or loser in yoga
— you can’t exactly make a competition out of trying to out-breathe the person doing pigeon pose next to you.
Overall, this is a "Never Have I Ever" I throughly enjoyed checking off my list. I mean, I am sensitive to high heat so I did nearly pass out once, but now I know what to expect from a hot yoga class. I know how much more water I'll need to drink throughout the day, and I know how relaxed I'll feel after a class. Here's to getting out of my comfort zone and finding something new to do in the Vail Valley! Namaste!
Ali Murray is a copy editor at the Vail Daily. For this article, she attended class at Vail Hot Yoga in Edwards. If you have any comments or ideas of things for her to try in the Vail Valley, please email her at amurray@vail daily.com.