Hot Yoga: Not too hot to handle
When someone says, "I do yoga," there is no telling exactly what he or she means. Some yoga is slow, still and meditative, and some is fast and requires simultaneous meditation and movement. Some is room temperature and some is very hot.
People practice different types of yoga, just as they might listen to different kinds of music, or adhere to varied diets. It is a matter of taste and what one can take away from the experience.
Currently, there are numerous schools of yoga and variations on traditional practices that are being integrated into mainstream culture, and many available on the Vineyard. A new addition to the varied types of yoga to be found on the Vineyard is called Hot Yoga, a fusion of two other yogic forms, Bikram and Vinyasa. Offered at Vineyard Yoga in West Tisbury, Hot Yoga is a mind and body practice that is accessible to all levels of students of all ages.
Bikram and Vinyasa present very different methods to attain similar goals. The Bikram Yoga series, founded by Bikram Choudhury, uses 26 of the traditional 84 Ashtanga Yoga postures in a heated room, 95 to 105 degrees. The basic foundation of this practice is that each posture is devised to prepare the body for the next, which is why the 26 poses are done in the same order, every time, completing two sets with resting postures and breathing exercises in between. The practice does not include a Sun Salutation, a rooting and awakening set of postures that includes "downward dog," which is common to most other forms of yoga.
Bikram and his yoga have earned international acclaim and a very dedicated group of followers. However, there are many who miss The Sun Salutation and find this type of yoga limiting and rigid.
Vinyasa yoga is a more flexible practice. The series may change depending on the teacher. The combination of postures seems endless. Its foundation is rooted in flow, each posture connected to the next. There is a focus on transitions that use the breath to carry one from posture to posture.
Photos by Ralph Stewart
The Hot Yoga offered at Vineyard Yoga was founded by Jimmy Barkin, who studied with Bikram Choudhury and became a senior teacher of that practice. He refers to this new practice as, "the evolution of Hot Yoga," as it seems a logical progression in the yogas that have emerged thus far.
The series is a blend of Bikram postures, a heated room, and Vinyasa's fluidity and breath emphasis. Kristin Hall, practitioner and teacher at Vineyard Yoga, recently completed her month-long training and teacher certification with Mr. Barkin.
The heat may be intimidating to some, but Ms. Hall points out an obvious benefit. "The warm room allows you to stretch easier, working deeper into your muscles," she says. Hot Yoga also leaves room for the teacher to improvise, guiding the class through the postures that will benefit them most. Beginners and advanced practitioners gain the same benefits.
"There are specific modifications for every posture," Ms. Hall says. She includes descriptions of modified postures in class. For example, while the class does a push-up-like move, they may bring their knees down if experiencing pain.
Hot Yoga presents a physical, mental, and physiological workout drawing on the best of its parent practices. The Bikram postures work by tourniquet effect. Each one creates compression at a particular joint, organ, or specific muscle group, cutting off blood flow. In between each posture, one comes to a neutral position, standing or lying down. This releases the tourniquet and sends new blood and oxygen to the formerly compressed region, detoxifying and flushing out the body and its systems.
The Sun Salutation and Vinyasa aspects of the class stimulate blood flow and heat the body from the inside out, creating the opportunity for the safe deepening of stretches. Ms. Hall explains, "The breathing is the main thing; yoga is breathing." This blended yoga's use of breath is the adhesive that allows Bikram and Vinyasa to work together.
In the studio one will see male and female students from teens to those in their 70s. Bucky Burrows, a 62-year-old seasonal resident, who practices many forms of yoga, says, "When you hear 'yoga' you think of young, supple, strong people [...] I am the least fluid person in the world."
The environment, aside from being hot, is truly warm. This is a reminder of what all these kinds of yoga are about: health and unifying our body and mind. "At the spiritual end of it, it's just you, the person in your head and you, the person in the mirror," says Mr. Burrows. "There is that 62-year-old in the mirror who I see struggling and that person inside who says 'yeah, I can do that.'"
Adriana Stimola, who practices Hot Yoga, divides her time between West Tisbury and New York City.