I am Not Good in the Heat and Other Excuses

“I’d try hot yoga, but I’m not good in the heat.” I’ve heard that at least a hundred times or variations on the theme.

“I hate heat.”

“I can’t handle heat.”

“No, really, I hate the heat.”

“I tried it and I couldn’t handle the heat.”

I am the bearer of both good and bad news.

These are not reasons. These are excuses.

The good news is that now that you understand it is an excuse, you can take action. The bad news is that this is just an excuse and not a reason not to go to class.

The human body has a tremendously efficient and responsive thermoregulation system. Except in cases of illness, it does a wonderful job of constantly adjusting to changing external and internal temperature changes.

Your body is no different than any of billions of humans on the planet.

All along the equator, humans live in climates with a heat index much higher than a Bikram Yoga class. People survive Texas in the summer. Just a few decades ago, most did it without air conditioning. You, too, could survive there.

“But I am a special case….”

My friend, John, has a spinal cord injury that severed communication with his sweat glands. He cannot sweat. He uses a spray bottle to mist his skin when he gets hot and the water causes evapotranspiration to cool his body, just like yours. John can do hot yoga. You can, too.

Being in a hot yoga class is uncomfortable.

It’s hard to do yoga. It’s hard to look at yourself. It is hard to feel a body you have been trying to ignore for decades. You are hot and you think you might suffocate. You think your body just can’t handle it. These are thoughts. That doesn’t make them reality.

The secret to it all is, you can do it. You can show up and learn to breathe and focus on your body and not your mind. You can acclimate to the heat and take it one breath at a time and become more comfortable in your body. You can learn to do what you can today and not what you think you should be able to do by now, goldangit! You can become more comfortable in this moment, even if this moment is uncomfortable.

“I am not good in the heat” is a phrase that means “I am not comfortable being uncomfortable,” and this is normal. The human brain is designed to avoid discomfort. Within a fraction of a second, your body can classify any sensation as one to avoid or to seek. Before you even have time to rationalize, your mind will lead you toward avoidance.

If you are chased by a tiger, Avoid! Avoid! Get away and get safe. If you don’t want to take out the trash, well, its time to learn to control the mind and get the job done.

Reason, logic and patience are all gifts of our higher brain function. We can use our brains to either help ourselves in the moment or to hurt ourselves. It is the self-awareness that yoga brings that helps us to experience the present moment and act from a place of understanding and reason.

This is one of the greatest gifts of a hot yoga practice. We train over and over, pose by pose, to pause and to breathe in conditions of challenge and discomfort. We learn to quiet the mind, control the breath and listen to the body. “Am I safe? Am I okay?” we ask our bodies over and over in class.

When the answer is yes, we induce neuro-plasticity and retrain our brains not to fidget, hold our breath, or increase our heart rate under stress. This is why, in scientific testing, yogis have shown significant reductions in the stress hormone cortisol. This is why so many yogis report that yoga “reduces stress” even though their lives are as stressful as others.

Here are some other excuses, parading as “reasons”:

  • I am too old.
  • I am inflexible.
  • I am too fat.
  • I can’t.
  • Yoga hurts people.
  • I have __fill in the blank__ injury.
  • I am tired.
  • I have __fill in the blank__ disease.
  • I don’t have time.
  • My family needs me.
  • I don’t know what I’m doing.
  • I can’t afford it.

These excuses are all of the exact reasons that you need to do yoga. These are all factors in your life that yoga will help you heal from or deal with. I have never met a yoga studio owner who wouldn’t accept work/study or trade for yoga. If you are truly too busy to do yoga, you had better get to class before you die.

If you have seen yourself in one of those excuses, it may have started a diatribe in your head against me and how I don’t know what I’m talking about or, worse, about you and what a loser you are to have made an excuse.

You are not a loser; you are a human. While I take responsibility for saying some things that may have made you uncomfortable, I am not sorry in the slightest. That’s my job. I have made a career of helping people find comfort in their lives through uncomfortable acts and facts. I paid for the mirrors, but you’ve gotta do the work.

The payoff of all of that work is big. Peace. Well-being. Freedom from pain. Health.

In the words of my teacher, “You deserve to have the best life. I feel cry when I say that.” I feel a little cry myself, now that you mention it….

sara headshotSara Curry is the Owner and Director of Bikram Yoga in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. She is Vice President of Seacoast Area Teachers of Yoga in Action, a non-profit that improves accessibility of yoga to traditionally under-served populations. She is also one of the creators of the Sober Yogis yoga and recovery program.

Pregnancy Blog: End of First Trimester

13 Weeks
I can see the light, I swear.  I woke up this morning and didn’t have a headache for the first time in weeks.  I’ve been having these headaches that I can feel even when I am sleeping.  I have a little more energy and am not completely repulsed when I think about spinach. I have to pass on the best morning sickness trick I learned.  One woman recommended to me to try eating a half a granola bar or other power-packed snack the last time you get up to pee in the middle of the night.  It was definitely a lifesaver.  I was still nauseated in the morning, but not so bad that I couldn’t eat.

Class is feeling better.  I am now making it to 3-4 classes per week.  I’ve got a little paunch coming, but most people have no idea.  This week I’ll start doing the pregnancy modifications, so the cat will be out of the bag.  Several students (other moms) have already guessed because of my rapidly expanding bust!  The earliest, most-observant guesser had me pegged at 7 weeks.  Pretty good detective work.

The baby is growing as expected.  Heart rate is still strong at 160 bpm.  Seriously, this first trimester felt like 9 months in itself.  I am glad to be able to share the news and joyfully anticipating getting a big belly!

Can You Practice Hot Yoga During Pregnancy?

My First Post: Pregnancy Blog 5 Weeks
Naturally, many pregnant women have concerns about hot yoga during pregnancy.  Beginning at five weeks of pregnancy in 2006, I wrote this blog to be of assistance in helping you to make educated decisions about exercise during yours.

At the studio, we’ve had several women in low-risk pregnancies have their doctors tell them that they could not practice hot yoga while pregnant, with little information on the classes.  Please take the concerns of your physician or midwife seriously.  Women with high-risk pregnancies must first obtain a doctor’s note to participate in classes at Blaze Yoga and Pilates.

Many doctors, however, incorrectly assume that practicing in a hot room is akin to being in a sauna or Jacuzzi and that is where their concern develops.  Both a sauna and a Jacuzzi are much hotter than a standard hot yoga class.  The biggest difference is the inability for the body to cool itself when in a sauna or Jacuzzi.  Sweat (evapotranspiration) and moving air (convection) are the cooling mechanisms for a practicing yogi.  Neither of these are existent in a Jacuzzi and only one (sweat) in a sauna where the air is heated up to 40 degrees hotter than a Bikram Yoga or Inferno Hot Pilates class.

Studies conducted in Los Angeles (with non-pregnant students) and Northampton, Massachusetts (with pregnant students only) have found that temperature change in a hot yogi is negligible during class (average 0.6 degree temperature change).  Most physicians recommend that a pregnant woman keep her temperature below 102 degrees; this is well-below that range.  Please note that exercising outdoors in the summer increases the internal temperature nearly twice that much.

As a healthy woman with a low-risk pregnancy, neither the yoga nor the heat should be cause for fear.  With that in mind, you should NEVER practice hot yoga pregnant without first informing and consulting with your teacher.  There are modifications to all postures that compress the abdomen, aorta, and diaphragm or exert too much pressure on the perineum and pelvis.

Armed with the correct modifications for pregnancy, the next concerns of a pregnant woman should be nutrition, hydration and exhaustion.  The average woman burns approximately 330 calories during a 90-minute hot yoga class.  A pregnant woman’s metabolism is much higher, so she may burn even more.  Be sure to eat high quality meals to replace the lost calories and minerals.  It is also advisable for the pregnant woman to eat a small, easy-to-digest snack about an hour prior to class.

Proper hydration is critical during gestation to maintain amniotic fluid levels, increase blood volume and ensure proper function of the kidneys.  Be sure to drink water before, during and after class.  At least an additional liter of water per day is recommended when practicing.  Stop and sip water during class whenever you need it.

Finally, listen carefully to your body regarding your limits.  Especially in the first trimester, you may find yourself more tired or lose control of your breath more easily.  Listen to the signs to slow down and do so immediately.  Don’t be surprised if your practice changes dramatically in the first trimester even though your belly is still small.  There are an incredible amount of changes occurring (increase in uterine muscle, development of an additional two liters of blood, roller coaster hormone changes and more) in the first twelve weeks.  Sit down, take a break, have a drink or even leave the room when you need.

Sara CurryBella Sara Headstand owns and operates Blaze Yoga and Pilates in Portsmouth, New Hampshire with her husband, Jaylon. They live in Southern Maine with their two children, pictured right. Sara practiced yoga throughout both of her pregnancies. In fact, her second child was born just eight hours after this picture was snapped!

sara