My friend Tanya recommended this new place she’d been going to for hot yoga, called Moksha. Since Fiona and I have pretty similar thoughts on yoga, I just smiled, nodded and figured she’d drop it. (She didn’t.) They had a post-holiday special so I caved-in and signed up for a month, back at the beginning of January.

Before I get too far into this review, I should disclose a few personal biases.

  1. I don’t like the heat. I am a cold weather person.
  2. I really SUCK at yoga. I’m unbalanced, inflexible and I have the attention span of a caffeinated fruit fly so any exercise in sitting still and being quiet inevitably leads to misbehavior on my part.
  3. If given a choice, I prefer a much more up-tempo cardio. Running, boxing, spinning, occasionally zumba if the mood strikes.

To say I was skeptical about taking this on is a bit of an understatement…Ok, I was going in with a really bad attitude.

The first time I walked through the door, I was greeted by this lovely, big, blond dog, called Zen. Zen’s person happened to be the owner/instructor, Rob, who walked me through the rules and what to expect. He would lead the class, but go at your own pace, drink lots of water and if you need to stop and rest, stop and rest, but once you’re in there, you can’t leave until the class is over. Seemed fair enough. After all, coming and going gets distracting and nobody wants you letting all the heat out. Oh, and the studio is a silent space so no talking. (That may have been the biggest hurdle for me.)

There is a hot yoga class at my gym, but this is a very different beast. I don’t know if it’s because Moksha is a dedicated hot-yoga studio so the heat was constant and even, or if Rob is just a much better instructor than I’ve dealt with in the past, but it was really overwhelming. I’ve never sweat so much in my life! By the end, I had polished off two whole bottles of water and was still dizzy, red faced, out of breath and all wobbly, it felt like my bones had melted, I was having trouble just getting back to the change room.

Before I left, Rob had a great talk with me about where I was going wrong, (although he never used words like “wrong”, he’s very positive and constructive). He gave me some really helpful advice on my breathing and corrected a bunch of the postures that were making me dizzy. He also gave me some stretches to do at home to help my shoulders and every-day posture. This guy really knows his stuff. My second class was much, MUCH better. I was still all over the place but I wasn’t feeling dizzy or sick and I’d actually made it through the whole hour without taking a break. By the third class, I’d managed to make it through a full flow without dropping to my stomach! (That’s actually much more exciting than it sounds.)

Outside of the actual exercise, I had a lot of difficulty changing my thinking about yoga as a workout. I was still trying to dash out the door and make it to class seconds before it started then dash back out again afterward. If I got to the studio twenty minutes early, I had a full fifteen minutes to stretch out on my mat, practice my breathing and just clear my mind. Not something I’ve ever had much success with, but the big change came when I stopped thinking of the heat as oppressive and accepted it as supportive. It was almost like my mind could stop trying to control the body and the body was saying, “s’ok, I got this, brain. You go on, clean those bats out of the attic.”

I really can’t say I got any kind of handle on it in the short time I was there, but I felt like I was improving. More importantly, I felt it seeping into other aspects of my life. I can talk myself out of pretty much any gym visit if I want to, but for some reason, going there became a habit really quickly. I didn’t even have to remind myself to go. It was just that I put my pencil down at 11:30 and that was that.

I’ve said this before, but yoga makes you very aware of your body. When you’re that aware of how you’re feeling, you’re way more likely to be kind to yourself. Choose that nice leafy, green salad instead of the salty fries, get to bed on time, not bother with getting worked up over traffic, that sort of thing. Lastly, and pardon my vanity, hot yoga makes your skin feel ah-ma-zing! I don’t really buy into the whole detox thing, and I don’t know if it’s the sweating or just the extra exercise, but it was so nice to skip the winter-dry-skin.

If I had to say there was a down side, it does take some getting used to and it’s a little pricey…I can’t say it’s expensive, I’m using the word “pricey” deliberately because you get an awful lot for your money. The studio is gorgeous, the people are awesome and they’re big on green initiatives. It’s just a bit out of my budget comfort zone. But overall, I think everyone needs to give this a try at least once. Three times would be better, but once for sure. Particularly this time of year.