The Yoga Challenge

On a recent Friday evening, students came together and ushered in their weekend by challenging themselves to something new, culturally different, and both mentally and physically demanding- we attended a hot yoga class.  The majority of the gang had never attempted a regular yoga class (performed at room temperature).  In a rather full studio we all found a place to set up our mats, laid out a towel atop of it to manage the high volume of sweat and proceeded to follow a sequence of stretches and postures.  The experience carried on for the next 75 minutes in a quiet, dim-lit room where the only sounds heard were focused breath and the calm voice of the instructor.  The room eventually reached a temperature of at least 80 degrees with a very high humidity generated by a specialized heating system and the body heat of the many participants.

As we made our way out of the studio and into the cold, crisp air; the contrast of temperature paired with the elating sensation that follows a good sweat and physical challenge, the general consensus was that it was an amazing experience.  It was new, different, a feast for the senses and ultimately very healthy.  For more in depth info on what the practice has to offer the body and soul, I consulted the Moksha studio website to get their take on the benefits of hot yoga.  Positive impacts are as follows:

Mitigate Stress: the American Medical Association says that stress is a factor in more than 75 percent of all illness and disease today with a good many of us are being engaged in a constant state of low grade stress.  Adrenaline has become a common form of fuel for many which can have devastating effect on the immune and nervous system over the long term.  That said, the heated environment of a Moksha class is naturally calming and longer holds in certain postures inform and improve our ability to face stress with mindfulness and breath. 

Improving your Mood: in addition to melatonin, the pineal gland controls the release of serotonin, the “mood” hormone.  As certain postures flush the pineal gland with oxygenated blood, its function improves and emotional highs and lows begin to even out.

Combating Poor Posture:  Moksha yoga’s studio’ approach to their clientele is quite direct and blunt, “let’s face it, we spend so much time rounded over a computer, homework, etc…it’s no wonder most of us are drooping with poor posture” reads their website.  In counter these contemporary issues of modern society, moksha postures help strengthen core muscles that support the spine, open the chest and strengthen the shoulders and upper back, open hips and allow the pelvis to hold the lower spine in place.  In time, students notice excellent posture as a bonus effect of yoga.  Sitting up tall not only helps the spinal nerves supply information to the entire body- it also gives space to allow for more oxygen and room for the digestive system.  With more oxygen and better digestion, it’s easy to feel energized all day long.

As you might have noticed before, heat is often the best relief for sore muscles.  That is because fresh oxygen rushes to the heated area, hence the primary benefit of a hot yoga environment. Furthermore, the sequences of postures used at Moksha classes were designed with the knowledge that epidemiologist say lower joint and back pain by epidemic proportions.  A major focus between improving posture while managing stress is to address the mind-body correlation that can cause one to trouble the other and vice versa.

With such positive results, we will continue to encourage and support students in pursuit of greater practice and understanding of yoga.  It is a great experience that helps you escape the everyday and try something new.

written by Duncan McKenna
Champlain Montreal Activities Coordiator