Like any good citizen of Los Angeles, I exist on a never-ending merry-go-round of health trends (RT if you’re also actively avoiding Whole 30), food fads (it’s called Oat Milk and just WAIT till you see where the udders are), and whatever the “in” workout of the month is (swipe up for my Barry’s Bootcamp discount code). One of these is hot yoga. What is hot yoga, you ask? Basically it’s like regular yoga, but…hot. The studio I go to keeps things at a balmy 105º-111º for the 70 minute sessions which is a great way to take an already difficult workout and turn it into the sort of workout that makes you feel like you’re in the parts of the 80s-movie training montages that they cut out: sweaty, overextended, and without the internet to distract you. That said, there’s a few little things I do during my hot yoga sessions to keep myself from losing my mind during these trying workouts and having my cardio-induced glisten go from 80s action hero sweaty to 80s action villain greasy. They are as follows:
• Put my mat down as far away as possible from an attractive girl.
While impossible to fully avoid attractive men and women (it is LA, after all), hot yoga (as with any yoga) is meant to be primarily an internal practice of betterment and improvement of the self through pushing, testing, and expanding one’s limits. It requires focus on several different mental and physical aspects at once, and nothing shakes that focus quicker than wanting to show off for the Alison Brie type two mats over from yours. My general rule is: I look like garbage when I workout (and debatably when I’m not working out, too) so I like to pretend no one can see me, and the least I can do is extend that same courtesy to the other yogis in their practice.
• Snag a spot by the door.
This may the pettiest/babiest one, but when you’re dealing with temps in the triple digits, every little bit helps, and if you are able to snag a spot by the door, you absolutely MUST do so. People drop like flies in hot yoga classes sometimes — to the point that the instructors usually give a little disclaimer at the beginning of class that is something like “Even if you get too overworked or exhausted to do the workouts, just go down to your mat and try to stay in the room because that in itself is enough of a challenge” — but if people can’t take the heat (literally) they’ll step outside for a breather or leave altogether and man when that door swings open and wafts a little (relatively) cool air over you, it’s just about the closest thing you can get to Heaven in LA (except for actual Heaven, the combination dance club and acupuncture clinic on Sunset).
• Find a mantra du jour.
My favorite yoga instructors will cue this at the start of class and maybe even offer the group one of their own if you’re drawing a blank (as I often do), but finding an inspirational word or short motivating phrase to come back to when it’s a hundred degrees and you’re balancing on one leg and somehow pulling the other leg over the back of your head and now they want you to do squats on the first leg and oh yeah don’t forget to breathe! can be super helpful to give you something to think about than how each of these yoga poses finds a new way to shove your flab into an even more un-ignorable position than the last one. Ones I go to a lot are things like patience, trust, sending energy to oneself or a friend, or part of Bible verse I read that day. But they can also be less dramatic things too like just remembering how good that pizza is gonna taste knowing you already worked it off. No pineapple, please.
• Saying The Lord’s Prayer during the quiet part at the end.
During the last couple minutes of class, once you’ve finally gotten through the last difficult postures they’ll usually guide you through a little cool down stretching and finally let you land in something called “shavasana.” Translating to something along the lines of “corpse pose” (and believe me, that is an apt name since you will absolutely feel like a corpse by the end of a tough hot yoga class) this is literally a posture where you just lay on your back for a minute or two and let your body cool off and replenish all that mental and physical energy you just used and get ready to use all that new energy you just created before you go back out into the world. Since my mind is usually totally shot by then from the workout and I’m not really in a state to come up with anything epic or fresh, I like to silently fire off The Lord’s Prayer in my head as we’re ending our practice and starting to come “back to life” in every sense of the word. It’s automatic enough in my brain that I don’t really have to think much about it, but it also has all the comforting principles and reminders that I like to carry into the next part of my day/life.
• Throw up The Roc and give ’em a “Hova!”
As we close out class, the instructor will usually give a mini thank you speech and closes the class with the traditional “namaste” — surely you’ve seen it on trendy athleisure shirts or in someone’s instagram caption of their brunch — loosely translating to “the light and teacher in me sees and recognizes the light and teacher in you” and they have you put your hands up to your forehead in this little triangle shape and bow in as you say “namaste” (this is all optional and not as weird as it sounds by the way, I don’t want you to think you’ll see me in the next cult documentary on Netflix). Now that’s a beautiful sentiment on its own, but because this is my personal practice, after I say “namaste” I also like to throw a little “HOVA!” on the end of it. “Hova” is the self-appointed nickname of one of my favorite rappers, Jay-Z, and loosely translates to “I’m not afraid of dyin’ I’m afraid of not tryin’.” Because your hands are already essentially in the same triangle shape as Jay-Z’s signature gesture The Roc and because Hova is another sort of energy that I also like to channel with me into my days it’s only fitting that following up a nice heartfelt “namaste” feels twice as good when you fire off a nice, equally heartfelt “Hova!” on your way off the mat. Honestly give it a shot, you’ll be stoked at what a confidence booster it is before a big date or important meeting.
• Be polite and grateful, damnit!
And then very very last, you’ve worked hard for an hour plus, you’re tired and ready to hit the showers, but don’t let a combination of exhaustion and lowkey resentment of your instructor for putting you through that make you any less grateful. It takes a lot to keep an eye on everyone, learn all the terms, guide with confidence, display all the postures in their most correct form and give hands on corrections when needed — and do it all with a calm voice and a controlled demeanor, not just barking orders like Barry’s Bootcamp. So no matter how wiped you are, always make sure to give them an audible “thank you” on your way out the door. And if Rachael Bell is your instructor (@rachaelkathrynbell on IG/twitter or her instructor account @rkbyogi) you can be like me and spout off a hearty “Thanks Rach” so that everyone knows you’re thankful AND that you’re on a “casual monosyllabic nickname” friend level with the instructor, so they’ll be extra impressed (hey, the class is over after all, I’ve got to go back to being attention hungry, narcissistic, and insecure at SOME point, right? Right??? Wait where are you going? I promise I’ve got a great oat milk latte spot you just HAVE to try…)
And hey, if you’re ever in the LA area, come take a hot yoga class with me! You can Venmo me for the pizza afterwards.
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