STRETCH Yoga is on Fire!

In the darkness, in the heat, I lie in wait with my eyes closed for class to begin. Beads of sweat form and all I’ve done is simply lay here. They slowly gather speed as they roll off my body and onto the towel. My mind begins to question my being here. I haven’t been to a bikram yoga class in years. How would this go? Will I survive? Never mind: I will enjoy the peace this class has to offer.

Just as I set that intention, the lights turn on brightly and a voice speaks loudly overhead. A presence enters the room, shattering that faux Zen I tried convincing myself of. Liz, a slender, super fit, Persian woman (and owner of the studio) walks to the front of the room and stands atop a small stage set before a wall of mirrors. I’ve known her for a while, but never like this. She takes command of the room, speaking with a calm vigor, introducing herself, and then calling out each new student and identifying them across the room. She briefs us on what we are about to experience, and quickly segues into the beginning of the class.

To get us primed, we start with a stretch that includes a breathing technique. Her speech is fast yet controlled. She takes us through the movements, all the while calling out names of those students, including me, who need to make modifications. She also takes the time to compliment others simultaneously.

The room has now reached 100 degrees Fahrenheit and I’m feeling it. I am a sweaty mess and I’ve only been here for five minutes; or maybe it’s been an hour already. There is no clock or reference of time anywhere. As we make our way through each pose, Liz walks and speaks confidently, strongly, demonstratively, continuing to make adjustments to people’s poses and complimenting those who get them naturally. Her energy is unwavering, even in the heat. Everyone is at attention and no one is struggling. She keeps everyone pumped and reminds us that, although the class moves at a particular pace, everyone is responsible for checking in with their own bodies to ensure their safety. The beginner’s goal is simply to not leave the room.

“There is no shame in leaving, but you will not leave.” She confirms.

We continued the practice. I went through all the poses, slipping a little here and there, but shame on me for having lathered myself in body cream earlier in the day.

This practice challenges you to push through the physical and mental limitations you set for yourself. You may feel discomfort at first. But, as you progress, your awareness becomes more evident.

Even in shavasana (corpse pose), where you lay and do nothing, Liz reminds us that this is an “open eye” practice all throughout. This keeps us awake, aware, and in the moment. I found myself to be all these things as I lay there, relaxed and staring at the ceiling, but looking toward the great beyond. My mind and body had transcended.

As class comes to an end, Liz cuts the lights and we are in darkness once more. She reminds us how great we are by saying a reinforcing message as she leaves the room.

I stay a bit longer to gather my thoughts. I feel tired but rested. I am drenched, and I am warm. Most of all, I feel calm and at peace. I had quite literally sweat out my stress. Class may have ended, though my practice had just begun.

If you’ve never tried Hot Yoga, but curious to do so, try it with the best!

Stretch Yoga

(818) 533-8820

2320 W Magnolia Blvd.

Burbank, CA 91506

by Nicholas Lucin