About Time: You Tried 30 Days of Hot Yoga at Fierce GraceBy George Pearse
30 yoga classes within 35 days. Down in a dark basement. Whilst baking in 40 degree heat. “Why are you doing that?” was the question on most people’s lips. The answer isn’t immediately obvious. There’s no doubt the Fierce Grace yoga challenge was great for my post summer-of-excess waistline. And I loved seeing improvement in my actual practice. But how about on a less physical scale. What else did immersion in the world of hot yoga have to teach me?
In London, you’re rarely further than 10 feet away from competitive yoga-offs. People trying to out-flex or out-bend one another. What gets lost in these futile battles is the sense of personal enquiry: where are you on any given day, relative to you? I found by the end I was far less hung up on Tracey’s perfect bow pose and more focussed on how I might get myself there one day. The challenge helps to soften your edges, and invites a sense of compassion for those sharing your flow – the searing hot conditions act as a great leveller. As the old saying goes ‘in life, as in hot yoga challenges, you just never know what your neighbour might be going through’. People perfectly aligned one day might be wobbly on their feet the next. I saw people moved to tears at the end of their practice a handful of times. So put your attitude at the door and get busy doing you.
With my stress-less, warm-hearted perspective firmly instilled, one of the main take-aways from the challenge is how you – the individual – respond to a particular teacher. Such an array of styles, all guiding you with good intentions through one of a variety of sequences how can you be sure which is for you? Some stressed me out with their ‘horse-riding commentary’ style delivery. Others lulled me into soporific bliss with their gentle persuasion. How do you find what works for you? My advice is to go with those that make you feel powerful. Be lead in your practice by people that spark your sense of curiosity. Teachers with an overly prescriptive style left me cold. Sessions became monotonous and routine. Whereas teachers that endowed me the courage to work at the edge of my comfort zone led me further than I knew possible. Armed with some self-belief and a little enquiry, who knows where you and your breath might end up.
Feeling calmer. Spending time empowering teachers. Getting better at yoga in the process. ‘Where’s the challenge in that?’ I hear you wonder. The challenge for me is – and remains – all in the being still. Stillness in the poses. Stillness on your mat. And crucially, stillness in your mind. I learnt quite quickly (subtext: on day 1) that none of the above come naturally. I had to ‘work’ at it. I had to give myself permission to savasana. I had to stay with the feeling of wanting to break free from positions early. I framed the 30 days as an opportunity to slow it all down, physically and mentally. And the luxury of consecutive days is time. Time and space to march to the beat of your own drum, free of the pressures that some group classes can entail. The amassing of such a solid chunk of practice – nearly 50 hours in total – allows you to begin seeing your practice as reflective of your wider life. If the teacher was grinding my gears, chances are that I was tired or distracted. Where balance was hard to come by, something was invariably awry in the outside world. Equally, I came to an inversions class having just settled a bad tasting feud and found my way into positions that had long eluded me. It was some month.
A challenge of this nature invites you to direct your attention in on both yourself and your practice. Regardless of what the flexibility warriors around you might be up to. Make no mistake, yoga every damn day takes hard work. But the rich reward is in being surrounded by like-minded, vulnerable souls. Knuckling down in their own glorious half naked fashion. Profusely sweating their way to zen. Fierce Grace has heart. And they’re inviting you all to get in touch with yours.
For more information on Fierce Grace, see here.