The place is like an oven. It is still and there is an arid, dry heat. Sometimes it feels like I could drink an entire swimming pool. My muscles are stretched, strengthened and my breathing is steady, that is, when I remember to breathe.
My eyes search out a spot on the wall to focus upon. Sweat runs down my ankles, into my eyes and ear. I try to remember the last time I was so hot that my earlobes sweated. Did I ever think I would experience these temperatures in Iceland? Perhaps not. Actually, no, not at all.
Hot yoga has come to Iceland. Gyms and yoga centers are promoting it everywhere and there is quite a following, indeed.
I first did yoga nearly 20 years ago. Throughout my first class I spent a great deal of time wondering when on earth we would actually do some yoga. Naive novice that I was, I was completely missing the entire point.
Many years later, after yoga classes in quaint, old church halls with mainly middle-aged women, in a variety of gyms, I did a course in Thailand. This was my first introduction to hot yoga, which I found ironic, as the 40 degree temperature inside the room was pretty much the same as it was outside.
Most of the teachers on this course were men and their rippled physique banished much earlier, former notions of the gentle stretching brigade of women who did this form of exercise for a bit of fun before a gossip over a cup of tea after the class.
Yoga was getting serious and there was a lot to choose from, Ashtanga, Iyengar, Bikram and Barkan, to name but a few different forms of yoga.
Another change was that I was no longer going to single sex classes; now men were joining in.
My current hot yoga class in Iceland has a few men in it and I don’t think this is solely because the main demographic is women between 19 and 25 but because of the benefits it offers. Physically, it strengthens and tones, not to mention the mental and spiritual benefits.
And if you’re reading this thinking these guys are either a bunch of voyeurs who like looking at women’s bums or that they are sissies who are scared of real exercise, think again.
It’s true to say I have never seen guys sweat as much pounding on machines in the gym as I have hovering over a yoga mat and holding some posture, a look of total concentration furrowing their sweat-dripping brow.
Indeed, such is its popularity that there are hot yoga classes, early morning, late afternoon and in the evening dotted all around Reykjavík. Personally, I think this kind of yoga fits well with the Icelandic psyche.
“You should really feel a nice choking sensation with this posture,” says my poised, taut and smiley yoga teacher. The first time I heard this, I thought I had misheard her.
However, from an Icelandic perspective something isn’t worth doing unless it is worth doing properly and reward is commonly only achieved after hard, thorough slog. So hot yoga fits right in there.
Also, with the impending darkness creeping over the North Atlantic horizon at an earlier time and with autumnal leaves painting up pretty pictures before falling off and facing winter, a date with an event that promises to deliver real heat a few times a week is a welcome feature in an Icelandic winter.
In addition to feeling muscles I didn’t know I could feel and to becoming more agile and becoming more flexible thanks to hot yoga I have also never slept as well in years as I have recently. It also has real mood boosting benefits.
My yoga teacher asked me how I was at the end of the class last week. “I’m only a little grumpy now, “I laughed. “When I came in an hour ago, I was really grumpy.”
So, if it’s been some time since you’ve been able to reach for the remote without straining or if the world feels on your shoulders, hot yoga could melt away all these tensions.
And remember. It’s cool to be hot.
Mica Allan – [email protected]