Reflections On A Week Of Hot Yoga Teacher Training

Lately my yoga practice has included standing in front of a mirror, staring into my own eyes, and sweating from every pore of my body in a heated room. Though I have always enjoyed all styles and approaches to yoga I have had very little experience with Hot Yoga until my recent eight-day immersion in Hot Yoga Teacher Training, and now I’m in love with this simple, strong, and potent approach to Hatha Yoga practice.
In 2004 when I left Vancouver for the Island, Hot Yoga was very new on the scene in Western Canada and there were just a couple Bikram studios to be found. I was an avid Ashtanga Yoga practitioner and Vinyasa teacher at the time and as I was so devoted to my early morning Mysore practice I never actually made it to a Bikram’s class before moving to Tofino, where there were no yoga studios at all, and certainly no Hot Yoga studios. In the years since then I have seen creative Hot Yoga styles arise out of the Bikram lineage as teachers who were passionate about the practice felt called to bring new expressions to what Bikram had laid out. As Bikram’s studios became more popular I was able to drop into classes here and there and experience the practice and though I liked the heat I didn’t resonate with the philosophy or approach of the teachers who’s classes I attended and didn’t think the style was for me at all.  However when I started practicing at Yaletown Yoga in 2008 I discovered another approach to Hot Yoga, which I really enjoyed. Though my primary focus for the last five years has been my study of Anusara Yoga I would often take Hot classes while doing trainings in Vancouver and always loved the sweat and the silent intensity of practice that brought me back to my early days in the Mysore room.  The teacher’s at Yaletown were teaching the practice in a whole other way that I was able to enjoy and that made sense to me in a way that the Bikram’s practice never had.
As my family and I contemplated our upcoming move to the Whistler area later this summer, which is the home of Hot Yoga goddess Kristin Campbell, I thought it would be fun to do a training with her now that I was going to be in her neighborhood. So last week I drove up to the Neoalpine YYoga in Whistler to attend an intimate eight day Hot Yoga Teacher Training with her and Neoalpine studio director Janet Corvino. Kristin trained directly with Bikram himself and has been an avid yoga student for over a decade, studying many styles of yoga, including Anusara. Her and YHot co-chair Alex Atherton created the YHot Yoga Sequence that is taught at all the YYoga studios today so I knew that she was the lady to learn from if I wanted to know more about this approach to practice.
Our daily schedule for the training included two, ninety minute, YHot Yoga practices per day, so for the first time ever I was able to truly immerse myself in the practice, and with each day I fell more and more in love with it. The practice of YHot Yoga, as taught by Kristin Campbell, is inherently strength building and demands focus as it is characterized by static postures held for 30-60 second timings done in a room that is heated to 40 degrees Celsius and has a humidity level of 40%. That level of heat, combined with a long series of strong standing poses, balancing postures and backbends, requires that you invoke a quality of shtira, or steadiness. And at the same time with each practice you become more and more adept at finding just the right amount of sukha, or softness, that will allow you to balance out the intensity of the practice.  The end result is a practice that leaves you feeling clear, grounded, and open.  Another thing that I love about this approach to practice is that it is done facing your own gaze in the mirror, and the teacher never walks between you and your own reflection. So though you are being guided by the instruction and presence of the teacher, the practice has an intimate feel to it as you face yourself squarely throughout the entire process.  And let me tell you this is not easy! It took me three full days to be able to meet my own gaze without flinching or fidgeting! But once I did I could see so much more clearly when I was over efforting, or resisting what I was experiencing in any given moment. I had always thought that mirrors in a studio would be distracting, but instead I found them to be a powerful tool to deepening concentration and self-awareness.
Through the week and a half of training I found that the qualities of a good Hot Yoga teacher are the ability to hold space with a steady presence through the intensity of the practice (shtira again), while at the same time being compassionate, and supportive (sukha). Additional qualities that can really make a difference in the Hot room are the ability to use humor and inspiration to create lightness as you guide the students on their journey. Kristin embodied this perfectly and my fellow trainees and I were lucky to have her as our mentor through our time together.  As well we were treated to classes taught by Janet Corvino, who did her training with Kristin a number of years ago and is an experienced and inspiring teacher, as well as Neoalpine teacher Jodi Dodd, who wove clear and simple themes into her classes and guided us with her calm presence.  We also were able to take one class with Andrea Nacey, who is a new teacher with a very precise and confident teaching style, which I loved. And on my day off I went into the studio to take a Hot class with powerhouse teacher Astrid Kent who educated and encouraged us as she held us in a 90 second forearm plank! Each teacher brought their own unique approach to this practice, which is fundamentally a set sequence of postures, making each practice a new adventure that was familiar and yet full of surprises.
I graduated the program yesterday and with my certificate in hand I am now on the ferry back to Tofino feeling very grateful for all that I have learned and experienced in the last eight days. Practicing this style of yoga will bring a new dimension of strength to my other practices and I am excited to share this practice with others going forward. I will continue to teach my own blend of Anusara inspired vinyasa classes as well as adding this new style to the types of classes that I teach.  If you want to join me for  a YHot class you can find me at Neoalpine after August 21st or try a Hot Flow class at Coastal Bliss in Tofino on Saturday mornings at 8am after June 23rd. Just be sure to bring a towel!