Somehow, this year the Midwest missed spring and we moved straight from winter into summer. For the past few weeks, it’s been in the high 80s to low 90s everyday, with humidity from 60-90%. Hot and muggy. Before we even start yoga class, half of us are sweating, and by the time we get through Surya B, all of us are soaked. By the 45-minute mark, half the students are sliding off the mats, crashing, etc. The other half are on their knees panting. A few students have asked me to turn on the A/C, but I’ve been reluctant so far to comply.
There are many benefits, I try to convince them (and myself), to having a hot and steamy room. You can build heat quickly in your body, you can limber up quickly, you sweat out toxins, etc. But surely there is a threshold where it’s just too hot, right? For now, I’m telling my students that 95 degrees or so is my limit. When the temperature in the room breaks 95, I am willing to run a little air. But we haven’t gotten there yet, so I haven’t bothered to run the A/C; I’m starting to wonder though if students really are so uncomfortable that it’s ruining their yoga experience.
I’ve had classes where the teacher blasts the heat in order to artificially heat the room to 90 or even 100 degrees, and this can be horrible, especially if you are unfortunate enough to set your mat up near the heat source and have hot air blowing on your head or leg through the entire class. For the most part, though, I enjoy heat and like the intensity that comes with it.
I wonder what other yogis out there think about this. Certainly, we don’t come to yoga class (at least not to power yoga, flow, or Ashtanga classes) for relaxation and Club-Med comfort. In fact, the very reason we do all these crazy poses is in some sense to create discomfort. This is where the mental discipline of yoga comes in. We push and pull and stretch our bodies to introduce challenge to our senses. The essence of yoga is in how we carry ourselves mentally in the face of these challenges. I like to think that we ought to respond to intense heat and humidity in the same way. Summertime yoga is great — it’s fun, intense, and often light-hearted — but it can be very uncomfortable, for sure. Instead of complaining about the heat, I try to think of it as yet another challenge to my senses. How can I breathe calmly, despite the oppressive heat? How can I keep a calm and steady mind, despite the fact that I’m sweating like crazy?
I wonder, though, how hot is too hot? Surely there is a limit. But since this limit probably will vary from one person to the next, I’m not sure what to do when 2 or 3 students are begging me to turn on the A/C, and 2 or 3 are asking me to please leave it off. For now, I’m using my own personal limit as the guideline for my classes. I know I can’t please all of the people all of the time, but hopefully I’m not displeasing most of the people most of the time with my often intensely hot and sweaty classes.