In the wintertime, many students complain that the classroom isn’t warm enough. “Crank up the heat!” they say from about November to mid-March. Then, as the weather starts to get above 70, everyone wants to open the windows or turn on the A/C.
As a teacher, I want my students to be comfortable and happy in class. But even if I turn on the heat or the A/C to please certain students, others immediately become upset that it’s too hot or too cold. In other words, it’s impossible to please everyone, and sometimes I feel like it’s impossible to please anyone. So what’s the solution?
My general attitude these days is that one’s yoga practice should change with the seasons, and that as one becomes a more experienced practitioner, the temperature of the room matters less and less. Of course, if the room is 32 degrees, that’s going to be unsafe, and if the room is over 100 degrees, that might be unsafe as well. But making the temperature just right is impossible, since “just right” is something different for just about everyone.
Ultimately, I don’t think comfort should be the goal or even an expectation in yoga class. I also don’t think that “having it your way” it necessarily the best approach to yoga. Of course, we live in a consumer culture where we can get just about anything “our way” whenever we want, but yoga is a little different.
Yoga, as I’ve learned it from my teachers over the years, shows us how to be strong, steady and calm in the face of challenge. Whether we’re holding Utkatasana for 20 breaths or sweating buckets or sitting in meditation, our minds should be resilient enough to stay clear and focused regardless of what’s happening around us or to us.
Of course, most people (including me) aren’t master yogis who can be calm no matter what. But we can take a step in that direction by learning to be more open-minded and tolerant in our yoga classes, instead of expecting the same reliable product every time, like we would from our favorite local coffee shop or restaurant.
Sure, it’s easy to get hooked on a certain style of yoga, a particular teacher, a favorite studio, a certain room temperature, etc., but we become beholden to these things if our attachments grow too strong. And the stronger the attachment, the greater the pain we feel when the object of our attachment is unattainable or unavailable. I’ve literally seen people storm out of a studio when they arrived for class and found out that a sub was filling in for their favorite teacher. I’ve seen students get in a shouting match with each other before class over the room temperature. Once, I even saw an irate yoga student follow another student out to the parking lot, shouting at her the whole way because her cellphone went off during Savasana and “ruined the class.” To me, all these reactions are signs that these yogis (a) seriously need to chill out, and (b) are super attached to something, to the point that they feel the loss of this something as a deep, personal loss.
We take what we learn and develop in yoga class, both physically and mentally, off the mat and into the world. If, in our yoga practice, we cultivate strong attachments and a quickness to be judgmental, it should be no surprise that this is how we act outside of class. If, on the other hand, we learn through yoga to be strong in the face of challenge, resilient in the face of surprise, and amenable to change, then the way we live our daily lives will almost surely reflect this.
So, my final comment with respect to room temperature is this: Next time you think it’s too hot or too cold in the room, ask yourself, “Should I always get exactly what I want? Or should I sometimes want exactly what I get?”