Anusara yogini and teacher extraordinaire, Amy Ippoliti, started a “30-Day Yoga Challenge,” which she updates monthly, for students and friends who are her Facebook friends. For the past several months, the challenge has been to work towards some very challenging poses (how appropriate for a challenge). This month Amy invited students to practice without air conditioning, or for hot yoga practitioners, without extra heat. Granted, she is based in Boulder, Colorado, where it is not 101F today, but she speaks my mind. Whenever people have asked me what I think about hot yoga, I have answered that it serves some people very well, but I always find myself asking the question, whence is the heat coming and will it enhance my yoga to change the room temperature if I need to burn fossil fuels to practice?
Why is practicing without a technologically altered environment a yoga challenge? Have you ever found that if conditions aren’t right, you think you cannot do your practice? If we are truly practicing with commitment, then what we want to do is to find the practice that will fit the environment (including not just the outer environment, but the state of our mind and physical well-being) on any given day, even if it means that the practice will not meet our expectation of what our practice should be.
When we practice steadily and listen to the teachings, one of the things yoga teaches us is how to be more sensitive to our environment and to what we put into our minds and bodies. A friend complained of being terribly sleepy the other day. I said it was the heat; look at your pets; don’t you notice that they are sleeping more in the heat? What practicing in accordance with the ambient temperature means (or eating or sleeping or dressing or engaging in leisure activity) learning better how to align with the energies around us, including being sensitive to how we would optimally practice in the heat. As yogis, I believe that what we want, ever more deeply and more profoundly, is to live aligned with nature and our own being in it so that we can find better recognize the fullness and the light of being whatever challenges arise.
I’m doing a modified version of Amy’s challenge here in DC this week: at the William Penn House, I’ll take whatever air conditioning is on (which, for those of you who are wondering, can be pretty nice and cool since it is the ground floor). At the house practice, I’ll keep the house at the same 80-82F I typically keep the house when it is over 90F outside; I won’t lower it because I am practicing, but we won’t be having it over 90F. At Willow Street, I’ll go with the flow.