Today I taught a class for one of my favorite Hot Power Fusion teachers (HPF is a combination of Bikram and Vinyasa). It’s our hottest class, and we do long holds and deep breathing. There’s a little flow but not much. So the heat is super high because the body and the breath can handle it as long as we are smooth, slow and steady.
Halfway through the class a student interrupts me and asks me to turn up the heat. First things first: I did not, nor will I ever ask how the heat is. We have upgraded our language in these classes to NOT ask this question because you are guaranteed to get different answers from different people. Plus it pulls people out of their practice and they are likely to start concerning themselves with everything but the yoga and the breath. To keep in step with harmonious breathing and harmonious movement, we encourage everyone to please stay in their practice, and not concern themselves with anything outside of their mat.
This includes the heat.
I smile and tell her ‘sure’ and head over to the thermostat, which reads 110 DEGREES. The humidity reads at 50% even though I’ve only set it at 40%. It’s THAT freakin’ hot in there. PLUS, we are in a room that is about the size of a luxury walk-in closet… about 20 feet by 40 feet. Instead of turning up the heat, I turn it down. I also lower the humidity. Beyond her wishes, what’s more important is the safety of the entire class and the safety of the equipment. I won’t get into how some of the teachers accidentally broke the heating gears at another studio because the humidity ran continuously… jammed up the gears… and shut down the entire system.
Now that’s she’s seen me fiddle with the thermostat, she’s incredibly happy. She’s sweating profusely and grinning for the rest of the class. After class, she approaches me and says, quote:
“YOU KNOW IF YOU KEPT THE ROOM HOTTER, MORE PEOPLE WOULD COME TO YOUR CLASS.”
She continues to explain to me that XX teacher’s class is always packed and that’s because her room is so hot. This is what I know for sure: people come to classes for two reasons: 1)it’s convenient for them and 2) they like the teacher. Incidentally, the teacher she was talking about is one of the people WHO TAUGHT ME THE HEAT SETTINGS! Plus, I’m subbing. That means that most people who regularly come to that class are going to skip by simple virtue of the fact that they don’t know me. This is expected. If I sub for the teacher who normally gets 41 students, and I get 25 on that day, it’s a good day. My regular classes are the same way. Students who come to see me every week are more likely to skip if I sub the class out. Such is human nature. We kind of expect it and we just roll with it.
I did not, of course, say any of this to her. First of all, it’s not professional or appropriate. Second, it doesn’t matter. The entire point of her speaking up during and after class was an exercise in seeking validation. Sometimes, it doesn’t matter what the issue is, or if there is an issue at all. Sometimes we make our voices heard simply because we want to be heard. Whether we actually have anything valid to say is secondary. The fact that I turned the heat down but her mind and body responded as if I’d turned it up is evidence of this. So I smiled and nodded and thanked her for her feedback. And even as she left and yelled over her shoulder “Remember what I said about the heat! You will get so many more students!”… I smiled and waved. And when she was gone I sat down and put my head between my legs.
The studio manager happened to witness this whole exchange and remarked under her breath: “If you’re not sweating in 107 degree heat by the apex of class, you need to use your breath and your muscles more.” I smiled in validation, because honestly that was precisely what I needed.
On our mats, and in our lives, we are sometimes so consumed by what we think everyone else is or should be doing that we lose the value of our own existence. The way we behave on our mats is the way we behave off our mats. Your practice is just that… a PRACTICE for the rest of your life. Mind your mat, mind your practice, and mind your business. You’d be surprised how utterly simple… and how utterly difficult… that can be.