August 21, 2012

Out of the Frying Pan, Into the Fire. ~ Amy Ratto Parks

Or, why would you go to hot yoga when it’s 100 degrees outside?

So, it’s hot outside.

People are complaining, the grass in your yard is brown and the top ten layers of your skin just melted to your steering wheel while you were driving to your hot yoga class.


Why in the world would someone leave her 100-degree living room, get into her 120-degree car and drive to a 105-degree yoga room?

It’s a fair question.

It seems ridiculous, especially if you don’t love hot yoga. And even if you do love hot yoga, it’s easy to make the argument that it’s one of the rare times of year when one could practice hot yoga at home.

I happen to think that having a strong home practice is vital, and I practice at home a lot. But there are a lot of good reasons to saddle up and get to a class.

1. The practice ends when the teacher ends it. No phone rings, no children call me, no chocolate bars sing their divine, muse-like songs from the kitchen.

2. There is a giant mirror in front of me, which means I can see my alignment and my own eyes in the mirror. I can focus my eyes on the beautiful grape leaves on my deck, but they don’t tell me when I have moved from grape leaf A to B or C. The mirror lets me see my own eyes wander.

3. There are other people there. I can’t just stop, start, rearrange my mat, leave, come back, forget what I was doing, etc. I keep my body still and stay focused out of respect for my classmates.

4. Other people bring you new energy. There are a lot of other people in class who are working hard and pushing their limits, and maybe the Olympics are making me mushy, but I find it inspiring.

5. Other people can also smell bad, make weird noises and blow their noses on their towels; in short people, including me, are very distracting.

But when I notice these things I am reminded that my attention is not on my practice. I also think it’s good to practice in an environment that mimics daily life and my daily reality is full of small people who smell bad, make weird noises and blow their noses on inappropriate pieces of cloth.

6. 5 continued. . . It’s one thing to hold standing bow pulling pose alone on your deck for 60 whole seconds with perfect grace. It’s another to hold your balance and poise when the three people around you are wind-milling their arms and falling onto your mat.

7. There are teachers there. This shouldn’t come last, but I put it here because I think it’s the post important. I trust my teachers and can surrender my attention to them.

When I practice it at home I have to be the teacher and the student; I listen to my body, but sometimes that leads to listening to the neighbors arguing about peanut butter brands. And obviously, that leads me back to listening for the chocolate-muse in my kitchen. When I am in class I have no excuse for not paying attention; I can clear my mind and only hear my teacher’s words and it feels very freeing.

Finally, when I show up to class I am expressing my commitment to my practice in a very concrete way.

I’m not squeezing it in or rushing myself. I might race to get in the car, speed through town with the sauna-like air on my face and swerve into a parking spot, but once I’m there, everything stops.

From the moment I unroll my mat, I’m not going anywhere but in.


Amy Ratto Parks is a poet, yogi and writing teacher in Missoula, Montana. She has practiced Iyengar, Hatha, and Ashtanga yoga for the past 15 years and is a certified hot yoga teacher.




Editor: Thaddeus Haas

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