Many people avoid Bikram yoga like the plague, because, well, it can make you feel like you have the plague. For some, however, the heat is the attraction. Fans of “hot” yoga might be interested to know that there’s an even hotter game in town – a new style of yoga, called Moksha, which involves a sauna-like 40C environment.
Moksha originated in Toronto, Canada, but has quickly spread to U.S. cities like Chicago and San Francisco, and internationally to places as diverse as England, Thailand, and Trinidad. Unlike Bikram, which strictly follows a set range of twenty-six poses, Moksha allows for more flexibility for both the instructors and students. Choosing from forty poses, instructors lead students through a rigorous, 90-minute cardiovascular workout, while the intense heat loosens muscles and detoxifies the body through heavy sweating.
Just like other forms of yoga, Moksha boasts the ability to make you more calm, centered and healthy. Since the poses are traditional asanas, and emphasis is put on deep breathing and enhancing flexibility and balance, the only real difference between this and more traditional yogas like hatha or vinyasa is the pace (heart rate is elevated throughout the practice) and the heated environment. But advocates of this new type of practice vow that the heat enhances the benefits of yoga.
According to Moksha Yoga Nanaimo, a studio in British Columbia, their hot yoga classes have allowed clients to de-stress, lose weight, and improve their immune systems. Some students claim more dramatic effects, telling the studio owners that that the Moksha classes have “healed them emotionally and physically from the challenge of chemotherapy; improved their relationships with family members” and even “helped them heal from brain injury”.
So what can you expect in this new form of hot yoga? Like many types of yoga classes, Moksha Yoga instructors normally start and end the practice in savasna. In between, students embark on a standing series focuses on poses held for up to a minute, building strength and endurance (which you’ll certainly need to survive the intense heat). This warms you up (no pun intended) sufficiently for a floor series that focuses on the abdominals and spine. While the muscles become more supple from the heat, opening the hips becomes an important goal, since common problems like knee and back pain are often caused by tightness in the hip region.
Moksha prides itself on being more “accessible” to everyone, since the flexibility and freedom of the practice allows instructors to tailor sequences to individual problems or concerns. But despite the potential health benefits, practicing in such a hot room can be detrimental to some individuals. Most Moksha studios post warnings on their websites that pre-pubescent children, pregnant women, and those suffering from heart disease should either skip this type of yoga altogether, or at the very least consult their doctors.
But there’s one very modern – and very admirable – aspect to Moksha. According to their website, the Moksha Yoga organization, based in Canada, builds all its studios with “sustainable and non-toxic supplies, lights and heating systems are low consumption, and all studios are cleaned with environmentally friendly products.”
So while the heat is on in Moksha yoga, at least the studios won’t be contributing to global warming!