The Neti Pot Experience
Let me set the stage. It was 2006 at The Dharma Yoga Life of a Yogi (DY LOAY TT) 200-hour Teacher Training—an exploration of yoga with an emphasis placed on mastering and teaching the Dharma I and Dharma Gentle classes. Also covered at the 200-hour level are physical anatomy, psychic anatomy, pranayama, deep relaxation and philosophy discourses. It was July in New York City, NY. We were nearing the completion of our training. I was 12 weeks pregnant. Dharma lovingly (which is his only modality) requested we take out our Neti pots. We made our saline solution ratio of one-half to one teaspoon of salt to two cups of warm water and we all gave it a go.
The process went like this—after preparing the warm saline solution and adding it to the pot, we leaned over a bowl, tilted the head sideways so our faces were horizontal, inserted the Neti pot spout into the upper nostril making sure the spout was fully inserted so water couldn’t leak out that nostril. We breathed through the mouth while we gently poured. We tried to RELAX. Well, I liked my Neti pot initiation less than my first Brazilian wax. Both got ‘easier’ after a few tries, but I have never embraced either as a practice. I enjoy what Dr. Brent, Otolaryngologist, says about the Neti pot, “It essentially flushes allergens, bacteria and infection-causing mucus out of the sinuses. Think of it as a wetter, more forceful alternative to blowing your nose.”
Industrialized Hot Vinyasa
Second stage, present day 2016, and I’m in chilly Minneapolis, MN indulging in one of my favorite endeavors: trying new yoga studios. A spiffy website caught my attention. Spoiler alert—curiosity killed the cat. How could I pass up a ‘free week’ of discovering my most powerful self at one of the largest industrialized yoga studios in the country? I very excitedly peel open the moisture sealed studio door and am belted by a wave of wet heat, my favorite. I call this heaven. What a joy to come out of the cold into my womb of practice. The very earnest, youth-filled instructor asks the practitioners if we have any requests. I immediately respond with, “any postures that exclude Surya Namaskara A and B.” A blank glare was sent my way accompanied by the retort of, “What else is there?”
My heart sank. I wondered when repeating downdog-plank-chaturanga-updog-downdog became the accepted equivalent to a vinyasa practice. Am I the only practitioner who feels like I am subjecting myself to voluntary waterboarding after multiple cycles of this in a hot, humid environment? After the tenth round of this all-too-familiar-cycle, I quietly took my sweat-soaked mat and towel to the back corner of the studio and tried to not disturb the rest of the community with my non-inverted self practice.
If you take a quick look at Surya Namaskara A, you will see that five out of ten postures are technically inversions—the head is below the heart. Common sense tells me that if I am in an awesome hot-humid room, inverted for 50 percent of my practice, the outcome will be, at the very best, the Neti pot experience. If I happened to be super hydrated and working at my peak, the consequence is predicted to be more akin to drowning as a result of inhaling sweat into the sinuses, pharynx, larynx and trachea.
The final rub I have with most every industrialized hot vinyasa class is the impossibility of touting a pranayama, flow, breath-type style whilst sweat is flowing up the nose. During ujjayi pranayama, the breath goes in-and-out the nose with a restriction in the glottis, making a slight oceanic sound, or “buzzing” quality to the breath. The meticulous practice of this breathing technique is to direct the metaphysical concept of prana. During full participation in a vinyasa style class, I want to experience a vigorous pranayama practice that drives my sun salutes. This is not possible in most hot vinyasa classes out there today.
Smart(er) Hot Asana
Remember, I l.o.v.e. heat. The heat can be a test for your resolve, possibly increase the power of your will, perhaps be a natural antibiotic, maybe even increase both endurance and the capacity to build muscle. However, back-in-the-day, extreme heated practices were cultivated by ascetic yogis. Ascetic yogis lived a lifestyle characterized by abstinence from worldly pleasures, often for the purpose of pursuing spiritual goals. Ascetics either withdrew from the world for their practices or continued to be part of their society, but typically included a frugal lifestyle, without desire for any material possessions or physical pleasures. Not sure about you, but I better fit the description of a householder yogi.
While my self practice is supremely satisfying, my search for community in industrialized hot vinyasa is sparse. I simply love to get my sweat on during a breath-on-wind asana practice without feeling like I’m drowning. Teachers, let’s be creative with sequencing and practice the art of smart(er) hot asana.
Photo by Dan Machold – CC BY
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