Since I arrived in Dublin almost a month ago, I’ve been keeping up an (almost) daily practice in my living room, which is much nicer now that I have wooden floors, and not the industrial carpet of the residence room I was staying in at the beginning. I’ve been surviving on audio podcasts that you can download for free through iTunes – check it out, there are tonnes of yoga podcasts to satisfy every kind of practice. My favourite hour-long ones are Greg’s from Yoga to the People – a New York based studio that wants to, well, bring yoga to the people. At their live classes, they charge very little, and pack everyone in like happy little yogi-sardines. There are nine classes currently available from YTP through iTunes, but I find they can really handle repeat playings.
I’ve also done podcasts by Wade Zinter, Kinndli McCollum (who does a Baptiste-style power class), Eoin Finn, and the super-hot Seane Corn, whose grace and core strength I long to achieve (see her Body Prayer on YouTube for an idea of what I mean – watch those feet float back into Chattarunga like someone had rigged her up à la Hero or Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon!)
As a quick fix, Yogadownload.com offers 20-minute classes that target a specific area, such as “Shoulder Opener,” “Hip Opener,” and “Yoga for Buns.” The cool thing about these 20-minute podcasts are that they offer a pick-and-mix approach: you can choose a couple, fire them up on your iPod or through your computer speakers, and have a longer class tailored to what your body and mind need that day. They also come with PDFs of pose guides, so you can consult the visual if you’re not sure about a particular pose. You can download these directly from their site, but if you download them through iTunes then they go directly into your Podcast folder, which I think is preferable to having them show up under Music.
As much as I find yoga to be a deeply personal practice, I’ve been starting to feel that it is way more satisfying to practice it with other humans. For one, I’ve been concentrating on my alignment in some of the central asanas, but without having a teacher around to guide me, I might be on the path to perfecting an incorrect alignment without knowing it. And I somewhat begrudgingly admit that I like chanting Om with other people at the end of class. So with this in mind, and my chest cold/sore throat on its way out, I decided to hit a studio last night. And I decided that I wanted Hot Yoga.
I don’t think hot yoga has caught on in Dublin the way it has at home, but there are a couple of studios in Dublin that do some version of it. Dublin has at least a couple of Bikram studios, and if you're interested, here are the links: Bikram Yoga, Bikram Yoga Fairview. However, I’m not a big fan of Bikram yoga – it just seems too militaristic, and frankly, at odds in practice with the spirit of yoga – so I had to seek out a place that uses heat with non-Bikram classes. I wanted the heat because I had been sitting in my cold, draughty, office all day, my fingers were turning blue, and I needed to finally stop wearing my coat and scarf. I quickly found The Elbow Room on the internet. It’s located in an area called Stoneybatter, which is just above Smithfield, which is less than a 15 minute walk from my flat.
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As an aside – Dublin has names for many of its areas, and it always makes me think that I will have to travel to a suburb to get there. Then I find out it’s a stone’s throw from … well, wherever I happen to be at that moment. Dublin is really not that big.
Anyway, off I trotted to Stoneybatter, yoga mat and hot-yoga mat-towel under arm, and my bag full of yoga clothes, new underwear, another towel for the shower, and face cream (the only product I feel I really must have after a shower). For anyone who has never done a hot yoga class, it’s really really sweaty. You basically come out looking like you went for a swim in your clothes, and dropped your towel in the water to boot.
The Elbow Room is easy to miss if you’re not paying attention, because it’s in a little courtyard on the north side of Brunswick St. North, just east of Blackhall. The sign is inside the walls of the courtyard, so you have to go right up to it to see it. The reception area is very nice, and there are magazines and cushioned benches to sit on while you wait for the previous class to empty. It also has change rooms and a couple of showers with free toiletries. And you can book and pay for your class online, which means you don’t have to bring your wallet. So far, so good.
I went into the room to get set up, but it wasn’t very warm. I thought perhaps I was in the wrong room (they have two). I went out to ask the guy at reception, and he told me that indeed I was in the right room, but it’s hard to get it very hot, you know, depending on how cold it is outside (it was probably about 15 degrees outside at that point, which is really not far from the warmest temperature that Dublin reaches). So I went back inside, wishing I had worn yoga pants and not my favourite blue Lululemon hot yoga shorts. I think the temperature reached, maximum, about 25 degrees, which is considerably cooler than the high 30s or even 40s that I’ve had in places at home. In fact, one day at my sister’s studio in Mississauga, Leewi Yoga, the instructor confessed after the class that it had accidentally reached 50 degrees! It’s not that I needed to be baked like a little Irish potato, it’s just that, as I said, I had been freezing all day and was hoping for something to replicate the tropics. I almost wanted to ask for a blankey.
However, the class was good, and the slower pace of it helped to bring me back to some of the basics. I’ve been pretty addicted to the power side of things for the last couple of months, but not every class needs to test the outer limits of one’s breath and physical stamina. As I suspected, my alignment was off in a few cases, and Aidan helped to correct an errant butt here, a lose leg there, and a tight shoulder…everywhere. And this is totally silly and immature to say, but it was kind of funny listening to someone say all the yoga words with an Irish accent. Maybe it’s because I find many Irish accents have an earthy quality to them, and yoga language is a bit more on the airy side. Anyhow, I’d like to go back, but I was really disappointed by the lukewarm temperature. I don’t think I will practice hot yoga all the time, but when I crave it, then I want it to be actually hot, because the heat helps to bring about a very deep peaceful (read: exhausted and perhaps delirious) feeling by the end of class. Yoga is also very expensive (like everything!) here, and that might be prohibitive. This class was 17 Euros, which, if you do the conversion, is about $27 CDN. I keep telling myself to STOP CONVERTING.