27 November 2010

Loving Hot Yoga in Chilly Washington

When I was looking for a yoga studio near Kent where we were staying with family during our visit to Washington, I stumbled upon Hot Yoga Inc.'s website and hit the jackpot when I saw that they were offering a "10 for $10" introductory promo to first-timers at any of their studios. A dollar for a class!!! Unbelievable!!! There was simply no excuse not to enroll. Back here in Manila, I had been making excuses about classes being too expensive (with single class rates starting at P550+) and that I lived too far from the nearest studio. With Hot Yoga Inc.'s branch in Federal Way just a 10- to 15-minute drive from Kent, there was no escape!

Hot Yoga is basically just a series of yoga postures done in a heated room. It doesn't necessarily have to follow Bikram Yoga's strict series of the 26 postures, but most Hot Yoga studios still do anyway. At Hot Yoga Inc., you can choose either the Hot Hatha Yoga classes (60 or 90mins) which basically follows the Bikram Yoga series or the 60-minute Power Yoga class.

Basically, the difference between the two is that when you choose the Hot Hatha, it follows the set 26 poses from the original Bikram Yoga series all performed twice plus the two pranayama breathing exercices (one at the beginning and one to close the class). At first, it seems so easy since it's not a flowing yoga where everything is done in a flowing sequence so you do get breaks in between postures. The thing is, the postures are very challenging, especially the balancing postures and you'd have to stay in the poses for longer periods of time. Often, I would find myself with my knees shaking and just wanting to collapse and sit out the rest of the class.

the reception area at Hot Yoga Inc. in Federal Way

The Power Yoga on the other hand would be a flowing sequence which won't require you to hold poses for too long. I didn't get to try this at Hot Yoga Inc. but I would imagine from previous ashtanga / vinyasa classes I've tried elsewhere that it would be made up mostly of sun salutations and basically, more of a workout than the Hatha since you'll be moving continuously. I wanted to try the Hot Power Yoga class but just didn't have time. The people I met there though kept giving me mixed reviews on it. Some people liked the Power Yoga more since it's only 60 minutes so even if it's a lot more physically taxing, it's over sooner than the Hatha. But I also got to chat to several people who still liked the Hatha class more since they feel like they get more from it than the Power Yoga class because the poses are a lot more challenging.

the heated studio to the left and the shower & changing rooms
at the end of the corridor

My first class at Hot Yoga Inc. was super exhausting and I almost didn't make it thru the end of the class! I used to go to Bikram Yoga in Eastwood but it had been months since the last time I went so the intense heat in the room and the challenging balancing postures took a bit of getting used to all over again. And I guess what makes it harder to do Hot Yoga in Washington is the cold weather. Doing Bikram Yoga back here in Manila is just like doing yoga on a hot summer day. I remember a few months back, when I was too lazy to drive down to Eastwood, I would just do the same 26 postures inside our house with no electric fan turned on and I would sweat buckets still - sometimes even more that I sweat off when I go to the studio. When you're in Washington though, your body gets used to the chilly weather so the heat inside the studio brings more of a shock to your body than it does back here.

After one class, I noticed that right after savasana, a lot of the people who couldn't stand the heat anymore just stood up and left to go out. When I finished my savasana and got out of the studio, I found several of the people in the class just walking around the parking lot with their shirts off in the cold and it was just a funny sight: half-naked men and women in their yoga shorts & sports bras just walking around in the empty parking lot, drenched in sweat!

yoga clothes and accessories for sale

What's great about the heat though is that it loosens up your muscles so much that it facilitates stretching more and lets you be more flexible with your body than you usually are without the heat. And because you sweat tons, it's a great way to flush toxins out of your body!

And that's basically what Hot Yoga promises. According to their flyer, Hot Yoga's Heat Therapy builds strength (check!), improves balance (half-check! I never did get to hold those one-leg standing poses for its intended duration! :s), increases flexibility (check! I can now touch my head to my thighs when doing the standing forward bend -- YAY!), relieves stress (check! Because your mind is so focused on making your body hold the postures, it really does let your mind forget about everything else and lets your mind rest from all outside stress even for just 90 minutes!), helps you lose weight (only a half-check! I know I could've lost a lot more weight if I didn't always find myself looking for a good lunch right after the class! Boo!), helps you release toxins (check!).

I love Hot Yoga. I'd keep going everyday if only there was a studio closer to our house. The first few classes are always the most challenging but one thing I also learned from Hot Yoga is super determination. I learned that if you really put you mind into making your body do something, it's possible even if you don't think you're flexible at all. Even I suprise myself sometimes with the postures I can actually do! I always leave Hot Yoga a lot more energized than when I came in. And as exhausting as the classes are, it always leaves me feeling fantastic all day!

Hot Yoga Inc.
31839 Gateway Center Blvd S

Federal Way, WA 98003 (p) (253) 528-0880

26 November 2010

Back from another hiatus!

The universe works in the funniest ways.

The Mister and I had been dealing with some pretty heavy stuff lately and we were getting pretty burnt out when we got a call from his family in Seattle asking us to visit very soon since my dear father-in-law was recently ill and during that time didn't seem like he was getting any better. Of course, the immediate thought bubble was: "Wow, when it rains, it really does pour!". We were of course terribly worried, so we took our chances and tried to book tickets and in no time, we were booked for a flight that leaves in a couple of days and barely had time to pack and fix things at work before we had to leave.

So in a rush, we left all reservations, recipes and bilins to my family and our staff and packed and left for what was supposed to be just a two week-long visit to Seattle.

In the plane on the way to Seattle, I was already thankful for the time off and the extra time I'd have on my hands to spend with family and finally be able to read atleast a couple of the books that have been piling on my bedside table; experiment with more raw food recipes; do yoga daily; and was really looking forward to finally being able to post all my blog backlog from so many of our recent trips and green adventures. What made me think I'd have time to do all those things is beyond me now. Of course, no blogging happened. And as hard as I tried, I didn't even get to read a single page from any of the books I brought with me!

I did get to do so many other things though. Apart from the time we happily spent with family, I did get to enroll at Hot Yoga in Federal Way and was able to go to class almost daily (something I could never do back here since the nearest yoga studio is about an hour away!)... I also went gaga over how beautiful organic veggies and fruits in Washington are and how easily available raw natural food is so the Mister and I ended up cooking up a storm there and making and experimenting with more new dishes than we ever have back home... I was also able to finally fix my body clock and am happy to say that we sleep normal hours now, no longer going to bed way past midnight and waking up a little before noon; and basically, I was just happy for the breather that the Mister and I along with the Little Boy got from this visit.

beautiful fresh organic fall produce

a raw food dinner we prepared in Seattle

The best news, however, was that when we got there, my dear father-in-law was no longer ill and was just getting better and better each day and in no time, was back to his daily laps in the gym pool and watching football like he never even got sick at all! It was like the Universe just made an excuse to get us there for literally a breath of fresh air and a dose of positive energy.

Washington was gorgeous at the time of our visit, too. It was my first fall in the US and I was just amazed and overwhelmed by its beauty: the trees with their red, orange and pink leaves; the beautifully-shaped fallen leaves that still looked just as beautiful covering the streets and the sidewalks as they were when they were still clinging on to their branches; the gorgeous views of snow-capped Mt. Rainier from just about anywhere; the calm lakes and the sounds; and just how crisp and fresh the air was.

Of course, my lovely in-laws were such gracious hosts and took us to more wonderful places to see more of Washington's beauty. We went to Leavenworth for its little Bavarian village that makes you feel like you're in a fairytale; we visited Stevens Pass to make a snowman and throw snowballs; we went to gorgeous Snoqualmie with its trails & waterfalls; Alki Beach for a grand buffet at Salty's and the best view of Seattle and the Puget Sound; and just saw so many incredible places while we were there.

faerietales come to life at Leavenworth

our Little Boy's first snowman!
gorgeous Snoqualmie Falls

the view from Salty's at Alki Beach

On our own, we rented a cozy little apartment at St. John's in Capitol Hill in Seattle for a few nights and explored downtown and its many vegetarian, vegan and raw food cafes! We went for a full Vegan Happy Hour at Plum Bistro; a lovely vegetarian lunch at Cafe Flora; bought colorful organic fruits & veggies from Pike Place Market; had a deliciously spicy Thai vegan dinner at Araya's at the University District; tried raw nachos, yummy cacao tortes and smoothies at Thrive and more raw desserts and chai tea lattes at Chaco Canyon and Healeo. We also met Kelly of Seattle Raw Food and she gave us super useful tips & easy recipes and made us yummy raw treats like tacos, pizza and those carob fudge brownies that were just too delicious! While I am a pescetarian at the moment (I cannot give up seafood & fish just yet -- especially with all the salmon & clam chowder Washington has to offer!!), we did have a lot of full vegan days while we were in Capitol Hill and it felt great! We didn't even have to try so hard to look for full vegan meals because they were so readily available!

flying fish at the Pike Place Fish Market

more fruits and vegetables at the Pike Place Market

Vegan Happy Hour at Plum Bistro
raw nachos at Thrive
In a nutshell, that visit to Seattle (or Washington actually) was just what we needed! We were so happy in Seattle that leaving became a bit painful, so what was supposed to be a visit for just 2 weeks was extended to 3. And despite the extra work that we had to put in just to be able to manage work from the other side of the world and all its hassles, it was worth it! 

It really was amazing. At a point in our lives where were were at the brink of being just too burnt out and jaded, the Universe interferes and conspires to bring us to this place where we were able to regain a sense of belonging and balance in our lives again and gave us that much-needed inspiration and all this positive energy to go forth and live happy and passionately once more!

So, I am grateful. Very, very grateful. And as a means of expressing my gratitude to the Universe, to Washington and for all the beautiful people that sent us so much loving, positive vibes while we were there (whether thru actions, thoughts or thru their wonderful food), I am promising to blog a little more diligently now. I have so much to share about how green the state of Washington is in so many ways and what I've learned on eating sustainably that it would be a pity not to be able to share it with friends and more people. Not to mention all the amazing vegetarian finds we discovered in Washington that I MUST write about!

Also, some of the most important things I brought home from Seattle with me are my new raw food recipe books, a brand spankin' new blender and food processor (yay!) and all the natural raw food ingredients like nuts, carob powder, grains and seeds that I hoarded from the Natural Food Store's bulk section. So needless to say, I've taken over our kitchen now and have been experimenting relentlessly on yummy raw food recipes since we got back! So I've got loads of recipes to share, too!

raw stuffed mushrooms

raw nori shiitake sushi rolls
coconut carob fudge

So dear blog, let me get my recipes together first and starting tomorrow, I'll be posting recipe after recipe, and many other stories to tell, and blogging every day. I promise.

And again, dear Universe, for all your good energy, a big, big THANK YOU. :-)