The studio has repeatedly taken the top spot in the Montreal Mirror's "Best of Montreal" poll (image via montrealmirror.com)

Hot yoga is the wild child of modern yoga. It’s scoffed at by traditionalists, criticized by the medical community, and yet revered by practitioners. It’s also wildly popular, and its popularity continues to grow.

And the latest stop on my Passport to Prana adventure takes me out of my neighbourhood and down The Main to Moksha Yoga Montreal ~ one of the best-known studios in the city, sporting a full roster of classes and notoriously crowded rooms. The studio is part of the Moksha Yoga franchise, which has 35 locations throughout Canada, the US (in Kentucky and Chicago), Trinidad and Switzerland. Moksha is co-founded by Ted Grand, a former Bikram devotee who created his own style of hot yoga with a less rigid structure (not the patented 26 posture series) and a commitment to environmental/social action.

From a selection of Moksha, Power Flow, Yin, and Ashtanga classes, I opted for a 10 am Moksha class on a bright Thursday morning. The differences between the styles appears to be subtle, and apparently the Moksha series “consists of 40 poses practiced in a heated room designed to promote openess through your hips and strength through the upper body while detoxifying your entire body. Both standing and seated poses are practiced, giving a balanced cardiovascular workout.”

Now, I have to admit that I was going into this class trying to keep my biases at bay. My previous attempts at doing hot yoga have left me hot and bothered. I’ve been distracted by Type A personalities, sweating and puffing and proving themselves, and annoyed by aggressive teachers who push and push. In my past experiences, I had seen more of a focus on a physical workout than spiritual development.

So I went into this class with an open mind and open eyes… and had a different experience. First of all, it was very spacious ~ physically and figuratively. Who goes to yoga classes on Thursday mornings? Students and freelancers, that’s about it. While the room was hardly empty, I had space around my mat and didn’t get distracted by someone else’s foot or elbow in my face. As the teacher guided us through the series, she actually encouraged us to take breaks, and merely suggested doing advanced modifications, if we felt up to it. Her voice was soothing and her language controlled (although she did instruct us to “organize your butt” – I have no idea what that could mean).

There was something in her which tempered the aggressive and competitive vibe that I associate with hot yoga practitioners, and I didn’t get the feeling that I was surrounded by people painfully pushing and torturing themselves. I love heat (saunas, hot tubs, steam rooms – bring ’em on), so by the end of the class my body felt amazing and I just wanted to take a nap right there. Except I was so grossed out by the guy next to me, who sweated so much that there was literally a *stream* of sweat flowing away from his mat. Not even exaggerating. A stream. It flowed and then pooled a few feet away from the drenched guy.

Moksha Yoga Montreal
3863 St. Laurent Blvd, 2nd floor

And for a hot debate between Moksha Yoga co-founder Ted Grand and “yoga critic” John Philps, check out this earlier post.

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