Science of Yoga Work

I heard a question after teaching Rocket Yoga on Saturday.

"Was the heat turned up during class?"

It really wasn’t. I looked at the thermometer just to see what the temperature was and it was a moderate 74.1 degrees F. I started with a jacket walking around, then a t-shirt over a tank top when I got started. Eventually the t-shirt came off, so I know my body was heating even though I was only teaching the class.

I only wish I would have checked the temperature after class because it was rather balmy. All the windows had a thick layer of condensation and I could see yogis wiping sweat.

OK, one work about sweat. Sweat isn’t necessarily an indication of how hard you work. If you were to establish a STP (standard temperature and pressure) for sweat, then maybe you could start talking about work. But its rather different for each body. Some of our metabolisms work higher than others. If we are sick, pregnant, menopausal, or ate a red hot chili pepper, our metabolisms will start from different places. Vitamins, electrolytes, hydration status, and other factors also play a role. And, for people like me, I carry a nice layer of adipose tissue. Fat on our bodies makes it like we are doing yoga with a full wet suit on. But back to sweat.

Sweat is dependent externally upon temperature and water vapor pressure. Increase either of these components and you have a potential for sweat. However, evaporation plays a role as well, which is why vapor pressure is important. If you walk across a desert in Arizona, the temperature may be high but the water vapor pressure is low. Sure you might be sweating profusely, but you may not see it on your skin because it evaporates quickly. Now, imagine sitting on a porch in Houston, Texas tying your shoes during a very hot rain shower. You may work up a drenching sweat doing that small task. Almost no "work" is being done by your body, but the sweat could be profuse.

So this is the point, sweat is not always an indication of how hard you work. Identical wins separated by Tuscon, AZ and New Orleans, LA could be doing the exact same work, but one with sweat and the other without. So sweat isn’t always an indicator of work.

Where it can be an indicator of work is when you have a resting individual in a coat and another similar individual in yoga class with sweat streaming down. That can be work.

To be honest, Rocket Yoga is an intense class. Bodies are doing loads of hard work and it shows often in sweat and window condensation. Both heat and humidity rise from the rapid use of Prana (energy). For people who live in Rajasic energy (bold, active, action oriented, forceful, aggressive), expending this energy is needed to bring balance. It where savasana shifts us toward a more tamasic energy, that is, softness, passivity, gentleness, kindness. Its where the chaos of our unsettled minds and bodies are released. It is how hard work pays off.

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