passport to prana: moksha yoga

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

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.

  1. I think that stream of sweat would probably be me if I went to a hot yoga class…as it is, early this winter, when one of the studios I go to was having trouble with its heating system, I was dripping while everybody else was complaining about the cold.

    Nonetheless, it’s nice to hear hot yoga is moving beyond the competitive/ultra-physical Bikram style (though, from what I’ve heard, many Bikram teachers bypass the attitude…and, in my experience, the individual teacher’s always more important than the nominal style, anyway).

  2. i have been guilty of being the sweaty, streaming gross man!


    then i learned to bring an extra towel for any last minute mop-ups

    hot yoga just does it for me!

  3. I tried Moksha a few years ago and had a similar experience with the roomful of type-A’s in impossibly small clothing. But what actually firmed my decision that hot yoga was not for me, was the physical discomfort of sweating AND having to move around. Now that I’ve read about your experience, I’m tempted to try it again.

    • weekday mornings are the way to go. all the A types are at work, being ambitious and productive and stuff.

      it is challenging to move around while sweating so much. i didn’t dare try any headstands or handstands b/c my mat was so slippy!

  4. Hi, girlwarrior.

    I love hearing these reports of what’s going on out there in the Yoga world, since I don’t get out much myself. I’m too busy buried in the study of ancient Yoga texts. Well, not really. But it sounds good, doesn’t it.

    Seriously, being a confirmed Yoga Cyber Hermit, these vicarious forays into the outside world of Yoga studios and rivers of sweat attacking from all sides keeps me grounded, and also keeps me a confirmed Yoga Cyber Hermit.

    Bob Weisenberg

  5. hummm… I’m a Yoga teacher in the States close to one of the Moksha studios. And I have lost a few students to the “lure” of hot Yoga.

    Personally I don’t understand the appeal of hot Yoga but I guess a lot of people love it. What does upset me a bit is that I put a lot of time and effort into planning my classes and I have herd thru other Yoga teacher that have taken classes there is that the instructors just lean on the wall or sit on the windowsill and bark out orders then leave the room for savasana… which goes against everything I was taught…. you need someone to hold the room/space for those in savasana.

    Another thing that also upsets me is that I feel like a Yoga “franchise” is kind of like WalMart or Costco and that it is taking away business from smaller “ma and pa” studios like mine and others in the area. But I guess that’s the American way. I just had to vent b/c I had 7 classes a week before they opened and now I’m down to 4 with 2 on the chopping block. I guess i need to learn to love hot Yoga and go teach there???

    • hello i ~ thank you so much for offering your perspective. I think you’ve brought up some very good points, especially about the negative aspects of yoga franchises and the effect that super trendy yoga styles have on independent teachers.

      all i can say is keep doing what you love and teaching in a way that’s true to yourself. the thing about trends is that they move like a pendulum – the sheen of hot yoga will dim and your students will return.

      you’re always welcome to vent here!

  6. I had a similar experience re-visiting a Moksha class. My initial experiences didn’t really win me over – the best thing I had to say about it, was that as someone who doesn’t sweat very much, it felt really good to sweat like that! But I too felt that it was more of a work out and that I didn’t find the spiritual connection that ultimately draws me to my mat. Still, when friends and students express interest in trying hot yoga, I have always offered Moksha as a good option.

    I recently went to a class at the NDG studio and it was a very different experience. It felt like a full practice. Despite it being a Moksha Flow class, we didn’t jump right into the physicality. We took time to breathe, to check in and arrive in our practice. As we did start to move, it felt like a natural progression into the flow, as opposed to previous experiences where the heat allowed a ‘full throttle’ approach from the beginning. It felt like the teacher really wanted everyone to find their practice that day and offered suggestions and variations that allowed that.

    The most awkward part for me is the mirrors – adds a whole new level to drishti. The mirrors can bring you head on with your ego and it can be hard to resist the temptation (maybe this is part of the draw for some type A folks). At the same time, the occasional mirror peek can be a celebration of how far we’ve come – even as our internal experience of the practice evolves, it can be difficult to let go of the self images formed when we began to practice (the tight hamstrings, the shaky tree pose). Sometimes the mirror gives a shift in perspective that allows us to see our strengths (though of course the effect can be detrimental as well).

    Ultimately, I find hot yoga a bit too high maintenance for regular practice (sometimes you just want to walk in with your mat and the clothes on your back). But from time to time, it does feel good to sweat it out (looking forward to trying their yin class too!).

    • interesting observations, becky! i agree with you about the mirrors. they are definitely a way to confront your ego.

      i will be exploring the NDG moksha studio on my Passport to Prana journey, and i’m curious about the yin class. now that i’ve had the full-on moksha experience, i will check it out.

      and i’m with you all the way when it comes to the high maintenance of hot yoga! i also like to come and go in my yoga clothes. i’m really not into waiting around for a shower ~ or washing my sweaty clothes on a constant basis!

  7. Living in the tropics I don’t have much of a choice – all yoga is hot yoga!

    Recently the A/C broke in our yoga room and it was like practising in a sweat-box… By the end of the class the floor was so slippery I was hesitating to move around the room for fear of slipping!

    I have to say that I am a fan of moderation and I wish it were a bit cooler… But since even Yoga can’t change the climate, I have learned to just live with it. And to be honest, when I was back in Canada in October, practising in my Grandmother’s basement in near-freezing temperatures, I did find it really hard to warm up – in a 90-minute ashtanga session I barely broke a sweat and kept my second layer on the whole time! The great thing about heat is that it opens up your body to deep stretching.

    I have yet to try an “official” hot yoga class and it’s been years since I treated myself to a studio class so I am still open minded on this one!