For over a decade people have been telling me about the wonders of yoga. I believe them. But every time that I have attempted a class, the experience has been underwhelming. My mind wanders and thinks thoughts that are the exact opposite of what I should be thinking. Yoga is about going inward introspection and being one with the universe. And I seem to go more and more external.
I think judgemental thoughts about others. The instructor irritates me as she has fake boobs. I have a deep frustration with the type of person that is against vaccinations and uses words like: toxins, organic and chemicals; yet seem to be okay with silicon implants and botox. I ponder the awesome leggings the girl over the other side of the room is wearing. I obsess over whether the hot guy positioned behind me is assessing my flexibility in the downward dog pose. I wonder if anyone is evaluating my agility.
I judge myself. I hone in on the pockets of flesh that are prohibiting me from completing twisting poses. I ponder the awesome leggings the girl next to me is wearing. I obsess over whether the hot guy positioned behind me is assessing my flexibility in the downward dog pose. I compare and contrast and come up short nearly every time. I leave the class feeling drained, irritable and inadequate.
When hot yoga became all of the rage, I just knew that I wouldn’t like it. The thought of being hot and bothered before I had even started the class; coupled with the pungent smell of people’s armpits, did not appeal to me. In fact, it made me feel down right ill just thinking about it. This year; however, I have made the resolution to try new things. So one day, in typical “me” style, I made a spontaneous decision to go to a class. I paid and booked for a class online. I quietened my anxiety by reasoning with myself that the class is only 5 minutes drive away from my class and if I didn’t like it, I needn’t go back ever again. The class would be tomorrow morning at 6:30am.
An hour after booking the class the anxiety hit me in the stomach. I am okay at trying new things; but I like to be prepared. I had no idea how to get prepared for this class. I facebooked a hot yoga teacher friend of mine with a plea for help. She gave me some advice which turned out to be very helpful. “Wear as little clothes as possible, start drinking water now and surrender to the process.”
The next morning, I arrived at the yoga place with excitement and curiosity. The instructor encouraged me to do whatever I needed to do in order to stay in the class. As soon as I walked in the room I was aware of the heat. The first thought that occurred to me was, “this room is hot!” The second thought that occurred to me was, “No shit Sherlock. It is hot yoga. It is supposed to be hot.” I thought about the fact that usually when I felt discomfort I would attempt to do something to bring comfort to myself. This class was going to be about denying myself my automatic response of trying to leave discomfort.
As I lay on my mat, acclimatising to the heat I worked out my game plan. I thought about other times I had been uncomfortable, whether it be emotional or physical. Emotionally, if I get constructive feedback at work I had two options: I could either resist or learn. Physically, when I was in labour, I had to either embrace the pain or resist. I decided to surrender to the heat and the light sheen of sweat on my forehead. Let it go. It is hot. Let it go.Let it flow. I was surprised by how many of the poses came back to me from my youthfull brief forays into yoga. As I started to sweat I noticed the thoughts and feelings that started to come up around the act of sweating.
I was curious about some of the main themes that emerged about sweating. Do I view sweating as negative or something to hide. Is this something that is a person judement or am I conditioned by society? Or maybe it isn’t the idea of sweating, but sweating in public, with a group of strangers. There is something intimate about twisting your body into poses, with little clothing, allowing the sweat to stream off your body without attempting to hide it. Phrases like “no sweat” or “don’t sweat it” indicate ideas of control and being able to handle something. People talk about not even breaking a sweat, as if this is an optimal state. “Breaking into a cold sweat” indicates fear, which is often viewed as a weakness or at the very least, a vulnerability. But in this class, everyone sweats. It is the aim of the class. In this class, your optimal state is to sweat.
During the class, I had no time to think about leggings or appearances. It took all of my concentration to complete the poses. Sometimes I would think “it is so hot” and then I would back hand the thought out of my head with a louder “well, it is hot yoga!” Halfway through the class, she instructed us to do a pose that opened up our hips. An intense feeling of sadness rushed through me. Tears stung my eyes. I felt confused about what had happened. Not even a minute later she said, “this is an emotional pose that releases lots of emotional junk. “Ah, that makes sense.” I felt reassurred that my experience was normal and healthy.
After the class I felt good for a few minutes, until I started to feel sick. Waves of nausea swept over me until I couldn’t stand. I excused myself and got in the car, enjoying the feel of the cool leather seats. When I got home and laid on the couch I reflected on my experience. I love this class. It is not even nearly the same experience I had with yoga. It is probably the only time that my head is ever quiet. And my skin felt amazing. It did feel as though it had been flushed from the inside-out. By the end of the day at work, I felt as tired as if I had run 10kms. I have brought an unlimited for a month pass and it will be interesting to see how I feel after a month of hot yoga.