Those two little words, hot yoga, have become my new mantra in times of discomfort. I used to hold strong to the illusion that life is supposed to be comfortable. It’s not. In fact, life is mostly uncomfortable with glorious bits of comfort sprinkled in. This may sound like a negative outlook, I assure you it’s not. Allow me to explain my view of life, health, and wellness in relationship to hot yoga.
Hot yoga is just how it sounds. The temperature of the room is between 101 to 105 degrees Fahrenheit with around 40% humidity. It’s designed to induce sweating while moving through and holding poses for 60 to 90 minutes. For years, I told my husband I would NEVER take a hot yoga class. I don’t tolerate high temperatures during the summer months in Southern California or the humidity of July in Michigan. He took an 8 week Bikram yoga class and I told him he was nuts but I was glad he found something that he liked. Good luck to ya!
Never say NEVER. I have been wanting (needing?) to get back into yoga for several years. Since our move last summer, I have been eyeing a yoga studio that is walking distance from our house. I mean eyeing in the fact that I would look longing at it as we walked into our favorite pastry shop next door. Then a Groupon came across my email and I decided it was time. Too many signs were pulling me towards yoga to ignore. “Step away from pastry heaven and step into hot yoga hell,” is what I think I heard fate whisper that day.
Stay with me Diary, the build-up is important…you will soon see. So, I scan the class times and descriptions for several days looking for the perfect “starter” class. Not too difficult and certainly not hot yoga! I successfully complete two level 1 basic yoga classes with normal heat and humidity. Sounds perfect, right? Well, unfortunately those classes, along with a couple of other beginner type classes, are not offered when I am kid free. MMMmmm…hot yoga is offered at the perfect time after the kids are dropped off at school. Dare I do the exact thing I swore I would not do?
So, there I am in the middle of a hot yoga class and my LEGS are sweating profusely. Yes, I said my LEGS. How in the hell did I get here? I have never, ever had leg sweat. In fact, I sweat very little when I exercise. I’m more of a beet-red-face-might-explode kind of person and certainly not a sweat dripping (gross!) sort of girl. As I drip sweat, I look down to see my mat is getting slippery and I don’t have a large towel, just my tiny little workout hand towel. I look in the mirror and my warrior pose looks so awkward that I can’t believe the instructor has not come over to adjust me. Balance of any sort is not happening and my brain is screaming, “Why did you not stick with I’m NEVER doing hot yoga and go eat buttery pastries instead?!?”
In the midst of all this sweaty off-balance discomfort, I realize something. I have the power to shut off the negative never-ever voice that is telling me this is too hard. What if I just listen to the instructors voice and bring myself back to center like he suggests every couple of minutes? What will happen if I live in the moment I’m in instead living in the past (why did I do this to myself?) or the future (I will not make this huge mistake again)? The second half of my very first hot yoga class was spent in the present with my brain focused only on breathing. Interesting…I stopped falling over.
A few things happened after I completed that class. First, I took one of the best cold showers of my life and washed away all that sweat. Second, I reveled in the knowledge that I had just done something I never thought I could do. Third, I started thinking about how I needed to prepare better for the next class…like bring several towels. In short, class #2 required my “A” game.
I go to my second class and almost forget a large towel to cover my mat so I grab an old towel from the garage as I rush out. My second class consisted of more sweat with the added torture of a smelly towel. Awesome. I was the girl in the back of the class not only struggling through 60 minutes of hot torture, but I was also the girl that had a lovely bouquet of funkiness surrounding me. Not exactly my “A” game but I never allowed myself to think about quitting and walking out. Instead, I went home and washed that stinky towel in bleach so it would be ready for class number 3. I can do difficult things, even with a smelly mildew scented towel under me. I’m a little grossed out and a lot proud of myself.
Now, with several hot yoga classes under my belt, I am feeling more confident. The health benefits are more than obvious as I move through my days. Those 3 hours each week spent being uncomfortable, have given my body strength and my mind more focus. Hot yoga has become my really hard thing that reminds me to live in the moment because if I don’t…I will most likely fall over.
Mantras like “only kindness today” and “hot yoga” help bring me back to center and focus on what is in front of me. I am only temporarily uncomfortable and when this passes something less uncomfortable will most likely sit in it’s place. A 45 minute battle of wills with one of my kids…dial in hot yoga mindset. Stuck on a plane waiting to be cleared for take off…only kindness and hot yoga. An accident on the 405 that leaves me sitting in my car instead of at a friends house…channel hot yoga. Live in the moment or risk falling over…sometimes literally but more often figuratively.
The thing I didn’t embrace until recently is that life as a human being is sure to be uncomfortable. Once I stopped expecting life to be easy, comfortable, and tolerable…I was able to start embracing being uncomfortable. Then once uncomfortable becomes tolerable, comfort can be appreciated for the gift that it is. Did hot yoga do all this for me? No. But it did give me clarity, a bit of brevity and a brand new mantra.
Healthy living and eating are also a lot like hot yoga. They are not easy, comfortable or tolerable until we find a way to embrace them in our everyday lives. It’s really scary to change what we normally do. The trade off of feeling uncomfortable momentarily is to improve health and wellness in the long run. Running works for some people, swimming for others…for me it’s hot yoga. Alternate Day Fasting works for some people, a high protein low-carb diet works for others…for me it’s been tracking what I eat to hold myself accountable with My Fitness Pal app. The not-so-secret secret is to find what works and DO THAT! The secret is to never stop the pursuit of finding what works.