I have been sort of obsessed with hot yoga this past year and wanted to share this story as part of our goal to share mom life & fashion stories, recipes and wellness tips! 🙂
As snowstorms are raging around the country I’m reminded of my first hot yoga class a year ago. People had raved about hot yoga for years. “Try it, it’s amazing” they would say. But I was suspicious. I had tried yoga on several occasions without any apparent benefit. Still mind, relaxed body? Don’t think so. Was hot yoga going to be just another frustrating and non-relaxing yoga class, but hot? Sounded stifling.
I’m not a “yoga person”. From my limited past experience I had concluded that it simply wasn’t for me.. physically, emotionally, or mentally. I’m tall and notoriously inflexible. My mind is never still, always working to solve some problem, run through a to-do list, or daydreaming. But one gray evening, in the heart of the damp Seattle winter, I decided hot yoga sounded like just the warm hug I needed. Looking like a true Seattlelite, I set out with my yoga mat, towel and water bottle to give yoga another try.
I remember one of my first classes. “Your planks are looking good,” the instructor said as we were all starting to shake in our forward planks, legs and arms outstretched with palms and toes anchored to the floor. “Now in one swift movement like a panther, you’re going to leap and land in between your hands.” Panther!? I saw blurred flashes out of the corners of my eyes. Black clothed yogis jumped, effortlessly, silently, landing in position. I awkwardly ‘toe heeled’ my way up in a – let’s just say – less than pantherlike fashion. “We’re going to get ready for our headstands,” the instructor continued. Headstand!? I was certain the class description had said “all levels welcome”.
We had moved from the center of the room to the walls. In more fluid movements people were throwing their legs up in the air. “This can’t be happening, I cannot physically get in to a headstand,” I thought. The instructor came over to help. “Yay!” she cried when I was somehow in place and upside down, “you now have a new party trick,” she giggled joyfully and moved on to adjust someone else. “I don’t think I can get down,” I wanted to say, but I couldn’t get the words out.
There were many of those moments in yoga. Moments I thought belonged on Saturday Night Live. Awkward poses. People toppling over in Dancer or Bow Pulling pose. But no one got stuck. And only one class I tried included panther jumps and headstands. For the most part, the hot yoga classes had poses that everyone could easily do, but challenged you to find balance and core strength. And you worked so hard in that sweltering heat, you were forced to find some quiet and focus. I finally found my fit in the Hot Hatha style of yoga.
Here’s the thing about any type of hot yoga. It’s very uncomfortable. The only thing you can think of is “no more!” But then you say “yes I can”. And you do. And you survive. And the sweat drips. And you start to accept that the room is not getting any cooler, and you have about 59 minutes left of class. But here’s the other thing. You have to be uncomfortable first to get comfortable later. Just like life – it’s not comfortable, it’s full of discomfort. When you accept that, when you let go, when you say “OK, let’s get hot and do this thing,” the class gets a little easier and you can find peace in the moment.
In yoga you can find peace with turbulence and disruption. You realize you can work through it instead of fighting it.
Everyone was beautiful in yoga. The classes were always filled with a diverse set of people.. different shapes and sizes, people from different wakes of life. Men, women, old, young, big, small. There was a woman who had done an Ironman and just wanted to stay in shape. There was a young woman who could bend into shapes I didn’t think possible. There was a guy who was basically a human fountain. By the end of class, the pool around him was so large you had to walk in a circle to avoid slipping. Nevertheless, we were all there together with a common goal and on a yoga journey. There was always this great positive energy in the room and a sense of peace and calm.
Yoga makes you learn many things to counteract bad physical habits acquired while sitting at a desk. Tension in your shoulders, neck and back starts to dissipate. Emotionally, you realize that turbulence and disruption is not so challenging anymore. And as with any vigorous workout, your body releases endorphins and at some point, you start to feel really, really, really, really good.
So, if you ever thought yoga is just a bunch of stretches plus an attempt at meditating, try a hot yoga class! Some people can’t stand heat, but if you can, it helps with flexibility, the sweating is enormously cleansing, and standing on a floor with radiant heat feels amazing. Beyond that though, it’s an incredibly intense workout that combines core strength, balance, and endurance. And you will get to the end of class.
Finally, the best moment in yoga is at the end of class when you simply lie flat on your back with arms and legs relaxed.. endorphins unfurl through your body while you rest. You feel energized, restored and ready to reenter the world to take on the next challenge with an open mind. And as we awoke from a deeply relaxed state, wiped off the sweat and bundled up to go back out into the cold, dark night, I knew one thing. I would be back.
What’s your experience? Have you found yoga to be a fit for you?