Yesterday, I told you some things you may not know about hot yoga. They were intended to be funny. Half of them are probably inside jokes but most of you probably got the jist of it. Today, I want to talk seriously for a few minutes about how the last 30 days have changed me.
In April, I realized that I had one month before school was out and I made a commitment to go to class four times a week. I don’t know why I picked that number but it worked out and it gave me a day of rest in between. (I just completed day 15 of 31. Go me!) Hot yoga is hard, people, but I love it! I think I have the folks at The Hot Yoga House convinced that I detest hot yoga and hate every minute of it sans thea last 5 minutes of class. Don’t be fooled. In fact, I really enjoy it. A lot. It’s a challenge in a good way.
Rewind to the end of April. The first few classes were big time physical trying to get my breath under control. You see, if you aren’t breathing a slow and steady in and out through your nose, then you are already loosing the battle. I decided from the start that I wasn’t going to just power through until I got the basics right. Numero uno is breathing. It sounds easy in theory. I mean, technically it’s an involuntary reflex but when you actually think about it and try to train your body to breathe in a certain (beneficial) way, it’s hard. I was distracted by all sorts of stuff – outside of class stuff, life stuff, inside of class stuff, just stuff. It’s hard to listen to your breath (or the instructor) when all this junk is going on in your brain. So, it took a week or so to teach myself to turn down my brain. I’m still not great at turning it off but I can at least quieten it for a bit and focus. Sometimes.
By week 2 I was feeling really tired. All that mental and physical work was catching up with me. I was literally dragging my booty to the studio and yawning in class. I had that “why in the world am I doing this” thought a LOT. But, I was there. I was on my mat. Mission accomplished. Even if I did nothing more than lay there, I was sweating and releasing built up toxins. However, I was actually doing more than that. I was getting better control of my breath and I was building muscle memory. It started to become emotional at this point too. I never could understand how yoga could be SO personal until I started taking it (and doing it) seriously. There were days that I had to work through “stuff” that had been tucked away and held back for a while. One of my teachers says that we store things in our hips. I have no doubt about that and I appreciated each and every hip-opening asana that we did. It was time to let some things go. I still have things to let go of but I’m making progress a teensy, tiny bit at a time.
Week 3 came along and my energy suddenly came back, which was a huge relief. I was worried it might never return. This is when life on the mat spilled over into real life, big time. I got a spark of something and that’s when I started getting back on track. I was more in tune with my daughter and her needs. I was more calm when discipline situations arose. I didn’t just respond out of reaction anymore. I felt like I could think again. The fog was lifting. I could analyze a situation for what it was and then deal with it appropriately. I was getting proactive once more. I started baking and cooking again and organizing and cleaning and enjoying the every day little things.
Once I got to week 4, I started craving time on my mat, even at home. If I had worked for a long stretch of time, I would fall out of my chair and get into downward facing dog and just rest. I remember once thinking that down dog would NEVER actually be restful but it could be. On occasion. I would even do a little yoga with my 4 year old before bed. She’s a pretty cute yogi, by the way. I also found myself controlling my breath doing every day tasks like mopping the floor and trying to square my hips when standing in line at the check out. I took notice if my shoulders were up by my ears and pushed them away. If I did something on one side, I would turn and do it to the other side so everything would be symmetric. If I felt myself getting frustrated, I recognized it quicker and would try to breathe through it.
My husband jokingly asked me the other day if I had reached “enlightenment.” I laughed and said “no” but I do feel like I have gotten a little glimpse; just a sliver or maybe more like a crumble, but I’m feeling the mental:physical ratio start to even out. Once you commit to the practice, it really does have a lingering affect on every area of your life. In class, I’ve started to notice that my lines are longer and straighter and I at least remotely resemble the pictures in the books though Warrior 2 (or is it II?) and corresponding asanas still remain my nemesis. I’ve also noticed that even when I’m doing something the “right” way, if I tweak it just a little, it can feel totally different. Better. There really is a “sweet spot” and if I can just give into it, it actually feels good. So many times, I fight the resistance which makes it 3X as hard rather than just letting go. Or, sometimes I’m afraid to try something new (hello, camel) assuming, “I’ll never be able to do that” when I probably can. There is no way to know for sure unless I let myself be a little vulnerable and try. That applies to real life too.
Last week, Misty said something that had a profound affect on me. She said, “sometimes we have to live with the uncomfortable but don’t confuse that with a sharp, burning pain. That’s your cue to back off.” See? That’s the reason I love going to class. I can go in and leave a bunch of toxic sweat on the hardwood floor but bring home inspirational messages that apply to life both on and off the mat. I get physical and mental tidbits that I can apply in the real world and, for me, that’s what hot yoga really is.
Okay, I’m not gonna lie. I really just love the cold aroma-infused wash cloth at the end. It’s totally the icing on the cake.
As much as I’m looking forward to Summer Fun, I’m gonna miss going to yoga every other day. I still plan to go on Fridays & Sundays, because hubby is home to watch the little girl. Those days used to be my favorite classes because I felt like they were a teeny bit easier. Now, my favorite classes are Tuesdays & Thursdays because that is when the real work happens. The room isn’t as full and it gets mentally serious in a hurry. Those are the days that I make the most progress.
Of course, I’ve got a ways to go. Well, a LONG way to go. So, here’s to a life-long yoga practice. Cheers!
Aaand…. if I haven’t scared you to death, maybe you’d like to go with me. Whadaya say? I promise you might like it.