I’ve done yoga periodically for years, and by periodically I mean probably an average of 200 times over the last nine years, so by no means a serious practice. One of my New Year’s resolutions was to begin a more serious yoga practice, and I haven’t being doing so well on that front. Last year I went to yoga at least once a week, but that’s fallen by the wayside. I read even doing one pose a day can be considered a “practice.” For the last two weeks, I’ve been doing a few poses throughout the day to loosen up my muscles in preparation for…
HOT YOGA! I bought a Groupon for six classes at an Indianapolis studio, my first real studio experience. I was definitely nervous. Intense yoga in a room over 100 degrees? It sounded like a recipe for loss of consciousness if you weren’t prepared.
I was more nervous than expected since I’d spent the day before literally drinking wine nonstop. I had probably five glasses over the course of 8 hours. I drank three bottles of water before bed hoping to stave off dehydration.
I wore a cotton t-shirt and cotton shorts, a choice I wouldn’t make again. Excessive sweating requires sweat-wicking fabric, otherwise you’ll look like you just got caught in an unexpected rainstorm. I did bring a hand towel, which I needed more than I can possibly communicate.
I went with a high school friend I haven’t seen in nine years, adding to my nervousness. Would she be amazing at yoga, making me look like Rosie O’Donnell in capri pants? Would she make me feel bad for sweating like a pig? Thankfully she was an awesome yoga buddy. After chatting for a few minutes, we headed into the room. I’ve heard you need to spend a few minutes getting used to the temperature before you begin poses. It was hot but not uncomfortable; kind of like an un-airconditioned room on a very hot summer day. We laid on our mats and talked for ten minutes before the instructor came in. She lowered the lights and put on soft music. She asked us to begin in a comfortable sitting position, taking deep breaths with our eyes closed. She said, “Open your palms, indicating you are ready to receive this gift to yourself. Remind yourself why you’re practicing. Maybe it’s for joy. Maybe it’s for love. Maybe it’s to let go of your sorrow. Take a moment to dedicate your practice to someone in your life who might need some extra encouragement.”
I started feeling a bit emotional, realizing the spiritual power of this experience. I did feel ready to receive the gift of yoga, and I took a moment to think of my mom and send the energy of my practice her way.
Next, we started a series of sun salutations. It felt easier to stretch and glide through the poses with the heat warming my muscles. I felt strong and calm. Almost 15 minutes in, I started sweating heavily. As we moved into warriors, sun moons and three-legged down dogs, my sweating turned from heavy to downright PROFUSE. Literally every inch of me glistened with a thick layer of sweat. I suddenly realized I was doing intense yoga in a sauna. I wiped my face and arms with my towel every five minutes, and each time a new layer of sweat had formed. It was gross but kind of awesome. I could feel all the toxins melting out of my body. A couple times I did feel slightly woozy, but I just took a break and fell into child’s pose for a few seconds to recover.
We ended the session in corpse pose, and the instructor passed around lavender-scented eye masks to block out all light. We focused on our breathing and laid perfectly still. Suddenly the room started feeling cooler. I’m not sure if she turned off the heaters or if my body was just starting to lower its temperature; either way, it felt great.
This is why I practice yoga–for this moment. Your body has worked hard; your mind is clear. You can just lay still and focus on the pure joy of being alive. I think exercise clears the mind so effectively because it forces your mind and body to connect: for one period of time in your day, they must be working together. Laying on my mat, completely drenched, my mind was completely calm and clear.
Needless to say, I’ll be going again soon! Namaste. 🙂