Skirt (similar) // Chloe Bag c/o Bag Du Jour
Last week, I did hot yoga for the FIRST time! Why had I waited this long?
I love yoga. I’ve been doing it periodically for 10 years and even went to Wanderlust last year. I love that it connects the mental and physical states and challenges the core, breath, focus, and flexibly, and forces you to weave them all together. I love that it allows you to compete with yourself, and only yourself. And most of all, I love that it gives you an excuse to just keep quiet and think.
I am the type of person who can be extroverted at a party, but will seize any opportunity I get to be self-reflective and just think in silence. (What can I say, I am super analytical.) I am also naturally pretty flexible and have always found myself feeling more graceful than frustrated during yoga practice. I enjoy being challenged to balance and hold a pose for an extended period of time. I like that you’re expected to breathe really loudly and are actually encouraged to pay attention to something as simple as breathing. So with all of that said, why had I avoided hot yoga like the plague? (OK maybe not the plague, but like something I was better off not doing.) Well I guess I’d always had this fear that I would:
A) Be wayyy too hot and uncomfortable
C) Be really, inexplicably bad at it – and blame it on the heat
D) All of the above
As the weather became chillier, I started dreaming about taking a weekender to a hot place. Well we have been so busy and obviously that didn’t happen.
During the same time, I was reading something that reminded me of how important it is to sweat in order to detox your system.
Combine these with a Classpass and a free evening, and I found myself at a hot yoga studio: The Sweat Box in Capitol Hill.
I walked into the studio and let me tell you, its name was no misnomer. From the moment I stepped inside, I could feel myself starting to MELT. As I made my way through the room to find a place to lay my mat, my water bottle and palms began to perspire. I found a spot and then proceeded to lie on my back to stretch. Looking up at the ceiling, I saw a fan. A FAN! I immediately moved underneath it. After a few minutes, I started to acclimate to the temperature.
Class began and the sweat started rolling. With each drop, I felt an increased sense of accomplishment. I couldn’t help but think that whatever I got out of this class, sweat was the true symbol of victory. (Side note: A few weeks ago, I went to a totally different workout class called Sweat Equity. On the wall, they had this sign that said “Sweat is fat crying.” That phrase was basically my motivation during the first 15 minutes of this hot yoga class.) The class progressed and so did my level of zen. I was in the groove. The hot, sticky, groove of true yoginess. I may not have been as flexible or balanced as I had been at other times, but I didn’t faint and I wasn’t dying. I was proud that I made time for myself and forced myself to go (I usually go to Classpass with friends, but I went alone.) And somewhere between chaturanga and shvanasana, I finally felt like I understood what it was all about – and it was way deeper than finally putting that $100 sweat-wicking workout gear material to proper use. I wanted to do this again and promised myself I’d be back soon.
Fast forward 5 days and I was back: this time my Classpass brought me to Bellevue.
Once again, I laid under a fan. After a period of stretching, class begun. The teacher instructed us to close our eyes and say “ommm” and the class began to liven up. I like being forced to “ommm.” It’s like a group effort to disregard anything but your own breath.
A guy nearby was very good at the “ommm.” Read: He was very loud. Loud enough that I could hear someone almost starting to giggle, which made me almost giggle too, but I felt bad for him and forced myself to focus. I wasn’t laughing at him, but the noise was something humorous in itself. It sounded like a trombone.
As I got into the pose, this little instance made me think about how we define and perceive “normal.” Why was I feeling bad for him, thinking it was weird? It wasn’t weird, he was just doing what he was supposed to do at a yoga class. My chain of thought continued and I ended up thinking of the same thing I’ve been thinking about on and off for awhile now: perception, normalcy, and happiness. We’re so hyper-focused on how we look and act; how we present ourselves, how we’re perceived. It’s sad that when someone does something loud or out of place, it’s weird! Why do we do this to each other, constraining the norm like that? Why do we strive for perfection and why don’t we allow ourselves to just be acceptable at our own pace?
I guess that’s what I really like about yoga. It’s not about how you are perceived by anyone but yourself and you can just be and work on challenging yourself and developing your own strength. And better yet, you get to let your thoughts develop. Sweat isn’t the victory, wisdom and insight are.
The instructor directed us to set a personal intention for the class and I decided to make mine as simple as possible: breathe into the deepest part of my lungs. We spend so much time not breathing to the fullest, holding our breath, both emotionally and physically – so much to the extent that we usually do not give our lungs the opportunity to expand as much as we should. I thought this would be a fairly easy intention, which it was, but even throughout the class, I’d find that my breath was more shallow than I wanted.
The class went on and I really enjoyed it. My favorite part was a series of lying on the back, rolling up, and jumping up, then lying down again and starting over, 10 times in a row – all while using the breath and the core to propel upwards and create the motion. I also liked doing the backbend bridge and wheel poses and tried to make myself go as far back as possible.
I struggled the most with crow pose, which is basically where you balance on your hands, almost like a headstand, and lift your legs onto your forearms. You had to trust yourself to balance and put all the pressure on your forearms and I just couldn’t do it. I felt too unstable and was afraid I’d fall. It’s just something for me to work on!
Anyway, you’re probably wondering why am I deviating from fashion and taking the time to write about yoga. It’s primarily because I wanted to share a more personal post. Today’s class was challenging and grounding and gave me time to think, and I was inspired to share that experience through writing. Thank you for reading this longer post. I hope it inspires you to break away from the screen and think and get in touch with your inner self and do something for YOU! These days, everything moves so fast. We all put so much pressure on ourselves to perform, to outperform, to stay up late, to wake up early, to hustle, hustle, hustle… what’s the value to all this pressure? It’s so important to relax and enjoy life and be in the moment. We give all our attention to the digital world: emails, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Netflix… what about spending time just thinking? Set an intention to get off your phone and get your loudest om on. 🙂