Mmm, hot yoga. In theory, it’s one of the most detoxifying, renewing workouts you can partake. You’re pretty sure you’re going to come out completely centered and beaming like all of the crunchy girls that work in the Co-op. Recently, after procrastinating endlessly on Instagram admiring the contortionist girls in their backbends and handstands, I realized it was time to get off my ass and squeeze it into some short-shorts. I decided I would try my hand at some acrobatic shit. All of these girls’ posts were about how alive and connected they felt from their practice, and I yearned for that feeling myself. So, I went to my local Hot Yoga studio and purchased a package.
There were a few things that I discovered.
That shit is no joke.
Besides the fact that it’s a stifling one-hundred and five degrees in that boxed inferno, the class I chose in my hotga- naiveté was ninety minutes long with few cued water breaks and a potpourri of hip-openers, arm balances, and backbends that were really challenging and left me frustrated and discouraged. Many of the people near me executed them with graceful finesse, making them look easy. It’s definitely not for the faint of heart, or temperature.
It’s incredibly humbling.
The few classes I attended lent no floor space unclaimed and the women surrounding me were not only twice my age, but also twice my flexibility. My male instructor was more slender than my own 5’2 frame. Despite the slick, sweating bodies surrounding me, there were no sounds of labored breathing in the room besides my own. Mine was the only one lying in savasana for the last 15 minute sequence. My history of athletics was obsolete and my competitive nature had no business in a mindful studio. There were a lot of poses I struggled with, and I felt embarrassment mixed with inexperience, things I wasn’t thrilled to swallow. I could hear the voice in my head urging humility and the acceptance that this was hard, I was struggling…and that’s OK.
There’s something about heat that draws out the held back, buried pain and emotions from deep within us. The confinement and thickness of the stifling warmth pulled from me frustration, resistance, and negativity. It drew out all of the rawness and grief I had repressed from the heartbreak I had experienced three months earlier. It brought to my attention the fury, disbelief, and pulsing ache of regret I was trying to ignore and spiritually bypass. Sitting in the embers of enlightenment, I realized, quite publicly, that my layers of feeling were far more reaching than I could’ve imagined.
As I looked around at the people surrounding me, I realized that they all came here for their own reasons. Perhaps it was pure positivity and light. Maybe it was legitimate mindfulness and introspection. It was evident that this room created a wonderful space for them that cradled their own personal exploration.
For me, it was simply curiosity…but what kept me coming back was it’s ability to permeate my psyche – to reach into the parts of myself that remained hidden in shadow…denied, rejected, and ignored.
I was forced to confront the pains of my past and love I had withheld from myself. The size of the room was simply a means of proving to me that I cannot escape facing these parts of me, and the heat confirmed that they are always there, stagnating, until healed.
Bikram offered a new doorway to myself.