I did, last Saturday. Keeping in accordance with the “Move outside of your comfort zone” spiel I dole out regularly to my clients, I participated in a Bikram hot yoga class: a style of yoga performed in a studio heated to 105 degrees, with a high humidity percentage.
Hell Yoga would be a more accurate description of my experience, as I have a strong aversion to heat. I keep my home thermostat set at 63 degrees during the day, 58 degrees at night. If it’s a degree over 72 outside, you’ll find me covered in perspiration and clamoring for the shade. I have the home a/c cranked so high in the summer, the power bill is darn near in the quadruple digits. I HATE heat; it makes me sluggish, irritable and a bit nauseous.
What better way to practice what I preach than to subject myself to an hour of hot box torture?
Please note, this is not in any way a diss on Bikram yoga and all of its benefits. I know several people who swear by it. Me, I swear through it. Upon walking into the studio, I was greeted by a wall of heat so powerful, it stopped me dead in my tracks. I fought the urge to scurry out the front door, $20 payment be damned, and instead set up with my mat, water bottle and small towel. Class was packed, with participants stretching and sitting in lotus position, looking relaxed- relaxed! I was deeply uncomfortable, and we had not even begun.
Class proceeded. Never in my life have I sweat so profusely. RIVERS of the stuff poured out of my head, my back, my ankles. Breathing felt difficult, my heart was racing…and I was fifteen minutes into the workout. I frantically looked about the room to see if everyone else was as miserable as I was. Evidently not.
I was doomed.
I repeatedly had to stop and lay there like a slug, trying to calm my mind and slow my heart rate. When I could manage, I joined back in. The instructor must have seen my angst, and quietly asked me if I was okay. (Sure, if longing for the sweet release of death is considered okay.) I desperately wanted to leave. I stayed.
Forty-five minutes in, I was actually holding the poses, albeit with the grace and poise of a pregnant yak. I noticed something else: My mind was blazingly present. All that existed was the pose, my breathing, my heartbeat, and yes, my intense discomfort. My mind didn’t wander; it couldn’t. For me, working with the heat required 100% focus and presence.
I survived, and damned if I didn’t feel both animated and remarkably calm when I left (and thrilled that I did not barf). The class was arduous, it felt suffocating, and I got through it. It was a worthwhile experience.
The moral of this tale: It’s empowering when we do something that scares us. Growth comes from a willingness to feel uncomfortable and nervous as we try something new. Keep stepping outside of your comfort zone. You never know where it might take you, and that is the beauty of life.
Did I sign up for a month of hot yoga classes? Good God almighty, NO. But I did pull out my yoga DVDs, which have sat untouched in a drawer for over a year, and intend to resume my twice a week yoga practice- in my 63 degree living room.