Thursday, March 15, 2012

The appeal of sweat: a post about hot yoga

So back in the day when I was in gymnastics, summers were spent in a hot, hot gym. The class we attended was held from 12:30 - 3:30 - basically the hottest part of the day. I think that there were large, industrial air conditioners that blew cold-ish air around. The coaches would throw open the garage doors in an attempt to cool things off, but mostly, it was just hot the whole time. I can remember sweat dripping off of me during class and going home with damp hair and sticky skin.

As miserable as it was to be hot, there is a satisfaction that comes from sweating profusely (well, as long as you are intending to sweat profusely - nothing is fun about it when you are in a fancy outfit or at work or somewhere. That's just awful!). A good hard run on a summers day. A beastly hard workout at the gym. Working in the yard. I like it at these times.

Well, today I found a whole new level of sweaty-ness. I've had Bikram Yoga - or hot yoga - on my radar for a long time. I've wanted to get to a class but where I live in suburbia isn't conducive to anything other than rec-center yoga (which is fun and rewarding but there is no close opportunities for this particular style.) So, when Thomas' iPod's sleep button stopped working on Sunday making it so I had to go to the Apple store this morning, and when my running partner told me last night that she couldn't do our scheduled 5 miler - I decided to kill two birds with one stone and hit the 9am class at Bikram Yoga Salt Lake. (Go ahead - check out the link - I'll wait.) I was so excited going in to class - I felt like a little girl going to her first ballet class.

I couldn't believe how hot the room was - I mean, I knew that the room temperature would be 105, but actually walking in to that was a little bit of a shock. They have a sign outside the room that tells you in no uncertain terms not to talk or make loud noises in order to allow others to meditate. Okay then. So what do I do? I threw my mat out to unroll it and heard it slap the floor - thwack! I felt so stupid. The instructor came in a few minutes later and started class. I was the only new student and so he used my name about 20 times to correct what I was doing. Only me. I kept wanting to crawl under my mat so he never said my name again. Seriously - doesn't he know any of the other 30 people in the room? Shesh. I'm glad I won't have to be the new guy again.

I was thoroughly pleased with the amount of sweat that came off my body. By the end, I had a hard time finding a dry enough place on my towel to wipe my face on. I kept losing grip on my foot/knee/ leg from how clammy and sweaty my palms were. By the time we got to the floor to do poses like camel and boat, my whole tank top was soaked and my hair was dripping down my back. It was extremely satisfying. I kept thinking that the room would stink horribly, but it didn't. Maybe sweat that drips off of you is less stinky, I don't know. (Or maybe I just don't have as good of a sniffer as my friend Britt.)

I felt a little self conscious during the class. I was at a loss last night as to what to wear. The pictures all showed girls wearing tiny shorts and sports bras. Well, I wasn't about to put my stomach out for everyone to ogle, so I came up with a tank top and running skirt. I was very relieved when another girl came in wearing a skirt - I wasn't completely dorky, I guess. I also felt like I had to keep up with the girl that was kitty-corner in front of me. She had this amazing body - compact height, long tight muscles, and from the first pose I could see she was talented. Which made me want to do everything she did - which of course I couldn't. My feet kept getting charlie horses during the standing poses which sucked, and my balance on my left side isn't as good so I couldn't do everything I wanted. But I was mostly satisfied with what I was able to do. I have to remind myself that yoga isn't a competition (but I will try, inevitably.)

I love the peace that I get when I do yoga. There is a quietness that comes to my mind that I don't get otherwise. When thoughts of trip to the apple store I would make right after class and whether I was going to make it on time and what route I should take and other thoughts about my regular life would creep in, I would banish them. So much of yoga is tree-hugger-y and granola-y and whatnot - it makes me want to roll my eyes. Except - the confluence of the body and the mind and the spirit coming together - I love it. I know its mystic-y and whatever but it's true. I never feel as peaceful as when I've done a yoga class - I think of it as church for your body. It banishes the barriers between these vital parts of my self (I know that should be one word - myself - but I want to emphasize that I felt like a self, an entity that goes by the name of Becky but is a combination of a body and a personality and a spirit and a mind and desires and hopes and fears all rolled into one.) Laying in shivasana - I almost wanted to cry. I didn't, but the emotion was so close under my skin - I felt like I had lost tension and internal strife and quieted my self-criticism, if only for a while. It always comes back, but the relief of letting it go is remarkable.

Now, sitting at my kitchen table writing this I feel like embodied in all that sweat that dripped onto my towel were my worries and frustrations and demands. They rolled off of me and out of me, allowing me to leave them behind in that room, only taking with me the essential parts. I feel a little glow-y. I want so much to go back (I paid $20 which means that for 10 days I can do as many classes as I want.) I'm heading back next Friday. I don't know if I'll feel the same satisfaction - I want to, but there is only a first time for everything - but I hope I can attain that feeling of peace again. Because that is more addicting than any soda or drug or any physical item I could put in to my body.

So are you a fan of yoga? Are you sick of me spouting metaphysically about the mind/body/spirit connection yet? Gah, it's cheesey, but true. I think I'm hooked.


Britt said...

Oh my gosh! I want to die reading this. I hate yoga and I hate heat. Make it snow yoga and I MIGHT try it. But probably not because it's still yoga.

And believe me, it stank in there:)

But I'm so happy for you. Seriously. I love that you tried something and found it satisfying. I hope to someday feel that way about some form of exercise.

Amy Sorensen said...

I confess: I love Pilates better than I love Yoga. Will you still love me??

BUT! I am so glad you enjoyed it and sweated out your frustrations.

I had forgotten how hot the gym was in the summer!

Oh, and. I read somewhere that the sweat you sweat while you're exercising is a slightly different chemical make up than the sweat you sweat when you're just sitting and sweating, and that the exercising sweat actually smells less. Hmmmm. Where did I read that?

Anyway. It was great to talk to you today, sorry I had to rush off!

Melanie said...

I love this post! The way you describe sweating out your troubles, and the peace of your mind and body coming together. I so agree with you about yoga! I have never felt more at peace than after some of my really good yoga classes. I loooove that feeling! Can't wait to go with you!!!

Apryl said...

My friend in town just dragged me to a yoga class yesterday. It was my 2nd time. And yes, I was corrected about 30x. But every time I adjusted my body JUST SLIGHTLY it was amazing the difference I felt. Also, I suck at yoga. If you went with me to class, you would feel really really good about yourself.