You guys, I’ve fallen in love. With Yoga. I used to HATE it. I’m officially a convert.
When I first started dabbling in yoga it really bothered me. I would think, “am I working out or am I stretching? What is the point of this??” I didn’t understand what the benefit was, it was just really uncomfortable and hard to stay engaged in mentally. What I realize now, is that IS THE WHOLE POINT.
Yoga looked easy to me. No one’s lifting any weight, no one’s running or climbing stairs, how hard could it really be? Yet, when I would take a class or be forced to do yoga with my volleyball team, it was difficult. It frustrated me because I thought it should be easy and other people made it look easy, but for me it definitely wasn’t, and therefore, I didn’t like it.
After I was first introduced to yoga and gave it that good old college try, I went a long time without practicing. Then I made a friend a few years ago who was an instructor at a studio near my house. I started going to a few of her classes. These were similar yoga classes to the ones I took before, but they were practiced in warm rooms. So warm I would be pouring sweat by the end of it. I was still fighting through it and not quite sold, but I kept going when she invited me and I was beginning to see it’s more redeeming qualities.
THEN the switch really happened when I found what the studio calls “hot ra”. It’s one of their classes modeled after the bikram version of yoga. It’s practiced in a super hot room and follows the same sequence of poses each time. (What can I say, I love routine!) We hold the poses from thirty seconds to a minute and do each pose one or two times. It’s meant to improve spine health and massage your internal organs in a way that helps you eliminate toxins through your sweat. I FEEL IT. There is nothing I feel better after than hot yoga. I’m actually still in disbelief about it because I was such a skeptic for so long.
And it absolutely qualifies as a workout. I have never sweat more in my life and I’m usually shaking by the end of our holds. My heart rate is elevated and I’ve even had to tap out once or twice and catch my breath in child’s pose.
I believe, along with many many others, that yoga is equally beneficial to the mind as it is to the body. It requires all the same things competition and training does, as well as life. First, you anticipate it being hard and uncomfortably hot, but you need to muster up the courage to get yourself to class anyways. Once you’re in it (it’s usually not as bad as you dreaded, or if it is you’re still doing it!) During some of the tougher poses you really start to feel the burn towards the end of your hold. It requires patience, perseverance, and belief in yourself that you can make it. You must remain calm; just because it’s hard does not mean you need to panic, it actually means the opposite. What a great thing to get to practice!
At the very core of bikram/hot yoga is noticing and learning the tight connection between mind and body. Becoming in-tune with that interconnectedness and understanding how peace and steadfastness of your mind will influence your body. Your body is capable of so so much, but it is all up to your mind. Hot yoga is what helps me bring mind and body into harmony better than anything else I’ve tried and I believe it’s such an important part of our overall health. If you haven’t given it a try I really encourage you to, but remember: your yoga mat is a judgement free zone! If you need to take a break, take a break, if you fall over, just get right back into your pose, that is part of the practice as well and maybe the part I love most. Happy yoga-ing! Or as they say, namaste!