The session was brutal. By the end of the standing poses I was so dizzy I had to sit out the last two. I haven't sat out any poses since the second class, and I'm at the end of my third week now. If I could have pushed through, I would have, but my body made it clear in no uncertain terms if I didn't sit down, I would be going down one way or the other.
My usual relief at the arrival of the floor poses was replaced by a continued struggle to keep the dizziness at bay and to pull enough air in through my nose to fuel what was being required of me. More than once I found myself on the verge of gasping through my mouth - an act I've been told will trigger my body's flight mechanism. Running panicked from the room is not considered good yoga form.
I made it through, but stayed in the last savasana longer than usual, trying to bring my breathing back from Darth Vader gasps to something more human. As I finally gathered myself to leave the studio, my eyes found the digital thermometer in the corner. One hundred eight.
Only three degrees beyond optimum for Bikram yoga. But it might as well have been thirty or three hundred for the extra difficulty I had because of the difference.
Three. Such a small number. Yet such a huge impact.
I have a tendency to discount the little things. Five pounds too many. A couple of hours of sleep too few. One angry response unmended.
I've expected my heart and my body to absorb those little things without complaint - ignored the warnings and complaints when they came.
"It's no big deal."
"I can handle this."
"I just need to try harder."
It turns out three degrees is a big deal. I couldn't just handle it. Trying harder was not the solution to surviving it.
When I was writing God Has No Daughters I became aware that there has always been a quiet, small voice in my life, offering me loving guidance and joyful possibilities. The large angry shame voice delivered through my mom, which I believed then to be the voice of God, drowned out the still one time and time again.
When I'm in that hot room, asking my body to do things it might prefer not to, there are only little things. Breathing. Stretching as far as I can, then a tiny bit more. Concentrating on one spot in the mirror. Listening to my body. And thanking her. Resting to absorb each new demand.
Three degrees. This one day - a sunny mild gift. Breathe in, breathe out. The look on my husband's face when he sees me. Words of understanding from a friend. Laughter at the antics of an eighty pound puppy. Little things, but added together they are the life that small gentle voice intended for me to have all along.
photo from Flickr