Here are some things you might not know about me:
I don't like being hot. I hate sweating. Somewhere between 70 and 80 degrees, sitting in the shade, with a gentle wind kissing my face, is my ideal state of being.
Except for walking or hiking regularly, and cleaning and weeding in spurts, I'm not big on physical activity. I'd much rather spend my time visiting with friends, curled up with a book, or here. I've done all the exercise stuff over the years. I don't like any of it, except for walking, which while wonderfully satisfying, offers limited benefits to my late middle-aged body.
I'm not a big fan of pain - of any color. In the pursuit of no pain I've found myself in the last few years moving less. I'm careful with my body, afraid something will break or strain or require more attention than I'm willing to provide. As a result, I find myself asking for help to open jars, stumbling more over nonexistent objects on the ground, often nearly crying when I go to stand up at the end of a movie because of my knees' objections to being asked to unbend.
Here's why you needed to know those things:
I went to yoga on Thursday. Not just any yoga, but Bikram yoga. Also known as hot yoga.
My friend and counselor, Pat, has been going for months. Pat is in shape. She used to go to the gym faithfully and it shows. She's healthy, has a great body, and is one of the most balanced and centered and joyful people I know. All of that has gotten even better since she started yoga.
My acupuncturist told me last winter that she thinks people should break a good sweat every day.
The yoga studio's website promised relief from all the things I'm feeling plagued by these days - at least the physical woes.
So I put on as few clothes as legally possible, packed my mat, a huge towel and lots of water, and went to class. Where for an hour and a half, in a small room where Satan himself would have complained about the heat, I did my best to coax my body into a variety of poses, while breathing through my nose to avoid triggering my body's flight response, without throwing up or passing out or running screaming from the room.
Since my primary goal for the first visit was simply to stay in the room, the experience was a complete success.
One purpose of the heat is to facilitate sweating to clear toxins from the body. Again, I was a complete success. Sweat was waterfalling off the shelf of my brow into my eyes. My feet and legs, hands and arms were all so wet some poses were almost impossible because I couldn't hang onto myself. I looked like I had wet my pants. And I stunk! I had no idea it was possible for me to smell that bad.
Another purpose of the heat is to loosen things up so that one can work harder and accomplish more. I was surprised to find how many of the poses I could at least approximate. I remember yoga classes from years ago where even the approximation was impossible. More success.
Kay, a grandmotherly woman who looks more like she should be baking cookies than teaching yoga, was kind, patient, and encouraging. "Do what you can. Give yourself credit for being here. This is hard, but you'll be really glad you came." I did. I gave. I'm glad. Success.
My back pain is no worse. Other than some strange twinges near my armpits and some general stiffness, there is no new pain. The heat stayed with me well into the next day, enough to make me less hungry. Less. Hungry.
I'm headed back this afternoon. How could I not go back to a place where success is measured in such generous terms and achieved so simply? I am taking a bigger towel this time.
image from Flickr