Stress, fright, sex, yoga – many situations where sweating it out comes to mind. Last night I chose yoga. Hot yoga. Very freaking hot, oh my god my toes are sweating, dripping off me yoga. For my first yoga class ever I might add. My good friend Tracy, whom I’ve known since we were 12 so I don’t think she was trying to kill me, invited me to attend. And despite my intense aversion to heat in general, I went. I’m so glad I went. This is one situation where it might just be one of those change your life things.
It was an imposing building from the outside. Quite industrial looking in an area that is the snooty-snoot section of Oakville. Lots of Lexus’ and Lululemon. And then there’s me. A Value Village fanatic that drives a very well used Dodge Caravan and only uses lemons in baking or lemonade. I don’t understand the fondness for names unless it involves Austen or Childs. I appreciate that there are parts of cultures who value the prestige that having a weird symbol on your ass or car imparts but I am not one of those people. So walking in to what could be the lions den of name aficionados caused the sweat to begin before I even stepped in the place.
On top of this is a completely misplaced notion that all people who practice yoga are examples of purity and bodily perfection that my chubby bubby was not going to match. I have chub and back fat and am decidedly unbendy. This is purely a self-defeating situation where I prefer the company of a good book, cup of tea and my comfy chair which perfectly cradles my dimply butt rather than excessive sweat and hard work. You can see how my desire for a lean, powerful body might prove challenging to achieve with my current program.
When you enter the inner sanctum of the yoga-sphere, your nostrils are assaulted by the sandalwood aroma that seems to be a perfunctory necessity of anywhere that is going to encourage you to bend and twist in to unnatural positions in too-tight spandex. Having said that, I love sandalwood. LOVE IT. I have Karma body soap from LUSH, hemp-based hand cream from the Body Shop and Karma shampoo from LUSH – all with sandalwood / spicy undertones. To me, I smell like Ganesh but better. It is stimulating and comforting at the same time. It fits perfectly with my Pitta personality that is besieged by the fire of the universe. It also stimulates this fire personality which is probably not a good thing but smelling like a walking strawberry or an escapee from some kind of bizarre greenhouse just doesn’t suit me at all. It disturbs my energy.
As one who is sensitive to other people’s energy, I am calm here. Happy here. Eager here. There are no overt looks of judgement that I can see. No one is noticing that my yoga mat is a Giant Tiger knock-off. No one appears to notice that I don’t sport the ubiquitous upside down U on every piece of my clothing. They appear to be focused on getting ready for class. They also know what is coming in stark contrast to this yoga neophyte who has wandered in to their Shangri-La of heat and sweat. I am open to the experience. I am open to sharing this time with my good friend. I am open to finding out just how out of shape I am and hoping to see other chubby-bubby’s. I might not feel judged but I dropped the gavel on myself a long time ago. Like it or lump it, if all I saw was a sea of perfect asses and perky boobs, I would have felt decidedly unworthy of the experience. Luckily there was a wide variety of body types and so I felt fairly inconspicuous.
We get set up and I am eyeing the room. Feeling out the energy from those around me. They are there for nothing more than the class. Some are completing a 40 day journey and this is their night to rise from the desert. Some are newbies like me who when asked to wave their feet in the air (one of the starting poses) show that we number as 10 feet placing toes on a mat for the first time. I feel less alone which is nice. While I have practiced forms of yoga at home for a while now, I am usually cool and comfy. The sweat begins the moment you enter the room. Even the floor is heated and warming up my oasis of cool. My mat had been sitting in a cold car and was providing a vestige of relief from the hot air and bodies all around me. Soon enough, this too succumbs to the warmth removing my last grasp on the cool I prefer.
Then it begins. Our instructor is Peno. A wiry, Italian looking man with an interesting energy pattern that is calming and inspiring all at once. I don’t often meet people who put themselves out there like he did. It was very easy for me to read him and understand that he truly believed in the power of the next 75 minutes. Did I mention we thought it was an hour ? Did I mention that having that last 15 minutes is akin to 6 hours in normal yoga ? Did I mention that I only lasted the anticipated 60 minutes before feeling my gorge rise and seeing black spots ? I didn’t ? That comes later.
We begin with simple poses and luckily as the class progresses I am happy to note that I know most of them. I don’t feel completely lost which would add more sweat and that I don’t need. Within minutes I am sweating more than I thought was humanly possible. Dripping, seeping, soaking sweat ensues as we jump from upward dog to downward dog and lots of poses in between. I am pausing with child’s pose to catch my breath and balance my energy. For my first class, I am not doing badly. The gavel remains suspended as I check my progress and remind myself that taking this first step is a powerful thing. That overcoming my deep aversion to heat is something to be proud of. That others are also pausing to find balance and assess their energy.
I made a rookie mistake and ate before I went to yoga. With having trained in a gym before, I ate a chicken breast with some tea and water. This was not wise. This was not good. This did not jive well with the positions we were going in to and the heat that surrounded us. After what I found out was an hour, I started to feel decidedly unwell. Shaky, nauseous, and in danger of showing everyone the energy with which I could expel the chicken on to my nice blue mat. I took my leave and passed through the doors in to what can only be described as a moment of nirvana. Cool, soft air enveloped me and almost immediately I felt myself returning to normal. The sweat continued to pour out for at least 10 minutes as I banally chatted with the front desk person. I stretched and walked and chirped about it being my first class, etc. The very nice young lady assured me that for my first class I had done very well. She advised that this was a tough class on a good day and that two previous classes had gone on shortly before. That means not only was the room heated while we were in there but heat from two previous classes was still hanging around. Great – my first class and it’s triple heated.
As I digest this, I begin to feel a bit proud of myself. One – for taking the time to come and actually do something for myself. Two – for trying something completely out of my comfort zone. And three – for dragging my chubby bubby behind through what I learned was a hard-core yoga class and making it through most of it. Peno’s words of triumph and holding on to positive energy rang in my ears. His encouragement and belief that we were all there to better ourselves and to own that feeling were true. I had done this. I needed to own it. It would take me until today to do that. At the time – I felt a bit like a failure. Having to leave the class only confirmed that I was completely out of shape. That I had no right to judge anyone else for their physicality. That my book / tea / armchair program was not working in the extreme. The gavel I had been holding dropped to the bench with a decided thump pronouncing me guilty of abandoning myself and being lazy. The judge was swift and direct in his verdict: you are a lazy bum who cannot even complete a yoga class. You don’t deserve to better yourself when your efforts are hit and miss. You make excuses instead of reasons to succeed. The sweat began anew with the realization that the judge was harsh and killing with words. That I was sentencing myself to a life of stress and fright with unnecessary sweating because of excuses and laziness. I decided to approach the bench and plead guilty.
So instead of sentencing myself to a life of chub and low-energy without the possibility of parole, I am going to try and sweat it out. With my lifelong friend Tracy to help me, I am going to give this hot yoga thing a go. Rather than sweating the small stuff and sweating the fact that my clothes don’t fit and sweating the failure that sometimes we all experience, I am going to put my prolific ability to produce water to good use and sweat it out. I am going to sweat out the stress and negativity. I am going to sweat out the fright of embracing the new life I am creating for myself. I am going to sweat. A lot. How sweet it will be when the judge comes to pass sentence again and I can stand before the bench not sweating at all. And that might just be the biggest change of all.