I am stretching my body down from my lower spine towards the floor. My stomach is on my thighs and my chest is on my knees. I am willing my face to touch my legs below my knees. It’s not going well.
It’s as awkward and frustrating as it sounds especially if you’re unbendy like me.
Our yoga instructor is leading us through the warm up postures at Bikram Yoga Red Deer.
On a whim I signed for a 30-day consecutive yoga challenge back in January. I really didn’t know what came over me. I had flirted with hot yoga about a year ago after my friend Laura Davis remarked that spending time on the mat would feed my mind, body and soul.
This wasn’t the first time I have heard those comments.
But I think it was the first time I actually listened.
I was coming off a disappointing running season. I was still dealing with a running injury and a bum shoulder that prevented me from fully participating in my crossfit workouts. Other areas in my life were also beginning to weigh heavy on my shoulders.
I felt overwhelmed and I needed a time out.
Bikram Yoga is practiced in a 42C room with 40 per cent humidity. Think sauna. In every single 90-minute class, the instructor leads the participants through a sequence of 26 postures and two breathing exercises.
Our yoga instructor tells us to find our own eyes in the mirror and stay focused on yourself.
Simple as it sounds, it is not especially if you’re as self-conscious and neurotic as I am and new to yoga.
Oh boy was I aware of myself and everything around me.
Most days I was fixated on what I looked like in class. Where people looking at me? Did this yoga costume cover my fat rolls? I didn’t want to stand out as the awkward woman in the back row going through the motions.
I did not like finding my eyes in the mirror. My eyes would be drawn to everything I didn’t like about my body. I would look around the room and compare my chubby, clumsy self to the toned, graceful person practicing next to me.
Some days the person moaning through every posture or the distinct smells of the person next to me had my full attention.
There were other days when I was dehydrated and I had to do everything to stop myself from bolting from the hot room. I would forget about my own practice and chuckle when someone fell out of a posture setting off a chain reaction of falling bodies.
But over the days and the weeks, I eventually got over myself and fully embraced the experience. In one bloody hot dramatic moment, I ripped off my shirt and practiced the rest of the class in my sports bra and shorts.
And guess what? Nobody ran out of the room screaming at the sight of my body.
Class by class, I felt more confident on the mat. I ignored what was happening around me and tamed the negative thoughts in my head.
I completed the 30-day challenge and I am continuing to practice hot yoga at least three to four times each week.
Don’t get me wrong, I am still the inflexible runner who I was a few months ago.
Years of running and sitting on my ass for eight hours a day at a desk job has done a number on my body.
It will take time, commitment and consistency to undue that damage. But I feel stronger and lighter on my feet when I run.
My yoga experiences have touched me in ways that go beyond the physical.
I really can’t explain all the changes.
Most of all I feel like there’s a new light shining through me. (Yes I actually speak this way.) Once I remember thinking that the studio’s front desk staff were on something stronger than the kombucha that they were serving.
But now I get it.
Yoga, if you let it, can change your life in so many ways. I know I am only scratching the surface when I say it has improved my confidence and my outlook on life.
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