I left more then just sweat on my mat when I tried Hot Yoga.
Outside of swimming in high school, I’ve pretty much had a life long aversion to exercise in any form. So, when a patient tried to talk me into a hot yoga “40 day challenge” program, my first thought was “you’ve got to be kidding me.” It’s the dead of summer, and I get hot and sweaty just carrying groceries in. Why would I want to PAY to sweat even more?
For some reason (can you say “peer pressure”), I told her I’d try it out. The first class was tougher than I’d imagined (and I’d imagined it being pretty bad). The thought that kept running through my mind was would it kill them to put a clock in this room? Just when I was sure I couldn’t go on, and would face plant into my mat at any moment…it was over. Someone placed a cool washcloth with essential oils on my forehead.
Later, I gave myself a pep talk and it pretty much consisted of what I tell my patients.. Stop your stinkin’ whining and complaining. Appreciate what you can learn from, and grow through, in whatever situation you find yourself in. I took a dose of my own medicine, and it led to significant change in my life.
Hot Yoga has been an amazing “reset button” in my schedule. The fact that I could sneak in for an hour (or even a half hour) between patients, shower, then head back to work has really helped me shed a lot of stress, and helped me take care of myself, when all too often I say “yes” to everything asked of me. Plus, I celebrate the little things, like how refreshing a shower was after a hard workout.
For the first time I learned to show up for myself. I give my time, my advice, my love so freely. I’m always putting other people’s needs before myself and this was something that I got to do for myself.
Hot Yoga has helped me let go of my… everything. Now that I’ve worked this into my schedule, I’m more balanced, happier, and able to give and do all my responsibilities with much less resentment. Even though I love my family, friends and patients, it’s been nice to take an hour and not speak a word, and just listen to the thoughts and dreams that might not otherwise come to the surface. My thoughts, my dreams, and things that I didn’t even know were bothering me. Ironically, it was focusing on my movements that gave me the freedom to sort out the mental clutter. There was something about putting so much effort into not falling, or coming out of the yoga pose that gave me the ability to see what was going on in my own heart and mind.
Yoga has helped me to love and accept myself where I was at, right now. Not an idealized version of myself, who’s a size 2, treats 90 patients a week, and always has the perfect (paleo) dinner on the table at 5pm, sharp.
I challenged myself and congratulated myself when I moved up in difficulty in poses, which became about much more than just stretching ligaments or building muscle endurance. I felt accomplished, inspired, and for the first time in a long time I was doing something that was fun.
I met some amazing, inspiring teachers. There were moments with their words that hit me at the time that really needed to hear it. “When you feel like things are falling apart, it’s really that it’s finally those pieces that are falling into place.” “Rest is work too.” My teachers have had the ability to say just what I needed over these past few months. Technically, those are simple things that we all “know,” but something about a 95 degree room where you literally are stretched to your limits helps you feel, process and take hold of things much differently.
I didn’t gain myself back, I grew into a new person and for the first time I flew instead of staying in my cozy thought and life patterns. I shifted and changed for the better. Did I lose weight? Yes about a pants size, I felt stronger, but those were secondary to the mental garbage that I left behind on the yoga mat.
Does yoga still sound terrible to you? That’s ok. Find something that you love to do, and move your body…do it with regularity, and the weight will come off. (Ok, there’s a little more to working out than that…but it’s a starting point).
But here’s the real secret to exercise, your brain, and spirit need it more than your body. Your mental health is so important. Without it, your life falls apart in a day, a week, a month…it will fall apart. Showing up for yourself, loving yourself, and giving yourself the ability to listen to your body is absolutely necessary for longterm health and a fulfilling life.
For years, I didn’t exercise because I was saying yes to too many things. The bottom line is that whenever you say “yes” to one thing, you’re saying “no” to something else. My “yeses” to everyone else were crowding out the things I needed to do to be a healthy person.