When I hear the word fitness my mind immediately starts playing that part in “Fergalicious,” “ My body stay vicious, I be up in the gym working on my fitness, he’s my witness” but truth be told I’m never in the gym nor do I have a witness. Growing up I didn’t play any sports and by the time I was a teenager I dreaded going to gym class. I tried going to gym on campus while in college, then I tried taking up running while home for summer breaks. Whenever I went to the gym on campus I wasn’t sure if I should run or walk on the treadmill and I eventually gave up running. Going to the gym or having other people watch me work out makes me feel really self-conscious. I always think I’m either doing something wrong or people are judging me.
Around last year I got the itch to start working out. I could have got a gym membership at my local gym but then I remembered that Pilates class I took while in college. It wasn’t too strenuous and I didn’t feel uncomfortable with myself. A bit of googling and I discovered hot yoga. I found Tangerine Hot Power Yoga where they practice vinyasa instead of birkam. Like a lot of things in my life I am not consistent with hot yoga. After a near eight months hiatus I decided to get back into it, tonight being my first class. I got dressed for work in a pair of workout leggings, a sports bra, and a hoodie. There was no perfect eyebrows, mascara, or highlighter on my face in fear of sweating it off later.
I arrived to Tangerine Hot Power Yoga approximately 20 minutes before my class started. Checked in, got my towel, put away my belongings and waited until the room was ready. The classroom is a painted a moody white, with wooden floors. On the floors are foam mats ready to be used; in two corners are humidifiers, in the corner towards the back are foam blocks, and in the corner towards the front are straps ready for use too. In the ceiling are two wooden fans. I take a seat in the back, but I still can see my instructor clearly. I place my two blocks and straps in front of my mat, wet my towel with some water from water bottle.
The class is mostly women, all varying in body types, as well as a few men sprinkled around the room. As we wait for class to start I look at all the other people stretching while I sit Indian style trying to hide my chipped toenails, I glance up at the ceiling and realized I should have sat closer to one of the fans in the room. We all make room for the stragglers and my instructor starts class in a pose where we sitting over one of the blocks, centering our bodies while inhaling and exhaling. After working on our breathing my instructor reads a poem about not making homes out of people and then tells us to make an intention if we choose to. What is an intention? A proclamation to yourself of what you’d like to achieve. For some it’s to get rid of negativity but for me it was to be productive. As she called out poses for us to transition to indie music played softly in the background.
The room is hot, the fans are no longer spinning, the lights are dimmed, and we start learning to rely on our left side to support our right side. Slowly the room starts to feel hotter, almost like someone has turned up the heat. It isn’t a distracting heat but a noticeable one. We transition to downward dog, a pose I loathe. We do a lot of downward dogs before transitioning into lunges and twisting off our bodies while still relying on the opposite side of body to support the other. To make myself feel better about the downward dog I look around the room at my classmates. No one looks as if they’re struggling but they don’t look happy either.
The sweat either started at my hairline or on my stomach. Then I could feel the sweat making its way down my back. As much as I could feel it I didn’t let it distract me as I moved into the chair pose. The sweat got to me in the child pose and I picked my head up and saw a small puddle of sweat where my head was prior. A small break to dab at my face, neck, and a quick swig of water and I was back in sync with the class. Some how I’d confused myself about my left from my right, and half assed a few poses meant to stretch my arms and square my hips. During the most intense moments of the class in my head I would tell myself “you got this, you can do this.” It was finally time to use the straps, I had never used them before and to be honest I was intimidated. My instructor told us to hold the middle of our thighs together tightly but not to tight and then place a block underneath our backs to work on our bridge pose. I could sense the class was ending when the room got completely dark, and we just laid their on of backs then our right side before sitting Indian style reflecting. I sat there Indian style with my palms up instead of down signifying I was open to accepting instead of releasing. We all ended the class with “Namaste.”
Hot Yoga isn’t for everyone, but it’s for me. I don’t feel embarrassed when my instructor fixes my feet in the downward dog position, or move my hip one way to the next. I welcome the help and always feel grateful. I appreciate the calmness and tranquility too. No one is telling me to move faster, the music is never too distracting just enough to be background noise. I don’t mind all the group breathings and collective “Ahhhs”. Most importantly I don’t feel insecure about my body. Yes, the sweat tickles as it moves down my back and arms but it lets me know I’m doing something right or at least trying. Every time I leave hot yoga I feel like a better version of myself. The version of myself that thinks it okay to walk around without a coat in 40 degree weather, the one that can’t stop laughing at her phone on the train ride home, the one that feels like she’s a peace.
Although I’m working out different parts of my body and muscles I never existed on my body its my brain that feels the most rewarded. I push myself both physically and mentally to move from one pose to the next no matter how bad I was to give watch everyone else in the room. For me hot yoga helps with my endurance, as long as I want something no matter how hard it seems as long as its achievable it can be done. Maybe I’ll have a leaner body if I’m more consistent but what’s most important is the headspace I end up leaving in.