I thought I had done a pretty good job over the past while of getting to know and love myself on a deeper level. It’s always something that is a continuous process, but it was a few months ago that my journey of the self reached a new level.
A friend of mine suggested I try a Hot Yoga class. I had been going to the gym for a number of months, but I needed to break up my routine a little bit and find some kind of balance. Crunches, weight training, and cardio are one thing…
But yoga?! Really? Doesn’t that require me to be all bendy and shit in front of other people?
I’ll admit, I was feeling more confident with myself as a result of reaching some of my fitness goals… but when I stepped foot into that first class, I felt a wee bit vulnerable all over again.
It’s going to be full of super flexible people.
I can barely even touch my toes.
Downward dog? Vinyasa? WTF is that?
Balancing poses? I can barely stand on two feet, let alone one.
Not to mention… Hot Yoga… where practice takes place in a room heated between 40 and 44 degrees. This should be interesting… considering I’ve been so lucky with inheriting my father’s sweat glands (seriously, the man sweats sitting still).
That wasn’t how it was at all.
Nevermind… it was… all that and more. But there were several things that I ‘thought’ it was about, and wasn’t at all…
It’s not a competition. It’s not about who can go all the way into a full Camel Pose (———–>) without feeling nauseous (not gonna lie, I almost puked the first time… and I didn’t even get a quarter of the way into it). It’s not about how flexible you are. And it’s certainly not about the veteran at the front of the class, or the newbie in the back corner. It’s not about the girl who’s LuLu Lemon shorts look better than my Walmart shorts. And it’s not about the dude with the hairy chest, either.
It’s about YOU.
It is one continuous flow of energy of individuals who are there for the exact same reason – self acceptance and self betterment.
When I first started practicing yoga, I had a number of ailments. Stress pain was one of them. Some days it was so prominent in my neck that my only solace was sleep. My wrists and hands were in chronic pain for months from working at a computer. Let’s not forget about anxiety. Some days I would feel so overwhelmed with everything I wanted to get done in a week, that I would end up only worrying and doing nothing at all.
The health benefits are one thing… but the lessons that derive from it, I’ve learned, are fundamental to every single aspect of life.
When you practice yoga, it becomes literally impossible to think about anything else but yourself. You become acutely aware of every single feeling taking place in your body… and you have no choice but to examine your own self.
I remember in once instance I arrived late, and one of the few spots left was one closest to the mirror.
I had been coming long enough that I’ve gotten better at the poses… but in front of the mirror? Shit, now I am really going to have to ‘see’ myself. For the next 90 minutes, I had no choice but to stare into my own eyes. And I had no choice but to embrace every aspect of myself at that very moment.
When I saw myself falter, I had no choice but to stare it down, and improve upon it.
Not only does it teach self acceptance… but acceptance of the present moment. There is no past and there is no future. You do not think about the last pose you just did, or the next one coming up. Each one requires so much attention and focus that there is nothing but the present moment.
Then there is the balance, the patience, and the focus. I have never not had any of these… but only to a degree. Practicing yoga has brought them to another level… which have relayed into both my personal and professional life. And yes, now I can stand on one foot, too.
There are also lessons in determination and persistence. Often times, you find yourself in a position where you think you can’t possibly reach any higher or go any further. But you do. It’s about embracing challenge.
And quite possibly one of my favorites… is the loss of all negativity… and an increasing ability to just ‘be’. I’m not really sure how to explain this one… but I have found that any negative energy I’ve harbored in the past is gone. Yoga is a self awakening… and with that comes the ability to love, and the inability to judge.
The ‘single’ journey has been pretty rewarding for me… but adding this element has added to it more than words can explain. In fact, I think for the first time I’m lost for words… and that doesn’t happen often.
On that note… it’s true that everything must first come from within… but sometimes it takes more than just your own self to do so…
Huge thank you to the crew Hot Yoga on 20th.