I tried hot yoga (Bikram yoga) for the first time.
My friend knows me all too well and put me up to the challenge, saying it was going to be one of the hardest thing I’ll ever do. He knows how much I love fitness and challenging myself, so: Challenge Accepted.
What I felt as I walked into the room
The room was 110 degrees and it was packed. I also showed a bit late, which wasn’t smart. Yes, I was intimidated. Yes, when you do try it, you will be conscious of your body and how you look; you will most likely look around and watch others, but that’s okay because that’s how you’ll learn. The truth is, no one cares about how you look. They are focused on themselves, looking at their own bodies in the mirror, focusing on stretching their muscles.
I won’t go over all the postures, but it deals with all kinds of stretching — your spine, leg muscles, back, neck, knees, stomach, your sides, arms, everything — deep breathing, good posture, balance, and focus. The challenge is doing all of this in a hot room, and the room only gets hotter with more people in it. The deep breathing is something that we can all do in the comfort of our rooms or offices. Go on YouTube and look up a simple yoga breathing exercise.
(This video is great and explains the process. The instructor shows the breathing around 4 mins in.)
The benefits of yoga: what I felt after
What fascinated me was what I felt after — mind was completely blank, empty, clear like a crystal glass. DING!
I remember sitting in the car and staring at the building, and in that moment I realized I wasn’t even thinking about thinking (is that what people try to achieve in meditation?). I could flex every individual muscle in my body — my back, my stomach, my arms, my neck, everywhere. I couldn’t stop sweating for an hour after leaving the place.
I went on a Tuesday and felt amazing the following days. I even went back Friday for another session, and I walked out feeling the same yoga high. I got amazing sleep, and as I’m typing this now, my mind still feels clear and my body feels great.
Our goals should be simple when doing it our first time: Don’t quit. Don’t leave the room. Fight through the pain. Drink plenty of water and take breaks. There were times when I knew I had to pause because my heart felt like it was going to explode out of my chest. So I laid down on my mat while the others continued their postures. Once I focused on my breathing, my heart rate slowed, and I went back into motion. Don’t be the hero. Take it slow.
Tuesday I did well; Friday I did even better. The instructor was shocked, saying that for a big guy I was able to bend really well and I lasted the whole 90 minutes. I’m elated that I surprised her, including myself.
What helped was that she was an incredible instructor (shoutout to Maggie from Fireshaper!) and she said something that resonated with me and pushed me:
Find comfort in discomfort.
Simple. We tend to shy away from discomfort. We learn to unlike it. There were times when I would do a stretch and it would hurt and my body — mostly my back and I think it was my legs — would go POP! POP! POP! The feeling was intense, in a good way.
Mind, body, spirit
I know that my writing has been primarily focused on our minds, but its important to focus on our bodies as well. Yoga was everything: Mind, body, and spirit. Walking out of that room, I’ve never felt better. The closest high that I can relate it to when was I was going home from the Seth Godin seminar. I knew something had changed in my mind. Bikram yoga gave me that experience all over again. It was a high that I still have trouble putting into words.
I really hope you go and try it. Any type of yoga if you desire. Bikram is great for beginners. I already made a commitment to doing this once a week, every week. I created the habit on the Lift app on my phone (great for recording your habits).
Few things you should know before you go:
- You need a yoga mat. The place I went to let me rent one for free because I was a first-timer. Later, I went to K-Mart and bought one for $8.
- Bring TWO towels. I brought one, and luckily for me, they gave me another. The towel that I brought was soaked, as if you dumped it into a barrel of water. Except this was all sweat.
- Bring a big, BIG bottle of water.
- The session that I went to cost $22 for every individual session. Yes, it is costly but well worth it for your health and well-being.
- Females, I would recommend wearing a sports bra or dri-fit shirt (which won’t be dry) and shorts or yoga pants. That’s what most of the women wore. Men, wear shorts. Nothing else. I wore a dri-fit shirt and it was soaked within 10 minutes and it weighed me down. The idea is that you want to see your body in the mirror — your posture, muscles, form, etc.
- There are many benefits to doing yoga and it goes beyond physical. After a yoga session, the only way I can describe it was that I felt realigned. My back felt amazing, I slept well, and my mind felt great throughout the week. Yoga also builds self-discipline because you’re making your body experience stretches and feel (good) pains like never before. As they say, “pressure makes diamonds.”
This is most definitely going to take you out of your comfort zone but believe me, it’s worth it. Challenge yourself. Push yourself. See what you’re capable of, realize that limit, and next week go beyond it, little by little.
Our bodies are capable of being incredibly flexible, but truth is most people never stretch, much less exercise. When you start to treat your body with care, you reap all the positive benefits of feeling better throughout the week, having less stress, a clearer mind, and you build mindful habits.
I’m addicted. I’m baffled by how amazing yoga is. It’s one of those things you read about on blogs and the web, but until you actually do it, it’s hard to realize the value in doing something as simple (yet very difficult) as yoga.
Let me know if you go. I want to hear about what you experienced. I really do hope you try it in your area. I kept saying no to my friend for months, but I finally gave in and I wish I had given in sooner.