Surrounded by half-naked bodies, I looked around the room. Was everyone else just as sweaty, hot and nauseous as I was? I wanted to pass out.
“All you need to do is breathe.” the yoga instructor said. Useful advice, as I currently wasn’t doing so.
I inhaled deeply and – along with a whiff of my neighbour’s B.O. – took in some much-needed oxygen to my brain.
Five years later and I’m still practicing Bikram’s Hot Yoga, which despite the pungent conditions of the room that day (generally it’s pretty odourless), had me hooked after the third class (the first two I just wanted to vomit and die – completely normal, I assure you).
Burning between 600-1000 calories a class, repairing old injuries and creating flexible and toned healthy bodies are definitely great perks to the practice. But what had me coming back for more was the internal peace I felt doing something so physically challenging. It’s not only an intense work out for the body but for the mind as well.
You see, I suffer from what author Natalie Goldberg of Writing Down the Bones calls “monkey mind.” It’s a Buddhist expression (used by many) that refers to “mental activity that creates busyness which keeps us away from our true hearts.” Our “true hearts” are made up of our dreams and desires, what it is that we most wish to do in our lives.
Meditation is one way to calm the howling monkeys in our head and hot yoga, for me, is an effective form of meditation. I usually leave class with my monkeys more subdued, especially those belonging to Fear, Anxiety and Self-Doubt.
Many people might recognize the screeching of these particular simians. The voices that tell us we can’t or won’t succeed because of whatever reason. Whether we want to start our own business, take burlesque classes or become a writer, we need to listen to our inner-most wants, or our life becomes one that is unfulfilled. And despite my mention of Buddhist philosophies, in this moment, this is the only life I have and then I will be gone. Sombre, but reality. And how sad it would be to live without having the courage to follow your dreams, whatever they may be.
So I keep going to hot yoga, because not only is it probably one of the best exercises you can do for your body, it is also one of the best you can do for your mind, which in turn enables you to find out what it is you really want and do it. And remember what Bikram’s teacher, Bishnu Ghosh said. “It’s never too late, it’s never too bad and you’re never too old or too sick to start from scratch once again.”