When I first stepped into the steamy, dimly lit room, it seemed like the ideal environment to put me right to sleep — not workout in. But surprisingly, finishing the class left me feeling rejuvenated, energized, grateful and clear-headed.
As someone who thrives off routine, especially a workout routine, I was nervous to change things up and try out a new way to break a sweat: Hot yoga. Not only did a break from routine make me anxious, but I initially also felt a bit guilty that I wouldn’t be burning enough calories for it to be “worth it.” However — with some internal reflection and advice from friends and family — I reminded myself that exercise was about moving your body in ways that feel good, not about burning off the calories in a slice of pizza. Shifting my mindset allowed me to end up falling in love with hot yoga.
Humbled right from the start as I stepped into a nearly 100 degrees Fahrenheit room, I laid out my mat and grabbed two sets of weights and a yoga block, giddy to begin. Throughout the practice, I kept having to reach for my towel to wipe off the sweat dripping down my forehead and into my eyes as I alternated through “mountain pose,” “downward dog” and “warrior two.” I loved the feeling of finally reaching the end of what felt like an intense HIIT workout and setting up for “shavasana” — or “corpse pose” — a meditative, restful position that simply involves lying on your back and appreciating all the work your body has just done. As calming instrumental music played faintly in the background, the instructor simply let us be as we caught our breaths and took a moment to reflect on the intentions we set for ourselves at the start of class. Endorphins flowed through my body and gratitude softened my heart as I reminded myself to stay present, letting go of any worries clouding my head.
While running challenges me both physically and mentally and makes me feel strong and powerful, doing hot yoga brings a whole other level of discomfort — a good discomfort. Balancing my body weight on one foot as I tried my hardest not to slip on my own sweat was difficult on its own, but what made it even harder was doing so in front of a huge mirror with several other people who practiced like professionals surrounding me. Bending my body in ways that unflatteringly highlighted every contour and skin fold was a lot for my first class.
However, by the end of my second class I began to notice a shift in the way I viewed my body. The affirmations I repeated to myself in class which once felt meaningless now suddenly became the source of my happiness. I started to believe the words of self love and compassion coming out of my mouth and began to internalize it. What started off as negative self-talk and shame soon transformed into gratitude and appreciation for even getting to move my body. This positive mindset shift wasn’t just limited to the mat, but it extended into my daily life and the way I spoke to myself. I began to feel just as strong after a hot yoga session as I did when I finished running six miles — a feeling I truly didn’t believe was achievable.