365 Days. 278 Classes. 25,020 Minutes. 417 Hours. Once I did 4 classes in one day. Once I did 57 classes in 29 days.
April 29th, 2013: at approximately 7:10a.m. I walked into Bikram Yoga Marina Del Rey for the first time. In the time I’d done yoga, I never imagined myself going to Bikram. Doing yoga in 105 degree rooms with high humidity—that’s crazy making; that’s insane; that would kill me. Well that’s what I always thought, but earlier in April I had a conversation with someone important to me. I was not at a good point in my life. So much emotional chaos surrounded me, including, but not limited to, my father’s decline. I needed some help. I needed a way to clear my head.
My friend suggested I hang out more with my friend MK. She had a good sense of a healthy lifestyle and body image, he said. I wasted no time in texting MK and telling her she had a new job—hanging out more with me! She readily accepted (probably didn’t realize exactly what she was getting into;-)).
The first thing she suggested was Bikram Yoga at the studio in Marina Del Rey. She told me that the best Bikram instructor taught there and she wanted me to have my first experience with the best. She talked to me at length about how this teacher, Loren Jay Cherrostrom, really had an intuitive sense of anatomy. She said I could try the yoga elsewhere later but I had to have my first class with him. I somehow agreed to all this, out of desperation, even though I still thought the idea of hot yoga was a bit nutty. How could excessive sweating possibly be beneficial physically, much less mentally??? We set a date, but when I didn’t hear from her for a few days, I thought maybe she’d forgotten. As it turns out she hadn’t, and I heard from her the night before.
When I arrived that morning, 6:45a.m. for a 7:30a.m. class, MK wasn’t there yet, so I waited in the parking lot until 7:10. When she still hadn’t arrived, I went in alone. I never would have done this in the past, but somehow I felt driven. I also wanted to make sure I got a spot in the back of the room. I wanted to hide as much as possible. She finally did arrive at 7:17a.m. and thought I had backed out because she didn’t see me in the parking lot. Ha! I fooled her and myself by taking that first step.
That first day I felt nervous for several reasons: first and foremost, based on previous experiences, I had an inkling I’d be judged for my size, by the instructor, by my fellow practitioners, but, strangely enough, the instructor didn’t really give me a second glance. I thought that was pretty odd! Why wasn’t I being judged? Surely he’d be surprised someone my size wanted to practice that hot yoga! But, nope. No judgment. Not from him. Not from others on that day.
I don’t remember much about the actual class itself. I didn’t die. I know that! I think I managed to do most of the postures. Who knows what my poses looked like, but I had to start somewhere! I do clearly recall the yoga stoned feeling I experienced after that first class. I floated on such a high. I felt giddy with life.
It’s that very feeling that instilled in me the desire to go back by myself later that week. I started out going twice a week and quickly graduated to three times a week. Then one day in June I decided to try a double. I figured if I’m already at the studio why not stay? I not only survived, but I thrived doing a double, so I made them my new habit. Three days a week I do doubles. Nowadays, I only do singles when I have a friend in town and when I’m on the road.
So much of my life has changed this past year. I’ve learned so much about myself. I know I wouldn’t have survived the death of my father without my practice. I don’t mean to imply I would have died, but on days I would have just fallen apart in despair I found the strength to get to yoga. I made the effort to go to class the day after he died. If I hadn’t gone I would have wallowed in despair. I don’t mean that I denied my grief. I’ve never done that. I wanted to work through it. I still am working through it. My yoga helps me work through it.
I’ve become a much stronger person, which is saying something because I’ve never really been a weakling. I’ve become more confident. About a month and a half into my practice, I decided to move from my safety net in the back corner to the front of the room and that’s where you’ll find me most of the time. Front and Center. I’m pretty sure the front of the room is supposed to be for seasoned practitioners, but I almost always make the effort to do my best, so I figure that counts for something!
When I started doing Bikram, I dressed to hide my body. I soon realized the insane blasphemy of this sartorial attitude. It’s pretty hot in there! So, really, the fewer items of clothing you wear the better! Sometime in July, I found the courage to start practicing in bike shorts and a sports bra. I started to really look at my body and not judge it. And I’d always judged it prior to that. Fat. Lumpy. Unattractive. Negative adjectives you’ve all likely heard before. I saw myself the way ignorant others had seen me.
Not too long after practicing in my new attire, I discovered a new appreciation for being able to see how my body, how my muscles, how my bones moved in the poses. I had a clearer discernment for adjusting alignment. My body has become more toned. I’m much stronger in my core than I ever used to be.
But it wasn’t just in the yoga room that I changed. The yoga room really serves as the catalyst for appreciating who I really am, finding out who I really am. I’m learning to have a deeper appreciation for Nancy. I’m learning to listen to my soul. I’m learning that when things and people and situations don’t feel right, my body won’t tolerate them because my soul wants to find a way to thrive.
And that’s what this blog, my new website, my Facebook page, and YouTube channel are really about—finding positive ways for my soul to thrive. I want to share my journey with others, so that they too can see that Yoga really is for EVERY BODY TYPE. I’m very open with my practice with my emotional journey. This year of Bikram has given me that strength. It will give you that strength too, if you give it a chance. And if it doesn’t work for you, that’s okay too. Find your passion. The Bikram is my passion. It continues to give me undreamed of gifts, gifts I work for.
There’s so much more to my Bikram history, my emotional growth. That will come in future blog entries. Thank you for listening and being a part of this experience with me. The support I continue to receive gives me strength in ways I can’t explain.
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