Authored by Gauri Kandalgaonkar in Exercise
Published on 10-09-2009
While I was growing up, my mother attended yoga class every Sunday morning. She would ask me to attend with her, but of course in my teenage angst, I was certain there was no benefit for me in yoga. At the time, my life goals were to be prettier, smarter and increase my chances of getting asked to go to the prom with the guy of my dreams. So, what was the point of yoga? Several years later, I found out I could not be more wrong.
Fast forward to my thirties while I was living in South Florida; my impetus to try hot yoga was driven by my overall perception of my health. I was not feeling well for the last few months; mostly lethargy, tiredness and sometimes restlessness. I was also concerned about my weight gain since my clothes no longer fit. I knew my diet was part of the reason, but a larger issue was my lack of regular exercise and physical activity. I disliked exercise and I could not find an activity I enjoyed. Then, one day while I was driving by a hot yoga studio, out of curiosity, I decided to step in and see what hot yoga was about. The instructor described the benefits to me – healthier minds, deeper relaxation and greater flexibility. She also very candidly told me that hot yoga was not for people who only wanted to lose weight. I appreciated the instructor’s candor and decided to give hot yoga a try that afternoon.
That afternoon started a new journey for me. During my first hot yoga class, I was in pain. The room was at 100F, I had to exert myself tremendously in order to demonstrate any kind of likeness to the instructor and throughout the session, my stomach felt queasy as a result of the heat. While the instructor asked us to hold the poses for no more than a minute, it felt like an eternity to me. My legs shook as I tried to keep my balance, my mind wandered in the direction of how painful and uncomfortable everything felt and the mirror reminded me of how awkward I looked trying to do something I was clearly unable to do .
During that first hot yoga session, I swore it would be my last. However, later that day I also learned the real magic of my hot yoga class occurred outside of the classroom. I felt better that day than I had ever felt before. My skin was clear and soft because of all the sweat that poured from my body. My body was sore, but I also felt limber, flexible and confident. Finally, my mind was relaxed, fresh and ready to take on the next day’s challenge. That night, I slept better than I had ever slept before.
After that first day, I attended a hot yoga class at least three times a week for the next two years. It didn’t matter if I had to work late, meet friends or attend to other commitments. I always made time for hot yoga. It was my respite, my center and the place where my only goal was to be better than my last yoga class. Yoga changed my life; I felt more confident, I felt prettier and I had the energy to accomplish more than I thought I ever could. So, I guess my mother did have it right all along. Too bad I waited 15 years to make that realization!