The word intensity raises all sorts of feelings in me – emotional ones like fear, anxiety, excitement, exhilaration, and physical ones like headaches, excited butterflies and knots in my guts.
It isn’t a word I choose to seek out to describe my day or any planned activities I might want to try – and yet… well, intensity is the perfect word to describe something I tried for the first time ever today – Bikram Yoga.
The pre-activity nerves were intense – could I do this? People commented freely to me on how hot it would be in the room and I am so not a hot weather girl. Can’t sleep when it’s too warm, don’t want to move when I’m too warm – would MUCH rather be feeling cold rather than feeling warm because I can ALWAYS put on more clothing.
Speaking of putting on more clothing – yes, part of the pre-attempt nerves also surrounded what to wear. Yoga pants? Tee-shirt? Singlet? Shorts? Hm.
I ended up settling on a skin tight lycra tank top with a built in bra and a pair of lycra running shorts I had bought myself a few years ago when I was still able to run. Things I would NEVER wear in public where actual people could see me - I know how I look!
Anyhow, in light of the amount of sweat I anticipated I would be losing, I elected NOT to have any boozy beverages at the cabin yesterday and have been drinking LOTS of water for the last few days.
I got to the Comox Valley Bikram Yoga studio and almost swallowed my tongue – the guy behind the desk (who also turned out to be the instructor) was GORGEOUS. I mean OH MY GOD gorgeous.
He was also, however, as most yoga practitioners and teachers tend to be, extremely peaceful to speak with and very genuine in his desire to put me at ease with what to expect. He explained a few things to me and told me that if it got to be too much for me, just to lie down in corpse pose and breathe.
I dropped my stuff in the ladies change room and headed into the studio itself and walked into a wall of heat and humidity – one that reminded me very much of how it would feel to leave the nice cool air conditioned office at the end of the day (when I was in Ontario) and walk into a wall of hot smoggy air to get to the train station to head home. Thankfully this was just hot. BC doesn’t do smog!
I settled myself at the back of the room, set my things out (I now understand why two towels – thank GOD I read the website instructions!) and lay down in the dark to wait for things to start – and also to try and acclimatize myself to the heat. What I read online warned me to expect 105*F (for us Canadians, that’s a good solid 40*C) (yes, you read that right!)
The instructor came in and turned on the lights and it was time to begin. I glanced around once and noted that in spite of how little I felt I was wearing, I was still wearing more than many of the others in the room. He welcomed us to the session (and me in particular as the only total newbie in there) reminded us all that even if we couldn't manage the whole session that the most important thing to do would be to only leave the room as a last resort, and then got us started with a breath exercise to warm us up (literally AND figuratively) and then we were off to the races.
I started to sweat as soon as the first breath exercise started.
I was most definitely not the only person who had to stop every once in a while and re-group my bearings. I managed *almost* all of the poses – and the ones I couldn’t manage were ones I have ALWAYS had issues with – namely balance poses where you are trying to be on one foot. I am carrying a lot of extra weight now, and so some of the poses were simply not manageable because I can’t reach around myself as easily as I could when I was running regularly and slimmer than I am now. I also had trouble with the breathing exercises done at the very end of the session - they were short burst breathing exercises that, when I started them, made me feel dizzy and lit off a whole pile of sparklies in my head - I stopped that, and went back to a long slow breath pattern and the dizzies went away.
I was not the only one running with sweat. Even my knee caps were sweating – I have NEVER seen sweat bead up on my knees!
I was not the only one breathing like I was in the middle of running the hardest sprint ever.
I was not the only one who, toward the end of the class when the instructor opened the door, reacted with an almost audible noise of relief at the cool breeze – I thought I had died for a second there!
And then, at the end of the class, I was not the only one who was smiling. A couple of people came up to me after the class was over and commented on how well I had done – and my girlfriend Steph (who came with me for moral support) was almost as proud of me as I am.
It was hard. It was hot. But you know what? It wasn’t as hard or as hot as I thought it was going to be. This is something I could see myself doing on a semi-regular basis. Yes, as Steph told me, it kicked my ass in a BIG way, but the verdict (which was “in” as I was driving home) is that I am going to try and make one class a week work for my schedule and my budget.
I now understand some of what makes this so addictive to people. I also now understand how one of my other friends could call a yoga class a cardiovascular work out. The first time she mentioned to me that Bikram is her cardio, well, I admit it, I thought she was nuts. I mean really, how the hell is yoga a cardio work-out?
Wow - did I ever eat my words today!
With love across the waters,