Bikram yoga has been on my to-try list for well over a year.
I know people who enjoy it a lot, and the thought of a totally challenging, yet totally different activity from my regular running or bootcamp was appealing.
It seemed rather complementary to my two favorite workouts, and this afternoon I was finally able to finagle my schedule to give it a go.
But, as excited as I was to try, I was a little nervous. I had never tried Bikram before and it was outside of my comfort zone.
I have been running for almost two years and bootcamping for a year and a half. Even though I'll never win a race and I now only occasionally hit myself in the groin with a medicine ball, I do know what I'm doing, and that "I'll Make A Fool of Myself" mortal fear is long gone with both pursuits.
Returning to that slightly nervous area outside my comfy activity playpen was a little disconcerting. But, I remembered that not that long ago I was scared to run outside and I was scared to try bootcamp. And look what happened. I found two activities that I really, truly love, and have given me so much more than improved health and fitness.
Therefore, I shaved my legs, put on a fresh layer of deodorant and headed to the studio this afternoon for the 4 pm class.
I got there early to get a lay of the land: where do I put my shoes? Can I rent a mat? Where's the bathroom? And, most importantly, to ensure I got a spot in the waaaay back of the studio.
I indeed got a spot in the back of the room, which is heated to 100 degrees. I had concerns about how I would handle the heat, as I'm not flocking outside during the summer on such days, but - really - it was a dry heat. I laid down my mat and followed everyone else's lead: flat on my back, quietly relaxing like a lizard on a rock in the Mojave.
I could get used to this.
Soon, the instructor came in and we got down to the poses - 26 in 90 minutes. The instructor stood on a low platform in the middle of the room and, like a DVD commentary, narrated the class through the poses with a series of instructions, form checks, inspiration, reassurance and funny stories.
There were several new students in the class (which had about 24 people at 4 pm on a Saturday, impressive!), thank goodness. The instructor was very encouraging to new students, which I really appreciated, underscoring that we shouldn't try anything that causes pain or try to keep up with veteran practitioners.
Amusingly, I had to keep remind/stop myself from the temptation of Keeping Up With The Flexible Joneses. I'd look at some frighteningly flexible person, battle those natural competitive instincts and think, "OK, this literally is your first day with this. Do what you can and no more."
In prep for the class, I drank 64 oz of water throughout the day, and I had another 32 oz on hand for the class itself. Yes, like everyone else I was sweating like crazy, but the heat was comforting and soothing. My body felt like a lazy pretzel and I liked it.
Some poses I could do, others I had to modify quite a bit. I looked around the room and saw many others - newbies and vets - modifying, too. I saw all sizes and ages - it was no bikini triathlete supermodel class, thank goodness.
At one point, the instructor mentioned two quotes from Bikram Choudhury, creator of this discipline:
"Mess with the gods, don't mess with your knees" and "Kill your body."
The latter sounds pretty severe, but the instructor explain that what he really meant was "Kill your ego." Leave it at the door, come in and listen to your body. I loved that.
Soon, the 90 minutes was up and I was a puddle. I stepped out of the warm, welcoming bosom of the studio and into the changing/waiting area.
At first, the cool air was refreshing, but it soon turned into the realization, "COLD! I AM COLD!" I threw on my sweatshirt (which now has to be washed ASAP) and walked to the car.
As I walked out I took a mental inventory. I felt really, really good. Refreshed, relaxed and loose. The poses were challenging, yet doable, I will try to jam a class into my schedule every week.
The more I thought about it (and sweated), the more I realized how very good it is to be a beginner again - at anything. You're open and excited, and your ego is idling, not in overdrive.
You're learning and doing and trying something new. You may love it, you may not, but the real victory is in the trying; that stepping outside your comfort zone where real true growth occurs.
When I try new things, I'm still hesitant here and there because that fear of embarrassment still lingers. But I try, anyway, and that's a win every time.
When I was overweight (aka, all my life), I rarely tried anything new - especially activity - for fear of embarrassment. When you're overweight, you want to blend in, not stand out.
But now, even though the nerves are still there a little bit, I push through. I know no one else in class is watching me, except for the instructor, who just wants to me to relax and enjoy.
So I did.