Wednesday, May 14, 2008

My Yoga Obsession Heats Up

I have a bit of an obsession with hot yoga. Stick me in a hot room and within seconds I'll immediately begin the detox and feel my body systematically let go.

Get me talking about what happened when I began a regular practice four years ago, and I will passionately with hand gestures and grandiose fluxuations in tone tell you that my yoga practice undoubtedly changed my life. The physical benefits were and are immense. I found relief from: migraines, allergies, ear infections, sports injuries, carpal tunnel among many other common ailments. I also lost a lot of weight, toned up, and learned to trust my body and touch my toes. Bound up from pounding athletic ventures, the biggest miracle of all may be that I can bend over and pull my face to the floor, or do a pretty lovely standing bow pulling pose, bend over backwords, etc. all huge feats given that I could not touch my toes, lock out my knee, nor could I make it up the two flights of stairs without everything clicking furiously. Truly the physical accomplishments and progress are enough to raise an eyebrow, but it is the psychological benefit that was truly life altering for me.

I miss my Bellingham Bikram family immensely, and can honestly say that the fine folks there likely single handedly kept me in Bellingham as long as I was there; the idea of starting anew in a place without a "home" for my practice, seemed well, entirely stupid when it had kept me entirely sane for so long.

I have done lots of other stupid things too, as my friends can attest. So move without a net/studio I did. There is not, in fact, a single Bikram studio in the state of Iowa. And the closest Barkan/Bikram studio is 2.5 hours away. So eventually, I will bring one here.
I've tried to do this for several years now, but whenever I travel I try to seek out the closest Bikram/hot studio for a good workout. This has taken on a whole new meaning/drive now that I don't have a 5 day a week practice. Hence, I have practiced the Bikram series all over Europe, Canada and the United States. Every studio is entirely different and while the dialogue and series are essentially the same, the energy from studio to studio varies immensely, as do the students and the instructors. Some instructors bark, some are so annoying their shrill voices are enough to cause nausea (another part of the journey!), some are so gentle and kind that it's a struggle to stay awake, some are militantly focused on form, some are so caring you want to hug after class, some could care less.

I begin each and every practice with the single goal of staying in the room. Four years later it is still sometimes difficult if not impossible to do. This started with the physical idea of "stay in the room" several years back and after I quickly learned what happens when I did leave and try to come back in, I found that lying or standing there doing nothing was a better alternative to leaving the heat and trying to come back in the room and regain concentration without puking or cramping up.

Try as I did though.

Now my "stay in the room" is centered more wholly on quieting my monkey mind and the idea of trying to concentrate wholly on myself for the entirety of the 90 minutes. This means completely disregarding outside noises, conversations and distractions. It is a helluva lot easier said than done. I like to escape--face it, we all do. In my mind in the midst of an intense practice I'll find myself cooking dinner, taking vacations to New Zealand, writing lists, remembering work tasks, thinking about my latest date, my son's baseball practice, the laundry I forgot in the washer (for two days)...a thousand things to keep me from staying there, in the room. And so I practice. And practice. Breathe.

One of the great first lessons of my practice was to not to judge myself too harshly, as I've found that the days I feel like I am going to have an amazing practice and bound in to the studio, many times quite the opposite happens, and the days when it is truly a struggle to put my sports bra on, I have the best days and my body/heart open up. In some of my darkest moments, I found myself laying on the floor of that Bellingham Studio, sometimes doing nothing more than laying there, breathing and letting the tears stream freely. There was never any judgement, never any ribbing. It was totally safe.

Likewise, I have pulled myself into a camel, or rabbit and felt my entire heart open up and release a load of pure emotion that is inexplicable in words alone. For all these reason, among others that I cannot put into words, it has been my intention for years now to attend an intensive teacher training and eventually take my practice to others--hopefully here in mid Iowa. I can readily admit that there is a part of me that wants to go to the intensive for selfish reasons alone, as I cannot imagine giving up what has become my "church" and sharing that space and time as it is so intensely personal and sacred. Yet at the same time, I trust in the idea of those who have gone before me when they tell me that truly after you've experienced the intensive training experience that there is literally no way that you cannot imagine anything but sharing it.

The experience I had in Nashville at Nashville Hot Yoga was among the best of my remote yoga travel adventures. The studio was clean and spacious, the temperature was right, and the instructor was deliberate, and yet lovely and light.

I had an amazing practice that day, drained my body of all sorts of interesting toxins and emotions, and I stayed mentally present until about five minutes before the end of class. I also experienced the typical sway of emotions and rawness that often accompanies a good hard practice after not having done one for awhile immediately thereafter. Thankfully I was surrounded by my most loving and accepting friends.

I once again have renewed vigor about getting myself to an intensive, practicing more regularly, and eventually sharing this gift with others. It is also interesting to note, that I am having an incredibly, incredibly difficult time trusting in the present moment and not wanting to shove the training in front of some other relevant and arguably more pertinent intiatives in my life, like completing my thesis before the university clock stops ticking. I want to quit my job and life and run away NOW.

But it all does make perfect sense at the same time. Because this idea of staying and being present and trusting in each moment for what it is happens to be the most amazing gift of this practice. It is also an idea that you never quite master and exactly why they call it ...a practice.

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