Cold feet at warm yoga
I went to a yoga class today at a real yoga studio. The class was “warm” yoga which means the room was heated to 90 degrees. I was nervous as I entered this new space. I didn’t know a soul there, but I read the rules on the website, so I felt at least a little prepared. I took my shoes off and stuffed them alongside my purse in the cubby before entering the studio. I brought with me my yoga mat, a water bottle and a towel. I was prepared! Win! I positioned my mat near the back of the class, but still in view of the mirror.
I was there ten minutes early, so I went to the bathroom to empty myself of nerves. I washed my hands and looked at my naked face in the mirror.
Okay. Here we go.
Women all around the studio were in various stages of preparation – some lying flat on their backs, some standing, some already doing stretches and deep breathing. I stood at attention and caught sight of myself in the mirror. I took in my form and frowned inwardly at what I saw: my padded hips flaring audaciously, screaming of too many late-night carbs and high-fiving my muffin tops in victory. Thighs touching in places my twenty-something self would have fainted over, tapering to thin-ish ankles. Shapeless arms hanging by my side, skimming the flesh on my hips before ending in limp, veined hands.
I stood taller and sucked in a little, thinking it would improve my shape and the way I looked at myself, but I just looked like I was trying too hard.
Listen, Shannon. You’re HERE, right? It takes guts to show up.
And with that private thought, I settled into a seated position and waited for class to start.
Class was hard. HARD. And really, really hot. And slippery. No one told me to sand my palms before class so I’d have traction. Instead I slipped out of my down dog and re-positioned myself over and over. When my breathing became labored, I rested in child’s pose. Twice the instructor asked if I was feeling okay.
“Yes! I’m great! This is… I’m great!”
There wasn’t a clock I could see, and even if there was my eyes stung with sweat that blurred my vision. Surely, class was wrapping up.
“Let’s move on to our inverted poses,” I heard through my pounding heartbeat.
I sat, dripping sweat and open-mouthed (did I mention I was out of breath?) as two women in the class demonstrated handstands. I clapped enthusiastically when they finished. What a neat trick! Thanks for showing us that. Time to go now, right?
Then everyone started moving their mats to the perimeter of the room.
Women all around me began kicking their legs up from a downward-facing dog pose. Some made it on the first try and some tried several times before their feet met the wall behind their now inverted heads. A lady next to me asked if I would spot her. She kicked a few times and I helped haul her leg up and back. She held the pose, strong and steady, for what seemed like minutes and I stood next to her with my hand still on her leg. She gently kicked off the wall and cartwheeled down to the floor.
She looked at me and her look said “Are you ready?”
I was nervous. No, I was scared. I can’t do this! I’m not that strong and besides I forgot to sand my palms. See? Slippery. Yep. I’ll just be a spotter. Yep, I’m good.
She kept looking at me. So, I put my hands down and crawled my feet up the wall, the way the first lady showed the modified pose.
Ha! I did it! I crawled up the wall and did a bent handstand thingy for at least 5 seconds! Slippery hands and all!
My yoga neighbors said I could easily do the kick-up style (I’m very current with the yoga lingo, I assure you. They said exactly that. Ahem.)
So, I put my hands on the floor to show them that I, indeed, can do no such thing. I kicked my leg up and I think it made it past my butt.
I kicked harder and MY spotter grabbed MY leg and hauled it up and back until I found the wall. I brought my other leg up and I held that handstand, strong and steady, for what seemed like minutes. My spotter stood next to me offering me gentle tips to improve my ALREADY PERFECT POSE. When I was ready to dismount, I kicked away from the wall and crumpled in a heap as my shoulders gave out on me. I sat up, saw the look of concern on my spotter’s face and I SMILED.
HOLY YOGA SHIT! I did a HANDSTAND!
We re-positioned our mats to their original positions and I sat down and cried. Yes, it’s a known phenomenon in yoga circles that doing inverted poses makes the tears fall right out of your eyes. It was nothing to be embarrassed about. It happens all the time. Really.
The best part about warm yoga is that I was so sweaty that no one could tell I was crying. And it didn’t matter that I couldn’t STOP crying because of my amazing inverted handstand (that I held for AT LEAST 3 seconds) because I was in the back and it was kinda dark and I was very drippy. And it STILL didn’t matter that I was softly hiccuping during corpse pose, and snuffling and that I used my towel to wipe my nose. Because when I stood up after the hour and fifteen minute long, warm yoga class and I looked at my shape in the mirror, all the negative thoughts I had about my body before washed away with my sweat and tears. Literally.
I looked at my hips and arms and legs and thought:
Listen, Shannon. You are STRONG. It takes guts to show up.