It is my first time. I push open the doors to the studio and spot a young woman, in a high-ponytail, yoga pants and a tie-dye shirt with an Om symbol sits behind the desk. My approach is hesitant. Should I turn around and walk away?
“Hello. How are you?” Her polite greeting makes it harder to slip away. I’ve been noticed.
“Hello, how are you? I am here for the 12:00 p.m. class.” I respond. She consults with her computer and hands me a form that memorializes that I am in the right condition to endure ninety minutes of yoga in a room heated to at least 104 degrees with some recognizable measure of humidity. I sign the paperwork and in-between my fingers sweat gathers, even though the vent overhead showers me with cold air. Since I am a little early, I leaf through a few yoga books, browse the clothes rack and fill my water bottle with ice. In five minutes, my class will start.
My spine straightens. I sigh and channel my inner cheerleader and whisper, “I can do this.” But when I enter the studio, my commitment takes an immediate punch. The room is hot. I take the spot next to the door, strategizing that the minuscule waft of air that emanates from a slight opening will offer some refuge from the heat. I roll out my mat and my gaze shifts to the 26 postures that decorate the border of the room. Squinting at each image, I recognize my body will fight many of them.
The instructor, a thin, older woman, walks over. She verifies that this is my first attempt at hot yoga. In order to obtain the full experience, she suggests that I only sip my water. I nod. I don’t reveal that I’ve already guzzled down half my water bottle while waiting for class to begin.
The first pose is standing deep breathing. I inhale and exhale and try to immense myself in the breath, but all that I think about is whether or not I can muster the physical courage to continue for the next 85 minutes. Should I quit after one posture? The sequence, as expected, increases in difficulty. At certain points, I can’t hold the postures. I pause, look around the room and inch closer to the door where there is the smallest sliver of air. The class continues with my mind darting in different places. I negotiate with my limbs.
When I reach the final posture and can relax, I acknowledge that I made it through the whole session. Focusing on each move, my preoccupation with the heat fell away. Because I am sensitive to heat, I told myself this experiment might result in an epic failure before I even entered the studio doors, I assumed I could not push my body to its limits. Yet despite this, neither my mental of physical doubts gained enough momentum to break my resolve.
Even though I failed to master many of the postures in Bikram Yoga, I did something much more important—I got closer to mastering myself.
Rudri Bhatt Patel is a former lawyer turned writer. She is the Online Editor for The First Day. Rudri posts frequently to her blog, Beingrudri.com, is a contributing writer for The Huffington Post and other publications. She is currently at work on a memoir that focuses on grief and life’s ordinary graces. Rudri lives in Arizona with her husband and daughter.
Read more of Rudri’s posts at http://firstdaypress.org/tag/rudri-bhatt-patel/.
Image: Explosion of Beauty by Toni Verdú Carbó via Flickr.