Hot yoga, also known as Bikram Yoga, is powerful. And yet, it heals. I was reminded of that Sunday morning as I stood there midway through my 90-minute class at Journeys in Yoga, sweat pouring off me as I moved from a standing tree pose to a forward fold with surprising ease.
Oh, how far I had come.
When I started doing hot yoga with owner Suzanne Harrell at Journeys about 15 months ago, I struggled to get into many of the poses. And I certainly struggled to maintain them for 30 seconds to a minute, as the series requires. I was also struggling within myself. What did I want? Where was I going? Was I strong enough to get there on my own?
But every week, no matter what kind of week I had, I went to hot yoga. And with each class, my muscles that were always so tight from cycling and running and weightlifting began to open up. They felt longer, more flexible. More powerful.
And somewhere along my yoga journey, this Type A Badass began to appreciate the power and importance of meditation. Of just...being...still. I learned to appreciate imperfection, within myself and within others. When I fall down out of a pose, it's OK. Just like it's OK to fall down in life. When it happens, we get back up and keep at it.
I gained confidence, and I gained the perspective I needed to figure out where I was meant to go and what I am supposed to do with the talents I have. This blog grew in part out of that self-discovery.
"I see people come in here and over time they get more confidence and courage," Suzanne told me after class on Sunday. "They come onto the mat not having a relationship with their bodies. It's as if they're detached from it, but they learn to kind of accept it and move forward with this compassion and this sense of wanting to care for it."
"You see them start to relax and ease into their poses. They realize they can have fun and explore," Suzanne said. "They have permission to come in here and not be perfect. We don't really give ourselves permission to be imperfect in real life."
There were many days when I sat there on that mat, in whatever pose, and I shut everything else out. I forced myself into stillness, and I healed. Some days, in the final few minutes when Suzanne let us just lay still in our own thoughts, I cried. But I also healed. And every time, I walked out feeling stronger.
Yoga has been used for more than 5,000 years, long before we had Spinning and kettle bells and step class. There are dozens of different schools of yoga, which literally means "to join or yoke together." The idea is that through yoga, you join together your mind, body, and spirit to improve your body and overall well-being.
It is the ultimate balancer. And balance is what this Badass journey is all about! If you haven't taken a yoga class, I seriously encourage you to try.
Because beyond the mental benefits, yoga -- and hot yoga in particular -- brings a long list of amazing physical benefits that are especially vital for active Badasses who regularly run, cycle, swim and lift weights.
The room is heated to between 98 and 105 degrees, give or take, and as the humidity rises the sweat comes, in large quantities. Hot yoga uses the skin, our largest organ, to detoxify our bodies.
"By using the skin, you take pressure off the organs that usually detoxify us -- the liver, the kidneys, even the lungs," Suzanne said.
The heat also warms the muscles, allowing us to stretch and move more deeply into poses. Hot yoga helps improve flexibility, massages the organs, and tones muscles. By moving from pose to pose, with a series that includes standing poses and mat poses, hot yoga also provides a cardiovascular workout. It's not a cycling class, but it is vigorous in its own way.
Yoga also has been proven to reduce blood pressure, respiratory rate, and pulse rate, even as it boosts energy levels and helps us sleep better.
And if you are lucky enough to have an amazing teacher like Suzanne, you leave not just detoxified and feeling physically cleansed. You leave with little nuggets of wisdom.
Sunday, as we left the room, she told us: "Surrender the intellect of the mind to the wisdom of the heart."
Wow. Thank you, Suzanne, I think I just might...And I hope you Badasses just might get yourselves to a yoga mat soon.
Coming tomorrow: Badass Grandma Colavecchio's juicy pineapple cake -- perfect for spring, low in fat and packed with a few 'power' ingredients!