My First Hot Yoga Class Was A Hot Mess

Today officially marks one month that I’ve been practicing yoga.  Attending Vinyasa and Yin 5-6 times a weeks has been so enlightening.  This journey is remarkable.  I have nothing but wonderful things to say about how I feel inside and out.

That is until my first Bikram (hot) class. Due to a conflict in schedule, the hot class was the only one I could attend that day, so I figured after a month into this, it was time to give it a shot.

Now I have given birth three times, one being  completely natural childbirth.  Nothing in my life has ever come close to that level of torturous pain–until now.

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Upon entering the studio, it was a steamy 105 degrees but I enjoy hot weather  and figured I could endure anything for an hour.  Within three minutes I was dripping with sweat, slipping and sliding all over my mat, rubbing my burning eyeballs with my rag, coming in and out of consciousness (I think).  Twenty minutes into the class, I dropped to child’s pose hoping the pain would subside, as everyone around me seemed more energized than at the beginning of the class!  How was this possible? They weren’t even wiping their sweat away or drinking any water. They were still moving!  I began to panic. My breathing became completely erratic. I was having a panic attack!  And the room just kept getting more humid and spinning faster by the minute.

I desperately tried to resume the next pose but the hyperventilation and dizziness took over.  I fell to my mat again.  After what seemed like five hours (45 minutes) I could bear it no longer. I left the class, ran to the locker room and cried.  Disappointment and failure flooded my mind.  All inner doubts and fears were confirmed; I was weak and not cut out for this.  Everything I’d been working towards hit a fiery wall and I melted like an ice cube in the dead of August.

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After class I spoke to the teacher, who offered beautiful advice and words of wisdom.  The conversation ended with me promising to attend another Bikram class, yet I have not had the courage to return.

I am in turmoil at the current moment.  Do I stick with Vinyasa and Yin and just focus on the joy that these practices bring to my life, or do I challenge myself with something that terrifies me and literally made me feel as close to death as one can feel?

If I do gain the strength of mind to return, I am going to heed the advice of the teacher and I’m offering this to anyone who has thought of attending a Bikram class.

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Here are Seven tidbits of advice for preparing for a Bikram class:

  1. Hydrate for days in advance. Drinking water during class is way to late to save yourself.
  2. Get a towel for your mat or you will be a slippery mess.
  3. Tell the  teacher it is your first class and practice breathing with them prior to class starting. Proper breathing is everything.  I didn’t realize how this is absolutely fundamental to practicing.  It is the core of yoga.
  4. Listen to your own body. Do not worry about what’s going on around you. If you need to stop, stop. If you desire challenging yourself a bit more, do it.  There is a reason people call yoga a practice.
  5. If you panic during class, lay down. Even if it’s for the remainder of class. Rest and breathe, nothing more.
  6. Be aware of the heat.  The heat is what will keep you mentally present in class.  Train your mind to just focus on breathing one breath at a time and stay fully present.
  7. Don’t leave. As my teacher said, “Once you walk out the door, ego has won.”

 

I will reread this advice often and if I ever decide to try hot yoga again,  maybe in 10 years, I’ll hopefully be more prepared.

 

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