After months of passing a yoga studio near my old 9-5, last week I decided to take the plunge and dip into a Bikram yoga class to de-stress. After life kicked my ass one day and took my name for a follow-up whooping the next, I figured there was no time like the present to see what was up with all the talk about the health benefits of yoga. Even if I hated it, stretching and bending in a hot room full of strangers would surely leave me with less regrets than inhaling a #1 Chick-fil-A combo and buying clothes that would land in my closet’s buyers’ remorse section.
Honestly, before I went to yoga class, I didn’t actually believe it would make me feel better than my go-to “remedies.” However, I was surprised to find that yoga yielded some unexpected results. I left the class feeling slightly dizzy but I gained a lot more clarity about myself and my environment.
I’m loud as f*ck.
As a self-professed small talk connoisseur, I’m accustomed to folks chatting it up before and after Zumba, fitness boot camps and the gym, but that didn’t happen in yoga. One by one, people entered the steamy studio, arranged their mats and took their places on the floor to stretch, sit quietly or lie down. I’m used to alleviating my fears and nervousness about trying something new by talking to my neighbor, but I was forced to center myself on my own. Yoga taught me that there’s a quiet yet effective power in working through discomfort, anxiety or nervousness in complete silence.
I’m addicted to noise. A typical workout session for me includes just as many grunts and moans of exhaustion and pain as it does reps. So, for me it was highly unusual that the entire class proceeded without said grunts and moans, even when the instructor guided us through the 26 Bikram Yoga Postures. How I suppressed a wail when attempting to hold the Awkward Pose is beyond me, but here’s what I learned: relying too heavily on noise provides an easy distraction from what’s happening inside. I started to feel like I’m cheating myself out of some self-awareness by always feeling like I have to play music, use the TV as background noise or make a phone call when I’m alone.
Yoga taught me to give myself more chances to succeed.
Sometimes I tell myself no before even allowing myself to get too excited over a goal. So when the class moved into the Fixed Firm Pose, I sat fixed and firm in a resounding Hell No Pose with the defiant glare to match. In reality, neither I nor my back believed that feat was possible because, instead of giving myself permission to try to succeed, I’d already decided it wasn’t going to happen.
Concentration is EVERYTHING. Sitting, bending, stooping and squatting in a room where the temp is set at a steady 104 degrees isn’t something I ever imagined myself doing. But focusing on myself in the mirror distracted me from the heat, and it didn’t take long for this to seep over into life outside the yoga studio.
Consider this tweet after two yoga sessions as Exhibit A:
My mind is clutter-free today. Not sure how that happened but it feels great and I’m getting shit done💅
— Kenya (@KGEdits) September 26, 2015
There’s only competition if you create it. So, I didn’t need an expert to tell me that it’s totally normal to feel competitive in yoga class because I feel the effects of comparison ALL THEE TIME with writing. This was my precise train of thought in yoga when ol’ girl on the next mat over began to resemble a human pretzel. But after realizing I’d gotten too carried away with the competitive, comparison bug, I chose to drop the mic on my counteractive need to compare myself to others and just continue doing it.