Thursday, June 10, 2010


Today, in my 90 minute Bikram class, I burned enough calories to power a small country.

Over the last six years, allowing for breaks from practice and some really crazy weeks without reprieve, I estimate that I've taken around 1,000 yoga classes. Allowing for variances in class length (anywhere from 60 minutes to 90) and weekend workshops, those 1,000 or so classes total about 65,000 minutes.

Of those 65,000 minutes, minutes moving from one asana to the next, today's 90 minutes hit the top 350 most taxing. I gave the practice absolutely every modicum of energy I had. I left it all on the field.

After Namaste and a few minutes sprawled in Corpse, I wobbled to my feet, shuffled to the dressing room, pulled a shirt over my drenched sports bra, used shaking hands to fumble flip flops onto my feet, grabbed my gear, and stumbled out of the studio to my car. When I reached the vehicle I had to stop and lean up against it, taking deep, focused breaths to quell my intensifying urge to vomit. I collapsed on the driver's seat and stared out the front window for five minutes trying to find my brain before I turned the key to back out.

When I started to reverse, a gal tapped my window and pointed at my roof--Your water, she mouthed. I retreived the bottle, and though it was empty when I pulled into the garage, I don't remember draining it.

I'm astonished that I made it home without causing a crash. My jaw was slack and my eyes glazed and unfocused. Once parked, I stumbled into the house and collapsed on the floor--just fell to the carpet in a crooked mass of irregular breathing.

My spouse gathered up his sweaty, disoriented mass of a wife, and moved her upstairs where she set eyes on the bed and sped up her stumbling.

Before I could drop onto it, he cried, Whoa, whoa! and grabbed me before I could flop forward and soak our sheets with my Bikram stink. With legs too weary to hold me up, I propped myself against the bed while he pulled off my sticky top, shorts, and underwear. Once nude, I fell into the sheets, dizzy.

He asked what was wrong. But I had nothing to tell him. I couldn't speak. I began to mumble, I am . . . but then nothing else would come. I couldn't figure out what I had intended to say. My mouth couldn't form the words anyhow. I sprawled there for a few minutes, trying to find a place in my head that wasn't spinning. Once I located a few words, I slurred them out, telling him, I did this. I am incapable of taking it easy . . . I . . . gave it . . . everything.

For me, what I get out of a yoga class is 80% dependent on what I put into it (not 100%, 'cause let's face it, the teacher does have a bit to do with things). If my energy level is good and what I ate that day wasn't too stupid, what I put into a practice can be significant. Today was that day. I'd spent the day conscientiously hydrating, ate the right umph! foods, wore a new neon pink bra top that whispered promises of increased energy, and spent the class motivated by my disgusting flabby gut squishing in the mirror. All that brought me to pull that much harder, sit that much deeper, bend that much further, and try that much more.

Yes, Bikram is plenty hard on its own--90 minutes doing intense postures in a humid room heated to 104 degrees Fahrenheit--but yoga is like life. No really--don't leave--listen: it's like life in that yoga is just a bunch of choices. I can choose how hard I'm going to let it be. I can choose to sit out Standing Head to Knee if I want. I can choose to only go halfway into Half Moon. I can choose what kind of a practice I'm going to have.

Problem is, I'm one of those people who doesn't know how to take it easy in class. The class where I don't give every pose every bit of my my get-up-and-go is the anomalous one. (Skip a vinyasa? Don't be silly.) Other people in a hot yoga class are sweating a bit and look a tad fatigued. I look like I just got out of the shower and was promptly run over by a tour bus full of retirees. Like much of the rest of my life, I hurl myself full force at my yoga. I do it as if this class, this one right now, is the last class I'll ever take.

But it's not. I practice 4-6 times a week. I'll see you tomorrow; same mat, different clothes.

When people, students and [some] teachers alike, discover that although they feel just peachy, yesterday's class gifted me hams on fire, they're surprised. I'm a regular. Shouldn't I have a body that's conditioned to handle my yoga? Sure. That should be the case. If I were other people. But I didn't get what I needed from a class if I didn't push the poses to the max of what my body could handle that day. Thus, I have been sore for six years. And I'll be sore for 60 more. (Hell yes I'll be practicing yoga at 88--it's the yoga that's going to get me there!)

Today, more than any other that I can recall, the exertion on my mat left me with nada--no energy for living.

And I'm going back tomorrow.


Unknown said...

I LOVE this post.

Lisa said...

I ALSO love this post.
It was fun to see your update on the PHS blog. Can you believe it's been 11 years since we were sitting in Mrs. Brown's English class?
I wish I could be even 1/4 as committed to my yoga as you are to yours. Good for you.
I'll miss seeing you at the reunion. Keep writing.