Mental and Physical Changes

I often joke that if I did not do yoga, I would be incarcerated.  I came to Pure Hot Yoga in 2007, at a difficult time in my life.  I had a career I loved, but a boss so awful that I fantasized my escape from my job daily.  I was struggling physically with plantar fasciitis, and emotionally with infertility.  I was frustrated, overweight, unmotivated, and wound too tightly to feel productive in virtually any area of my life.  On most days, for one reason or another, I was screaming inside.

My sister introduced me to the bikram method while I was visiting her over Thanksgiving.  I don't know what it was that made me take to it right away.  The kick-your-ass heat, the concept that aerobic exercise could actually be slow and challenging, or the fact that for 90 minutes I had to just deal with myself in perfect silence and stillness.  After just one class, I immediately went in search of a studio in St. Louis and was lucky to find Pure Hot Yoga less than a mile from my home.

My first class at PHY was brutal.  The room was packed, and it was hotter than I remembered feeling in the studio in Connecticut.  The instructor was a man named Angel who joked about finding ways to make yourself bleed to have a legitimate excuse to leave the room.  I struggled.  And yet, returned.  Again and again and again.  More hard classes.  More teachers that challenged me be uncomfortable and okay with it.  Initially, I found "things" that made me feel in control.  My favorite spot in the room, a posture I would skip, a prescribed number of sips of water at prescribed times.  I needed those things.  

Still, despite my efforts to do less, I found myself coming more frequently and doing increasingly more, and not just in the hot room.  I started to notice my reactions to things that would normally irritate me--inside and outside of the hot room--changing.  I found myself looking for bikram method studios on the road.  I went from a 10-class package to a 30-class package and then to a monthly auto debit.  My body changed, too.  I was leaner, longer, stronger, and more flexible.  I started to think of my body as something with parts that "worked" in connection with one another.  I craved healthier foods.  And water.  God, so much water.  

About five years ago, I made a commitment to this yoga and for the past several years I've averaged about 180 classes a year.  I aim to practice daily, but with other obligations and days spent out of town, it ends up about a class every other day.  I have celebrated special occasions--Thanksgiving, New Year's Day, my birthday, my wedding anniversary, and many more with this practice as a gift to myself.

I have an official "anniversary date", but I always think of Thanksgiving as my unofficial anniversary, which is fitting, because this yoga has taught me gratitude, and for that I am truly grateful.  It's also taught me to be patient, kind, aware, and compassionate.  To listen, evaluate, and respond deliberately and in a manner I can be proud of.  I notice when things bother me, and I also notice that I don't indulge those things.  There have been times when the calmness of my reaction has been a surprise even to me.  And I'm free--literally and figuratively.


Carol Stocks