My First Experience with Hot Yoga

I want to start off by saying that weight lifting will always be my first love when it comes to fitness. And when I say love, I mean it - I LOVE lifting weights. And when I say first, I mean that too - if you would have told me 5 years ago that I would love and look forward to anything fitness related, especially lifting weights, I would have called you crazy. My blog is at times very focused on lifting because that's what I love, and it's my blog, so you gotta deal with it. At times I know it can seem like I'm pushing weight lifting as the premiere form of exercise, and that's really not my goal (although admittedly, I do think weight lifting has tons of benefits both physically and mentally that people don't realize, and I am dead set on breaking some of the stereotypes related to women lifting weights). With that being said, I understand weight lifting should not be my only form of exercise. Cardio and stretching are also important components of a healthy body that unfortunately don't always play as big of a role in my life as they should. With that being said, I decided to go on a quest to be a more well-balanced, healthy individual.

A couple weeks ago, I was at a conference in French Lick, Indiana. There I met a woman who was super into healthy living. As you may know from my prior blogs, I often feel like people focused on healthy living deal with a lot of negativity in regards to a healthy diet and frequent exercise, as if those are bad things (lots of "oh my god, why do you eat so healthy? you're already small" comments). My friends in Tampa don't understand this (because why would you ever be negative to someone trying to better themselves?), but apparently Indiana is one of the top 10 unhealthiest states, so I guess it makes sense. Anyway, it was so refreshing to have this positive conversation with someone who also lives an active, healthy lifestyle. She was a 30 something year old pescetarian and self-proclaimed yoga snob. I wanted to be her best friend. We talked about moving from bigger cities to small towns, and how difficult it can be to leave your beloved gym or yoga studio for something that doesn't quite cut it (this is the part where I quietly praise the DePauw Lilly Center for having community passes. My mental health and emotional well-being thanks you, sincerely). Anyway, she was telling me about her love for hot yoga, and all of the awesome yoga studios she used to frequent when she lived in Bloomington. "You NEED to try it!" she gushed, "you would just absolutely love it!"

She definitely piqued my curiosity so I began looking for hot yoga studios online. I was 100% certain Greencastle wouldn't have one (I was right, no surprise there), but I was hoping the town where I work might. Strike number two. The closest studio was called Indy Hot Room in Indianapolis, about an hour away. My friend Elizabeth and I were planning a girls day in Indianapolis the next weekend: lunch, massages, manicures, the whole nine yards. I decided to ask if she'd have any interest trying out a hot yoga class with me in the morning before the rest of our day started. She was down so I signed us up.

During my drive there, I started to feel a little nervous. I am NOT flexible, in any sense of the word. I had been to one yoga class prior to that, which shouldn't even count. It was not in a "true" yoga studio, rather a facility that offered various group classes, but specializing in none (do I sound bitter? I might be). I won't go into too much detail, other than the fact that I was painfully aware of how bad I was at yoga, mostly because the instructor kept pointing it out. I left thinking "Well, that was embarrassing but I tried it and now I know I never need to try it again". I shared this experience with my new friend from French Lick, to which she replied "oh my god, I've been to places like that after I left Bloomington. They're not real studios!!! I know I sound like a total yoga snob, but I don't care. You need to try it again at a real place".

Her encouragement left me feeling optimistic, yet still nervous. Knowing I can't even touch my own toes, I wondered "Will they judge me? Can I do this? What if I pass out? What if I can't stand the heat? Is this a proper outfit?" I really didn't know what to expect. Luckily the website gave some pretty good instructions on what to bring and how to prepare. I made sure to eat my normal breakfast and drink plenty of water. I brought my yoga mat from the basement (used only to do abs at home), a towel and my bottle of water. They also asked that even if you can't keep up, try not to leave the room at any time, just rest in child's pose or whatever is comfortable. I pulled up to the yoga studio as the prior class was just exiting. The girls were drenched in sweat. I thought "oh god, this must be intense. I don't think I can do this".

I walked into the studio and immediately bought into the whole idea of it. My nerves were gone. Between the new class arriving and the prior class leaving, the studio was buzzing with positive energy. Outfits varied from leggings and tank tops to yoga shorts and sports bras, but the general feeling of confidence and oneness with their bodies was consistent among all. A lady next to me tapped her husband on the shoulder and said "hun, we should grab another coconut water for the road". I was like yes, coconut water, that sounds so refreshing. Mental note: don't forget my coconut water on the way out. I walked up to the register and prepared to pay the $20 for my single class, only to find out it was their Spring Open House and all classes were free that day! In addition they were running a special - one month unlimited classes for $39. I figured after I put the $20 I brought for today's class toward it, I was really only paying $19 for unlimited classes. Sure it was an hour away, but even if I only made 3 classes on Saturday mornings, I'd get my money's worth. I decided I better wait till class was over to see if I survived it or not. 

I entered the hot room and immediately was hit with a wave of heat, hence the name, right? The room felt.. toasty, in a good way; similar to how I turn the heat in my car all the way on high in the winter, or how I turn the space heater in my office on high in the middle of the summer. For someone who enjoys being warm, I felt quite comfortable. I looked around the room and observed my surroundings. People of all ages, shapes, and sizes were present. Everybody seemed in the zone. Class began and before I knew it, I was drenched in sweat. My hair was soaked, sweat was dripping off my body, and I started to understand the reason for a towel over my mat. The instructor was awesome and encouraging, and able to give feedback in a way that didn't put me on the spot or make me feel embarrassed. I couldn't do half of the poses, but nobody cared. Everybody was there on their own journey and focused on themselves. The class was 75 minutes long, but I never reached a point where I was wishing it would end. The whole experience is kind of hard to describe. I was TERRIBLE at it - and I LOVED it. It was challenging, frustrating, taxing, exhausting, and exciting and rewarding in all the best ways. I'm used to leaving a work out thinking "I crushed it" but when I left hot yoga, I thought "that destroyed me". Needless to say, I was hooked and I signed up for the monthly special. I have attended 2 more classes since, and have 10 more classes on the books before my month runs out. All 3 classes have given me a different experience, which is another reason I love it. It's an hour drive, but I enjoy it enough to attend 13 classes in 30 days. I also enjoy it enough to swap out a couple of my regularly scheduled lifting sessions for hot yoga nights (which says A LOT).

In closing, I want to encourage everyone to try something new - it's not like me, but I'm so glad I did it! Don't be afraid to switch things up when it comes to your fitness! I also want to thank the Indy Hot Room for being such a welcoming environment and for restoring my opinion and experience with yoga.