This pose got really popular, really fast. People are ready for CHANGE in their life, and seeing it in another person resonates big time! To read the follow-up post where I talk about how to begin your practice Today This Very Day, and to see some more pictures of my progress through the life-changing experience of yoga, check out Start a Home Practice Today (with progress pictures!).
Dear Gentle Reader,
What you are about to read is the Truth about myself that would be so much easier not to share. So much easier, in fact, that I have never shared it with anyone before today. You are going to see pictures of the Old Me that I would rather stayed in the vaults of hidden darkness (better yet!! Burned in an incinerator!!). I’m willing to share them because I want you to see what happened. I want to show what hot yoga did for me.
I’ve always been chubby. No, let’s just say fat. I was always fat. I was the fat kid. There, I said it; we’re being honest, right? Nothing seemed to help. As a 12 or 14 year old, I would get up before anybody else and go outside and run in desperate circles in the yard on the side of the house where there weren’t any windows, hoping to work up a sweat before anybody knew. I put off getting my driver’s permit for years because I didn’t want to put my weight down on a piece of paper, and face the horror my family would surely feel. Dad bought a cool, fancy new scale and everyone was playing on it, weighing themselves, and I was hiding in my bedroom pretending to be busy so I wouldn’t have to get involved in the game.
Yep, I pretty much hated my body for most of my life.
By the time I reached college (I finally got my license at the age of 19), I was a pro at wearing baggy t-shirts and too-big sweatshirts to cover up the embarrasment I felt about my body. I was good at making fat jokes about myself and laughing hysterically with everybody else about them. Leading up to my wedding, I went full-tilt in the fitness arena, running every other day for up to 15 miles in a stretch, and pumping iron with professional body-builders in the college gym for a dedicated two to three hours every day, getting up at 4AM just to squeeze it in before class. The trainers put me on a strict diet, and I was excited that results were just around the corner. But despite these efforts, results were not just around the corner. My body got stronger, but the fat was happy to stay packed on top.
A few months after the wedding, a friend casually invited me to a hot yoga class with her, Bikram style. 90 minutes of vigorous asana in a room heated to 105F or more, with humidity at at least 50% or more. I had no expectations, no knowledge of what was to come, and I definitely did not envision this hot yoga becoming a part of my everyday life for the next six years, that I would go to teacher training myself one day.
I dripped, sogged and collapsed my way through class. Stand on one foot? You’re kidding, I can barely wobble on two. Stop drinking water? Lady, have you noticed how hot it is in here? Stop wiping the sweat, it’s cooling you down. Stop wiping the – listen, it’s pouring off of me in rivers, and ain’t nothing cooling in this entire room! And finally she said, to the class, “Come back tomorrow.”
Like a good girl, I came back. At the end of class, she said again, “Come back tomorrow.” So I did. I came back. And I came back again, and I came back every day for a hundred days, because by now, I couldn’t stay away.
I started alternating the classes with Baptiste-style power yoga, a faster-moving practice that sometimes is accompanied by upbeat pop music, with different poses but just as much sweating, just as much torture, and just as many tears when I finally hit the mat for a final rest. Something about this practice was changing my life.
There were no candles, no chants, no yoga speak, and no string of beads being flung in my face. But something weird was definitely happening. I started to embrace the figure I saw in the mirror, even before it started to change. I started to enjoy the poses, however imperfect they were, exploring how far my body could go each time, getting excited when I reached a breakthrough (there was always one, in every class). I started seeing muscles and shapes emerging from my body, lines and a figure that I never knew existed under there. I was confident, pleased, and I didn’t mind walking around in my body any more. I can never go back to who I was before.
Did the weight fall off overnight? No. I had to do the work. I had to put in the hours, the tears and the sore muscles, I had to lie quivering on my mat because I couldn’t stand up any more, and I had to learn to face my own self in the mirror, day after day, even when I didn’t want to. After that, after all of that, my body reacted to the first loving treatment I had given it by giving me back what I so desperately desired.
This is me, a few weeks before my life was changed by that fateful hot yoga class. This is the girl who couldn’t even stand to be in her own body on any given day. And this is me after all that crazy gym working out and self-starvation – the pictures from before would have been even worse, but I am pretty sure none of those exist because I was quite good at hiding from the camera.
Yep, that was me. Take a good hard look.
Now I’m going to show you what I looked like after hot yoga. I have to share this picture because I can’t show you what happened inside of me – in my mind, in my heart. I can’t show you how I started to enjoy being me, even before the physical change appeared. And I have to share it because sometimes, the visible, outside appearance is what speaks the loudest when we’re in a desperate place, not a lot of talk about self-acceptance.
People, change can happen. It is possible.
It’s your time now.
Your world can change. Are you ready?
Thank you to the dedicated teachers who showed up to those hot studios every day to bring a life-changing practice to somebody who needed it desperately. Thank you to the studio owners who answered emails and phone calls late into the night, and made their studio happen day after day, so people like me could show up and have their world explode with possibility before their very eyes. Thank you to everyone who made it possible for me to go on and get my teacher training, so that I, too, can now bring this empowering, revitalizing, life-giving practice to others who, like me, are desperate for something to change. Thank you to you, for reading this, and starting to change your world and your body for a better purpose.
Professional photography by Urban Utopia Photography, a Seattle-based photographer who travels the country periodically to shoot different states. Usage of these pictures is thanks to her generosity and kindness, as she donated the digital rights for the purposes of this post.