Life lessons on the yoga mat

I know I’ve mentioned this before, but just to reiterate: I’m not a big Bikram yoga fan. For a number of reasons, elaborated on here. But there is something about the studio in Missoula, Montana that just sucks me in (perhaps the fact that it has hardwood floors vs. carpet?). I actually look forward to going there.

Like many yoga practitioners, I’ve given almost all the different styles at least one whirl. I found my true yoga love with vinyasa flow. I never quite understood the Bikram addiction – the people who go every day, the monotony of not just the same poses but the same script for godssake, and I will come totally clean: the sweat. Because all you people who call sweating “cleansing”, I will tell you that it makes me feel dirty. In theory, I understand the benefits of sweating (love ‘Why the heat?’ on the Bikram Missoula website).  In practice, I hate it. I hate the feeling of sweat dripping in my eye or running down my back. I am the person who always gets yelled at in a Bikram class for wiping my sweat. And sweating without a towel nearby makes me downright panicky.

As we are visiting family in Missoula for Christmas, I made it part of my plan to head to Bikram class each morning. I always get a little nervous preparing, making sure I have proper towel-age and a sweat controlling headband. I just can’t do the shorty shorts, but I do wear my most lightweight capris. But this time it was more than the sweat prep that was making me nervous. The last time I attended a Bikram class, I wrenched my back. At the time, I vowed I would forsake Bikram forever. I lay awake last night, thinking about the particular pose that did it. This morning I had butterflies in my stomach. As I headed out the door, a family member said, “have fun!” I let out a nervous laugh in response. Why was I doing this??

I realized that I had something to prove. I had to prove to myself that it wasn’t the pose. When I wrenched my back emptying the dishwasher, I did not vow to forsake it. I had to get over this mental hurdle, and before the end of 2013, dammit! As I lay on my back with my eyes closed before class, I had this vision of waves. And I felt myself being swept along by the waves, allowing them to move me where I needed to go. And this felt really good, because I wasn’t fighting them.

We spend a lot of time fighting things we can’t really control. If you go to a Bikram class, you can’t fight the sweat. Why bother going if that’s what you’re going to do? It wasn’t the pose, it was the fight that wrenched my back. The teacher came in, we all stood up. And for the first time in my Bikram history, I did not fight the sweat. It came in waves, and it was all good.

I keep thinking about the waves, and how to extrapolate this lesson to other areas of my life. Thanks yoga, for life lesson number I’ve-totally-lost-count. Namaste.