November 16, 2012

Hot Yoga - Day 1

From the time I woke up in the morning I was anticipating my first hot yoga class. I was full of nerves, fear, and a little excitement at the thought of it. To be clear, I was always against this "newer" form of yoga. I had heard physiotherapists call it their "business plan" as the injury rate would go up after the installment of the newest Bikram's Yoga studio. Exercising in the heat, when one isn't used to it, can have negative effects on the body and reports of taking a pose to extremes due to this heat (leading to injury) was common.

Why did I finally succumb? After all my bitching and ranting about the evils of this type of yoga, why would I ever consider joining a class? Desperation my friend...desperation. I have struggled with chronic low back pain all my life, but over the past 4 months, it has increased dramatically. It has effected my mood, my relationships, and especially, my activity level. My workouts were all about spinning and resistance training, but they were just making the tight muscles tighter and not attending to the others. I was strengthening my imbalances and my pain was/is getting worse. I would love to find something challenging, effective, and balanced...hence my decision to give this class a try.

Don't get me wrong, I researched the crap out of it. I went onto Google and surfed the websites for comments, stories, suggestions, and the pros and cons of such a class. THEN...I surfed "Scholar" Google to look through the academic literature.  Here's what I came up with....

Studies suggest yoga (no matter what type) is a good option for someone with chronic back pain. In addition to this, can reduce depression, increase strength and cardiorespiratory as well as improve posture and a sense of well being (um...you had me at "hello"). I didn't come across a study that warned of the evils of Bikram's only a few warnings and suggestions for the newbie. Of course, you have to attend to the fact it is hot and you have to prepare yourself for your first session. Here's what I read (and did)....

1. I drank my body weight in water all day before my 7:30 class.
2. I brought two towels, a matt, and water bottle (next time I'm bringing two water bottles and loading them with ice)
3. I underestimated my abilities the entire class. My goal was just to sit in the heat as long as I could. I laid flat when I felt like it, I chose not to do certain poses, and I gave myself permission to leave after 60 minutes if I needed to.
4. I focused on my breathing and visualiation the entire time. I visualized calm and healthy...it worked!

I lasted for the entire 90 minutes without feeling nauseous or dizzy. However, I did go home with a headache and proceeded to make a fruit smoothie with peanut butter. I was absolutely soaked after the class was over and very aware of the loss of electrolytes (I was dripping electrolytes everywhere!) so the next time I go, I'm bringing something for after class. It has been suggested that coconut water is a good choice, but I may just grab some Gatorade or something. You could even dilute a juice and add a pinch of salt and you have your recovery drink.

So what did I think of it? While I am still recovering from it today (I still feel like a dried out raison and have a slight headache) here are my thoughts....

The first thing that struck me was the lack of body conciousness in all participants. Having been in the fitness industry all my life, I saw nothing but skinny minnies in spandex and the rest in big t-shirts hiding their bodies from the world. This studio was filled with old and young, all heavy set women wearing body bearing outfits from, what looked like bathing suits, to bra tops and short shorts. I had seen nothing like it. Although I felt self-concious having to look at myself in the mirror, I knew if I hung out with these people long enough, that would soon change...and THAT's worth going for. I want to let it all hang out and think nothing of it!

The instructor was very inclusive and very aware it was my first time. The participants were more welcoming than any fitness class I have attended. They appeared to want me there and want me to stay. Each offered their own beginner experiences and provided me with useful tips to survive my first class. I felt welcomed. Why isn't the fitness industry like this? I remember joining a local fitness gym in my new small town without even a notice from the desk staff (except when it came to money), a nod from the fitness leaders, or a friendly look from the participants. Everyone appeared angry and not wanting to be there or always comparing themselves to others. Compared to the Bikram's studio, the fitness center was exhausting.

I lasted the entire class. Good for me. I felt like I accomplished something. The poses appeared to defy gravity and human biomechanics, but if they can do it so can I.  What I didn't expect was the aftermath. I hadn't read a lot about this so I'm passing it on to the potential hot yoga newbies out there.

I went directly into the washroom to fill my waterbottle and a wave of nausea came over me and I knew I had to sit or I would faint. I sat on a bench and drank two full bottles of water before moving. It took me about 20 minutes before I started getting ready to go. When I got home, I instantly made a smoothie and sat on the couch for a while. I can't describe the feeling, but it was similair to how I felt after running the Victoria 1/2 marathon. I was dealing with a headache that, over night turned into a slight migraine (I'm partial to them though). It was nothing that a headache pill and more water didn't cure.

Today, although my yoga instructor suggested every day for a while, I'm going to take it easy and continue to hydrate. I will do some light physical activity and stretching and go back for another hit tomorrow. Overall, I enjoy the challenge and feel like I have worked my entire body (inside and out). I know I will get used to it and become more flexible. Perhaps this is the challenge I have been searching for. The best part is, I'm surrounded by positive people who want me there and appear to be sharing the same ....love? interests? passion? desires? philosophy? If I were looking to meet more people in this town, I've picked the right place.

Now...I must pee again (for the 243rd time today).

K

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