Let's get one thing straight: I am not an "exercise person." In fact, if I was dating some smart, hilarious, darling and hot dude who was otherwise perfect but had a penchant for enthusing about his early morning gym regimen, I probably wouldn't call him again. Overtly healthy people annoy me, maybe because they have an irksome way of making me feel guilty that my favorite leisure activities involve a glass of wine and a Parliament Light. OK, OK, I wasn't always exactly a lazy slouch: I was a serious ballet dancer until the age of 18, and I ran and practiced some yoga in college. But since moving to New York almost a decade ago, let's just say my workout history can best be summed up as "slightly cloudy with a chance of pizza."
So how the hell did I become the kind of person who is highly optimistic about doing one of those disturbing-sounding hot yoga for 30 days challenges?
When it comes to realizing that you should actually do more physical activity than lift a cigarette or a burrito to your mouth, I don't know what that tipping point is for you personally. For me, it was a summer of house guests and hostessing, which involves a lot of food and beverage and very little taking care of yourself or "me time." So, recently, even though we had what was approximately our seventh visitor in four months, I carved out 90 minutes of time in the evening to steal away to a Bikram yoga class I found via Google. I'm not sure what came over me. I think I just needed a place to hide out.
Even people who are completely comfortable with yoga have reservations about Bikram. "It scares the sh*t out of me," is a pretty standard refrain. That's because the class takes place in a room heated to 105 degrees with something like 50 percent humidity and the 26 postures are seriously challenging enough to make you curse like you really mean it. You are sweating profusely out of pores you never knew existed before the first 20 minutes of the class have even gone by. You get dizzy. You get nauseous. Some people panic. You slip and slide. After, you're sore down to the tiniest muscles surrounding your ribs. Torture, right?
Only for some crazy reason, I didn't see it that way. Yes, I got dizzy and had to sit down a few times. It was absolutely annoying and uncomfortable to be surrounded by insanely hot, humid air. My heart pounded so hard that I wondered if anyone had died during a class. (As far as the internet knows, no, no one has.) Because, despite all those superficial roadblocks, it felt really, really good. And don't get me started on how rad it feels to stroll out into a cool night feeling all smug about your accomplishment afterward.
You could say that people love Bikram so much because it's so freaking horrifying they get addicted to how great they feel after the class when it's all finally over. I have to admit that was my original hypothesis. But after doing it religiously for a few weeks-I simply haven't wanted to stop-I can say that there's a lot more to it than that. Not only has class become way easier (the heat, the poses, all of it), I'm a bit sad, or rather, could keep going when it ends, which I know is a totally vomit-inducing statement, but trust me, it was a shocking and pleasurable revelation. Maybe there is something to be said for positive thinking? And while I still feel elated from the feeling of endorphins and blood pulsing through my body after, I've also noticed that it creates some sort of physical equilibrium-lately, my body craves vegetables and fruits and coconut milk, not cheesy, meaty Mexican food. My skin looks better. I stand up straighter. I have more energy. I feel good.
So since I love it so much I wanna marry it and stuff, I took a seemingly logical next step: Those familiar with Bikram know that studios encourage you to do a 30-day challenge and offer incentives like free classes if you complete the period. A month ago I thought this sounded like the most insane, impractical, inconvenient and most offensively goody-goody exerciser thing to do ever. But suddenly, it seems like a doable goal. I realize that it will take sacrifice: It takes extra time to wash my sweat-soaked yoga clothes every day and pack them; I have to work extra diligently in the office to make sure I'll be able to make it to my evening class on time; I can't drink because you really can't do it hung over; and I have to drink lots of water all day and regiment my food intake-not too long before class so I have enough energy, not two hours before so I don't get sick to my stomach. Any money I would've normally put aside for fall clothes or other indulgences will pay for classes instead. Have I joined a cult? Maybe.
No one likes a gloating Gussy, and I certainly hope you're not getting the impression that that's my motivation here. For some reason, yoga people are especially infuriating. (Eat Pray Love drove me nuts, ugh.) I'm just so genuinely happy about the whole g----- thing-we tend to be so self-destructive, especially as work hard/play hard New Yorkers, that these types of moments happen rarely. I've tried to share the love with friends. Amelia says she's coming to try it tonight (yay!), and obvs, she'll do great-after all, she survived surf camp. That said, I seriously hope she fares better then my best pal who hated it so much I don't think she'll ever set foot in a yoga studio-heated or otherwise-again and now I feel terrible for recommending it to her. The point is, it's not for everyone. And if you're already the type who eats well and goes to the gym on a regular basis then good for you, you've got a gene that I certainly don't possess and you're probably all like, "Wow, you discovered exercise, way to go genius." I guess what I'm trying to say is, if you're not that person, then keep looking. For some of us, the only way to find pleasure in working out and making healthier choices and sticking to it isn't because you want to lose weight or feel you ought to but simply because you found a way to love it. I think I'm getting there.
Of course, I'm only on my second day of the completely uninterrupted month soooo, you know, keep ya posted .... Has anyone done this before? I'd love to hear any and all tips.--Erin Flaherty for The Frisky
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