By Koreen Clements
Why did you come to your first hot yoga class? Had you heard someone else talking about it and was intrigued? Maybe you simply walked by the studio and had a brief thought, 'hmm, I wonder what's that like?'. Or maybe a friend brought you along to a class because it was something you just had to try.
For me I knew I needed to make changes in my life, but I didn't know how. After three years of doing nothing, I had put on some weight and was struggling to do up my jeans in the morning. I had read a story about a lady who had done a 60 day Bikram challenge and cried at the end of it. There was something in her story that called to me and said, you need this too.
What got me through the studio door was the promise of losing a few pounds and feeling good in my body again. Having done several half-marathons and a half-Ironman, I was up for a good challenge and feeling cold a lot of the time, the heat sounded like an ideal way to be warm for a change.
And it was indeed a challenge - about halfway through the first class, I thought it possible that I just might die on that rented mat, a hot sweaty mess. Yet somehow I made it through and peeled myself off the mat and was hooked. Not only did I realise how out of sync with my body I was - stand on one leg for 1 minute, hold my arms at shoulder height for another - felt like the equivalent of climbing Mt Everest - but for the first time in years, whilst lying in savasana, I found a bit of peace in my head.
A pause in the mental chatter of all the reasons why I wasn't good enough. Why my marriage failed because I should have been smarter, prettier, thinner, neater, funnier, wealthier than I was. How I needed to write more papers, get more funding, do more research to be a better academic and deserve my fellowship. And just for a few minutes I got glimpses of something else - that I was enough as I was right then.
And over the months I went from hiding in the back row, not wanting to see my reflection in the mirror, to being in the front row, focused on my breath that the rest of the room could have disappeared for all I was aware of them. It was a gradual process of accepting myself as I was, of appreciating the body I had, rather than wanting it to be different, of acknowledging that even though I made mistakes, I was doing the best I could at the time and now, knowing differently, I could make new choices.
Don't get me wrong, it wasn't an easy transition. At the start I applied the same rigorous criteria to my yoga practice. Each day I researched and studied a different pose and how to do it right and practiced it in the class. I experimented with different breathing exercises to see what would help. I joined a Yoga Competition Crew and pushed myself through a regime of exercises designed to make my practice better. If only I could do yoga perfectly, then my life would be perfect too.
The Bikram world was ideal for Type A personalities and so it wasn't until I discovered Yin yoga that I truly found healing at a deeper level, although it was very much a love hate relationship at first. My shoulders and especially my hips did not want to do the poses. My brain would scream at me - you can't make me do this, I'm not going to, I hate you - yet under it all was sadness and the fear of being alone because I wasn't good enough. By constantly berating myself to shape myself into someone's ideal, then I could control my world and feel more secure.
After over a year of a regular hot yoga, yin yoga and meditation practice, I thought I had my life sorted. I was happy, I was content and felt on track. I was moving to England to get married and become a yoga teacher, but somewhere over the Snake Pass on the drive from the airport to Sheffield I descended into misery. I was desperate - to redo the house and began painting before the jet leg wore off - so I could control all the little things and not feel out of control by the big things of moving across the world, getting remarried, leaving academia.
It wasn't until six weeks later that I discovered Ashtanga yoga, another strong regimented physical practice that got me out of my head and back into my body and the present moment again, that I could appreciate the good I had, acknowledge my fears, and accept that I was enough. That I could go with the flow and know deep down that all was well.
During the Deepen Your Practice Yoga Day, I will take you through what I consider to be the key elements for each type of hot yoga we teach at HYS (Vinyasa, Hatha & Yin). You'll learn a physical and spiritual key for each style. You'll go beyond what does a pose look like, to how does it feel in your body and what is the effect you want it to have on your life.
It's taken me over eight years to get to this place and I would have loved for someone to have given me these keys when I was beginning my yoga journey because it would have helped to ease a lot of heartache along the way.
All my love,