I never got the connection. Yes, I love how hot yoga makes me feel: strong and exhausted, yet refreshed. But the only date I have after yoga class is with a shower.
Until a hot yoga session on January 1, 2016 changed my mind.
8:15. My watch alarm beeps and I reluctantly roll out of bed. Dig through my hamper of clothes for a tight workout shirt and shorts (sweat = a dangerous slip n' slide if you aren't careful!). Grab my yoga mat, yoga towel, water and flip flops. Head out the door.
8:40. I arrive at the yoga studio, staring at dismay at the row of cars already parked. I suppose I was too idealistic in thinking I was the only yogi who hadn't ended 2015 with an alcoholic bang. I end up staking my mat territory a few inches from the front mirror.
I could lie and say I chose that spot from confidence or a strange desire to smile at my non-hair-brushed-face-washed self in the mirror. Honestly? I just liked knowing I wouldn't be surrounded by strangers on all sides.
9:03. Class begins. Lisa, a young instructor with long brown hair and a soothing voice, starts our practice in child's pose. As usual. Then the heat cranks up; jazz music fills the room; and we raise onto our tip toes. Chair pose. Airplane. Crescent. Warrior three. Plank. Shavasana. Even as I focus on balancing on one leg, my eyes are drawn into the mirror.
My dad and I usually practice in the back. Mostly out of convenience - it's usually roomier, there's no one behind to accidentally kick, and it's near the door for a slight (but extremely nice) breeze. But, as my feet balance on purple rubber and my eyes hit the mirror, I see the appeal of the front row.
I see beauty.
In how my hair escapes from its loose pony tail, locks damp with sweat and room-controlled humidity.
In how I can smile even while holding poses - like crow, shavasana, or boat - that I couldn't reach months before.
Or how, after we turn to face away from the mirror, I can peek between my legs to see my upside-down face and rows of butts, high and haughty.
My practice wasn't - and never will be - perfect. But, as strange as it seems, that's the beauty of hot yoga. Seeing dozens of strangers - of all different shapes, ages, and skill levels - rooted in the same reverse warrior. Hearing loud, ujjayi (nose) breathing and not knowing if it belongs to you or your neighbor.
For the New Year's Day practice, Lisa encouraged participants to go beyond superficial 2016 goals and into the purpose behind them. No, "get a bikini body." Yes, "properly nourish my mind, body, and heart."
As I felt the tickle of sweat dripping down my legs and face, all I can think is, "I want to find bliss." Not just in my situation in life by looking for the positive and chasing opportunities that would truly make me happy. But also by accepting myself - my flaws, bad habits, medical issues, etc.
10:00. With the lights dimmed and hands by heart, the yogis and instructor bow slightly, saying, "Namaste." I roll up my mat, fold my towel, wipe my forehead and grab my shoes so I can drive home.
I can't say that hot yoga magically turned me into a supermodel just in time for 2016. (Or, equally beautiful, arranged for a Chipotle burrito bowl to be waiting at my doorstep). But, I started this new year by smiling.
By acknowledging that, however I feel like my body is "misbehaving" that day, I'm strong. I'm learning. And - in poses that evoke chuckles, sighs or a grimace - I'm beautiful.
Hot yoga may not give everyone a "hot body." But, maybe hot body image isn't too far of a stretch. (First pun of 2016!)
*Also found at RunningwithSpoon's Link party!*
Have you ever had an epiphany during yoga? How did you kick off 2016? Comment below!