If you happened to find yourself on Elliston Street tonight, and you happened to hear some maniac hollering, “I DID FULL WHEEL!!!” as her car sped past, then you heard my celebration. I’ll start from the top.
I’ve been practicing yoga, off and on for about 10 years. A few friends, a supportive teacher, and I started a yoga and pilates club at my high school my junior year and I’ve come back to yoga over and over ever since. I can remember following along to Denise Austin yoga tapes as far back as my freshman and sophomore years of high school. I had bursts of consistency in my practice during and right after college for a few months at a time, as I could afford it, but have made yoga a real priority for the past year. I’ve gone to class consistently, even on the road. I found studios from Boston to Seattle to practice in while I’m working, and take class regularly when I’m home at Kali Yuga Yoga, in East Nashville. I’ve practiced Bikram, Vinyasa, Hatha, and Forrest styles in studios from coast to coast.
A few weeks ago, Hot Yoga Nashville issued a Groupon for a month of unlimited yoga for $49. A month at HYN usually costs $165, so I bought that sucker. I started December 13, and decided to take up their challenge to do 30 days of hot yoga. Hot, because the studio is heated up to 105 degrees for each workout. Seriously hot. They posted this beneath the challenge: “See who you are at the end. It will change you. We promise.”
Days 1-4 were full of determination and excitement. I started out pretty wobbly, but quickly found some tricks to staying upright on one foot at a time while the rest of my body leaned and stretched and pulled in opposite directions. I noticed one girl in the front, with particularly good balance, would stare herself right in her eyeballs in the front mirror and tap into this incredible focus. Alright. Try to get a place in the front of class so you can focus on your eyeballs for balance. Got it.
By day 5, I found more solidity in my feet. I wobbled less, focused intensely on my pupils to keep from falling out. I might be able to pull this off.
Day 6 was a Sunday and class was at 8am. Arriving at 7:45 to get a place in the front of the room meant getting my butt up earlier than it is used to during my break from work. Daryn, now you have to get out of bed. Now, you need to put on your workout stuff. Brush your teeth. Put on a jacket. Get in the car. Turn the key. You get the idea. After an hour of hot, sweaty Vinyasa, I felt ready to conquer the day. That was a good Sunday.
Day 7, nothing terribly remarkable happened.
Days 8 and 9? Awful. Terrible. Too damn hot. I just knew that they had cranked the heat up hotter than ever. The heaters turned on DURING CLASS, for Heaven’s sake. These teachers were cruel. They didn’t crack the door open for a fresh burst of cool air. They made us hold the poses, I was convinced, for longer than normal. I grunted, moaned, and huffed my way through class. My own little rebellion. I’ll cooperate, but I’m not going quietly. I have read about certain poses bringing up some intense emotional stuff during practice, but I never really understood how yoga could make someone cry. Days 8 and 9, I cried. In class. Upside down. Crying. Sweating. Drenched. Red faced. Crying. Dealing with thoughts and feelings that only come up when you’ve spent that much time upside down, literally shaking and twisting things free. Sheer stubbornness is all that got me through days 8 and 9. And I’m glad it did, because then came Day 10.
I’m pretty claustrophobic, and there are some poses in Bikram yoga that I just don’t handle well. There are compression poses that have you upside down, pressing your forehead into your knee and your chin into your chest so that your throat is constricted and it’s intentionally difficult to breathe. The goal is to restrict the blood supply to your glands and lymphatic system so that, when you return to standing, freshly oxygenated blood rushes through those parts of the body that you have just cut off. In these poses, I’m always panicked about how the medical examiner will explain how I suffocated and died in my own cleavage. I always have to come out of the constriction poses early, what with my fear of certain death by being trapped in my sports bra and all. Day 10, I found myself halfway through the second constriction thinking I am not panicking. I have been here for some time, and I am fine. I am not going to die. This was a real breakthrough.
Days 11-13 were unremarkable, except that day 12 was Christmas Eve and I was in a yoga class, like a crazy person. Day 13 was Christmas Day, and I skipped out.
But, then I went twice on Day 14. 30 days, baby. 30 days.
Day 15, I balanced in Birds of Paradise. (Look it up, it’s pretty cool.) I’m getting better. This practice, this yoga bubble, is incredibly important. I’m beginning to feel like my mind, body, and spirit are no longer three separate parts of me that frequently are at odds with one another. Some sort of balance, a mutual understanding is taking place. These parts of me- mind, body, spirit- feel less like parts of me and more like one whole being. I feel whole. Still. In agreement within myself. Does this sound crazy? I’ve read and heard plenty about the benefits and connections you gain with disciplined practice… is that what is happening here? I cannot lose this.
Here we are today. Day 16. And today, I accomplished a major personal goal. I did full wheel. Look that up, too. It’s a beautiful pose, and I did it. I’ve watched people do this pose for years and while it never occurred to me that I wouldn’t ever be able to do it, I just never could. The intro pose for wheel is bridge, and it was nearing the end of the class and time for bridge. “Those of you going into full wheel, go for it,” my teacher said. I’ve always stuck to bridge pose, lying on my back, pressing my feet flat into the ground behind my heels and lifting my hips up into the air. Tonight, though, I thought, “Well, it’s probably not going to happen, but it can’t hurt to try. I did balance in Birds of Paradise yesterday, after all, and I didn’t know I could do that.” So I flipped my hands around flat above me shoulders, pulled up with my belly while I pushed the floor away with my hands and feet, and there I was. Full wheel!
I’m so proud and humbled and thankful I could just laugh. As a matter of fact, that’s exactly what I did after I came back to the floor. I lay there on my back and laughed. My gratitude is overwhelming.
So, that’s the first half of my journey. I’m feeling sharp, fit, thankful, focused, capable, and confident. Yoga, baby.