When I first started practicing Bikram Yoga, back in 2005, I was not my biggest fan. At the time I would never have admitted this or probably even been aware of it, but it was true. At that point I had been performing all over the country, was spending very little time with my husband and family, and had lost that sense of self that had always grounded me.
If you look back at pictures from that time you probably wouldn’t even recognize me from the person I am today. I spent a great deal of time trying to stand out at auditions, trying not to look like anyone else, and ended up looking nothing like myself. My hair was short and very blonde. My eyebrows were bleached. And I was constantly trying to whittle myself down to the smallest size possible.
But I did achieve my goals. I was working more than the average actor, I booked print jobs here and there, and I had agents calling and sending me out on auditions every week. Though emotionally I was a wreck, everything externally seemed to be going my way.
My first Bikram class was much like everyone else’s in the sense that through the whole thing I was wondering, “Why so hot?” and, “Can my loose fitting yoga pants please stop sticking to my legs?” But I was getting a great detox and it might help me look even slimmer for that next audition. I continued to practice off and on for a little over a year. My husband soon started coming with me and we both began practicing about 5 times a week. This went on for about a year and a half. Then he grew bored with the practice and I wanted to branch out and try other types of yoga.
I was away from Bikram Yoga for a little over a year when I started really missing it. My first class back felt like coming home. The mirrors, the smell, the sweat – I had missed it all on my brief hiatus. Over the next couple of years it became my addiction. I was always at the studio. If I had to miss a class because of an audition I would try and squeeze it in at other studios downtown. If I were out of town doing a show, I would drive hours on my day off just for another 90 minutes in the hot room.
It was during this return to the practice that the changes truly occurred. I was coming back to myself. Everyday as I studied my postures in the mirrors I started dropping away that exterior self that all of my actor friends recognized. The short blonde hair was replaced with a rich brown color closer to my natural shade and I started growing it out to the long length I always enjoyed. I started to please myself with the way I looked instead of looking for acceptance and approval outside of myself.
The yoga was making me strong, but in ways that I’ve only now come to recognize. I was achieving better overall physical health with my constant practice and at the same time gaining mental and emotional toughness that made moving through my hectic life easier.
I started noticing the people I used to seek approval from, such as, producers, directors, casting directors, agents, critics, and fellow actors, no longer had authority over my balance and self-acceptance. Whatever their perception of me was, it was just an opinion and didn’t dictate the way I saw or treated myself. I didn’t need to be absolutely perfect in the eyes of others. I was me and that was – finally – enough.
I find it funny now when I run into old friends I used perform with and they declare they still expect to see the blonde I once was even though 3 to 4 years have passed since I last sported that look. I’m sure some of my friends from that time probably would consider my transformation into a more natural look an unfortunate dulling of my sparkle. But I know that I shed that look and lifestyle so that I can now, in my own way, truly shine.
What transformations beyond the physical have you had in the hot room?