I’ve experienced “no way out” situations since I was a kid. I’m sure everyone has. These are situations that the only choice is to face it head on and see it through. You can’t run away or simply leave. You have to see where it takes you.
Sometimes these situations are moments where everything finally becomes a bit clearer and you have an understanding that you didn’t possess before. Other times, these “no way out” situations can be utterly humiliating, or even blaringly uncomfortable, but once you’ve gone through it you realize that you did not die. You were not even harmed. In fact you are stronger for having seen it through to the other side.
For me these situations included wardrobe malfunctions on stage in front of a live audience, lines lost as the orchestra continues on without you, meetings or long lines that seemed to never end as my patience waned, listening to my husband drone on and on about cars and why one is faster than another, auditions in which the accompanist goes off on their musical rant and leaves you behind, races in which I realize maybe 10 miles is enough why do I have to run another 3, and days in which I stare at a blank sheet of paper and wonder what in the heck I’m going to write about for the blog this week.
Now none of these were life threatening or even momentous, but in some ways these moments make up a lifetime. They were moments in which I wanted to choose to move on to a different situation, but had to see the situation through to the end. Some of the moments seemed catastrophic at the time, while others are just part of everyday life, but all of them did come to an end even though, for that moment, I felt trapped.
And this is what the hot room is preparing you for. There is a reason we want you to stay in the room for the full 90-minutes in a Bikram Yoga class. You are creating mental toughness and learning how to let go of what you think you can control. In this way when you leave the studio and you encounter a situation that makes you uncomfortable or triggers a fight-or-flight response in the body you are able to breathe and have the mental fortitude to respond instead of simply react.
Most Bikram yogis are extremely goal oriented, so when the instructor tells them the goal is to stay in the room for the entire class they make sure they do, even though, on some days, that time in the room is spent sitting or lying down to take care of themselves. But sometimes the heat gets the best of you, especially if it’s your first couple of classes, and that door looks so shiny and opens so easily. The allure of the cool air on the other side of that door calls to you and the untrained mind starts chattering about how you could just take the smallest break while the rest of the class is in Triangle Pose. Who would it harm?
Well, essentially it would harm no one. But you came to the hot room to do things you have never done before and this includes more than just the postures. The room is hot, sticky, and uncomfortable. The teacher is loud and doesn’t stop talking the entire time. You get to see what your body looks like from every single angle in fluorescent lighting. And yet you need to have staying power. You need to see the class through to the end.
There are of course reasons to leave the hot room, which include honestly having to go to the bathroom, if you are experiencing symptoms of heat stroke, or you might vomit. These are valid reasons and the teacher wants you to learn how to take care of yourself. Please leave the room and let the teacher know if you are in trouble. We are there to guide you safely through the series.
But if you are leaving the room to avoid a certain posture, to get more water, or because you are trying to escape feeling uncomfortable in the heat, you might want to analyze how these habits have crept into your practice. The person who leaves the room first is responsible for all of the people that start leaving the room after them. Don’t start the trend. Try and develop mental toughness, so you have this gift when you pass through the studio doors and into your real life.
Sitting down and taking a break is not a crime. You are not less of a person or yoga practitioner because you took a break. You are connecting to your body and knowing when you’ve had enough. Taking a break by sitting or lying down is better than fleeing the room altogether.
When you hit the hot room remember to stay there. Remember why you showed up. Start tapping into your potential and learning how mentally tough you can actually be. Yoga is a journey. Embrace every step.