When I hear phrases like "inner peace," "personal enlightenment," and be "the best you that you can be," my eyes involuntarily roll so far back into my head you might think I'm possessed. (Not a good look, but it makes for a great party trick.) However, when you strip away all the preconceived notions, those words hold wisdom that is surprisingly helpful. How does this relate to hot yoga, you ask?
Hot yoga is what led me to be exposed to this wisdom and take my life back. I'm not saying it will change your life too, but I'm not saying it won't.
1. Say No to Being Held Back By Injuries
This story starts when I ended my track career after a series of bad injuries and being told that my knees wouldn't be able to cope if I continued running competitively. While I was sitting in that doctor's office, images of myself at age 45 riding an electric scooter because my knees didn't work anymore came to mind.
So I started going to hot yoga because I knew there was no way in hell I wanted to rock a scooter until I was at least as old as Betty White. The more classes I went to, and the sweatier I got, the better my body felt. There is real cosmic karma to be gained from sweating out your entire body weight to the hot yoga gods.
I still can't run regularly, but I don't need to anymore because I have a new love. A love that is actually good for my body, and makes sure that I can keep kicking ass well into my retirement.
2. Kick That Anxiety to the Curb
This likely isn't surprising, but yoga in general is just as much about mental health as it is about physical health. Like many people, in our generation especially, I was a constantly anxious person. My mind was one big tangled mess of "Am I doing well enough in school?", "Do my friends actually like me?", "Maybe my life would be better if I was as pretty as that girl in my English class," and on and on and on.
Hot yoga helps me do my very best to not give a care in the world about silly things that I can't control anymore. When I'm in the position Savasana (i.e. the best part of yoga), I clear my mind by addressing each individual worry and telling it specifically to GTFO because there is nothing in my power to change it and that I have very important things to do that don't include worrying.
Then, when I'm living my life outside of the studio and I get worked up, I can tell those anxious thoughts to GTFO the exact same way I do in Savasana.
3. Good Ol' Body Confidence
There is something to be said for willingly stripping down, turning the exact shade of red as an over-ripe tomato, and getting so sweaty that you can see the individual droplets falling off your body. Oh, and did I mention you're in a room full of complete strangers too?
The thing is, once you realize that everyone else in the room is likely just as insecure about their body as you are, you start to notice your own flaws less. You become one of a whole kaleidoscope of shapes and sizes and abilities and colours, and those littles things you can't stand about your body become less important.
4. Actual, For Real Inner Peace
I know, I have officially reached maximum cheesiness capacity, but I mean it when I say hot yoga changed my life because it helped me find inner peace.
I'm not talking Kung Fu Panda inner peace here — although that would be cool AF — I'm talking inner peace in a world that constantly seems to be telling us what we should be and people we should look like and all the things we should be doing with our lives.
My inner peace is the ability to look at my life and be happy with where I am. It doesn't work all the time, but more now than ever, I'm at peace with the fact that I'm never going to be perfect. I'm at peace with the fact that I look how I look and I can't change that, and I'm at peace with the idea that I might fall off the tracks big time but it's okay because I will pick myself back up again.
Pre-hot yoga me was a hot mess. I was running my body into the ground in a ridiculously competitive sport, I wasn't happy, I was anxious 24/7, and I held deep insecurities about my body despite being in the best shape of my life.Post-hot yoga me still has a lot of sh*t going on, but now I'm exercising in a way that heals my body rather than hurts it, my worries don't control my life in the same way, and I know that I'm part of a community that doesn't care whether or not I have a thigh gap so neither should I.