That the Heat would teach me about Accepting the Things you Can’t Control…
Early in my Bikram practice I was obsessed with the heat. Constantly.
“OH MY GOD! How hot is it?!”
“Is the teacher going to open the door and let some air in??? Why aren’t they opening the door yet?!”
“@*#! Is the teacher trying to kill us?!”
Generally, there would be a lot of internal Tourettes going on. If my brain was one of those TV shows where the expletives all get blanked out, it would have been broadcasting one big, long, continuous ‘bleep’. Even Chris Rock would be blushing.
And all this would usually be geared towards blaming the teacher for how hot the room was. Because surely it was their fault, right? I never took into account that the heat in the studio could vary for all sorts of reasons, from the number of bodies in the room, to the weather outside, to how I was feeling on any given day, to yes, maybe even the heating system genuinely being temperamental once in a while. Then, there was the rather obvious question – if I had a problem with the heat then why practice in it? I always came back, so I realised that my problem wasn’t the heat but my attitude towards it.
Fast forward a few years and I do feel very differently about the heat. Hot Yoga at my yoga home is the basis of my practice, mixed with Astanga and Jivamukti when I can, so on average I tend to do about 5 hot classes a week at the moment and every day is different.
Now, if I’m in a particularly hot class, yes I do acknowledge it. If someone comments on how hot it was, I’ll say, “Yeah, it was hot today”. But I don’t have that internal Tourettes anymore. Instead, I see the heat as a bit of a metaphor for accepting things I can’t change on and, especially off the mat. That doesn’t mean I always manage it, but I try. In a particularly hot, humid class, I naturally sweat even more (if that were possible!), my ability to balance is usually off, I might need to take child’s pose more often, be even more conscious of my breath… A particularly hot, humid class certainly does present more challenges. But it’s a reminder to me to be kinder to myself as I move through those challenges. How apt that I would have a particularly challenging class last week to remind me of this, just as I’d been berating myself earlier that day over something that ultimately, I could not change or control.
It was one of those really tough classes, physically and emotionally. (Ever had one of those classes where stuff comes up and you feel like you don’t really want to speak to anyone afterwards for fear that they’ll ask if you’re okay and you’ll burst into tears on the spot? Yep, one of those.) But instead of trying to push those feelings down I decided to accept where I was and just sit with those feelings until they passed. I’m so glad I did that. Because my natural disposition is pretty positive I have a tendency to expect that I should be cheerful all of the time and feel guilty if I’m not, but that’s ridiculous. It’s not real.
There is nothing wrong with accepting how you feel. That doesn’t mean wallowing in sadness if I feel sad, but I’ve finally learned that it’s healthier to acknowledge how you feel rather than fight against it, just as it is healthier to find a way to accept those things in your life that you truly cannot change than to resist and push and struggle. I look back and realise that health issues I’ve had in the past were probably linked to me doing just that. If you push those things down, I think they find a way to come out somehow in the end. In my case, it’s been physically.
Yes, that sounds obvious but it’s taken me a long while to get this lesson. And what a great lesson. Better late than never.