Where there is desire there is gonna be a flame
Where there is a flame someone’s bound to get burned
But just because it burns doesn’t mean you’re gonna die
You’ve gotta get up and try
– Pink, Try
I started practicing hot yoga in the summer of 2011. I attended at Stafford Street Hot Yoga, a studio that offers bikram. Bikram yoga is a series of twenty six poses done in the same order with the same language every time. This consistency and militancy of this form of yoga allows me to feel the progress my body makes through continual practice, and was particularly evident my challenges with the camel pose.
The camel pose occurs near the end of the series and involves me kneeling and bending backwards to grab my ankles. I got the same benefit from bending backwards and placing my hands on my spine (because I could not bend far enough to hold my ankles). The challenges occur in articulating the movement correctly and holding the pose for long enough. When I first started practicing bikram, I could not hold the pose for its full extent. Holding the pose (along with the heat in the room) made me too dizzy and lightheaded. I would often ‘break out of’ the pose after a few seconds because I could not hold it.
One of the best things about bikram is that I do every pose in the series twice. If the pose is hard the first time, it might be easier the second time. With enough work, I found that I could hold the pose for its full duration. I still felt dizzy and lightheaded coming out of the pose, but I got the full benefits of holding the stretch: I released tension in my hip flexors and relieved pain in my back.
The frustrating thing about any sort of consistent practice is that I still have ups and downs even when I can do things well. Going into the yoga challenge I took on last year, I expected the progression in my ability with the poses to be linear: I would get better and better and once I had mastered a pose, I wouldn’t fall out of it or struggle with it, but it didn’t happen that way and I can’t ever expect it to. My yoga teacher Ivanka – who has been dancing for years in addition to teaching and practicing yoga – told me that she falls out of poses all the time. It’s okay to fall out of poses. It’s okay to struggle with yoga. People who have been practicing yoga for twenty years still find it challenging and humbling. The word ‘challenge’ is not synonymous with the word ‘negative’ and benefits of the practice far outweigh the difficulties.
I am willing – when I fall out of a pose – to get up and try.