I was introduced to a friend of a friend back in February 2016, the friend insisting “You’re both fabulous, Jules is back from Australia and opening a hot yoga studio near you, you’ll completely hit it off” and we did, and I was intrigued, however my experience of hot yoga extended only to reading about it. On a sun lounger. In Dubai.
This was something that ‘other’ people did was it not? Really fit people, the ones in magazines or YouTube with long, elegant limbs, perfectly toned walnut coloured flesh, wearing teeny tiny tops, swinging fabulous sun bleached pony tailed hair, stepping on to the mat with the serenity and precision of a prima ballerina crossed with a blissed out unicorn, pressing their perfectly manicured hands together – “Namaste.” The beautiful people of LA, the supertrendy of Shoreditch, not the unbendy peely wally of Stirling?
This was not me. I live life at 600 miles an hour, I eat on the run, I don’t sit down, I juggle various PR contracts with bringing up a teenager (on my own), do the odd bit of writing and regularly cancel friends because I know I’m not going to make it or because I have to go lie down in a dark room somewhere. I’m a stressball. I move fast, I do everything fast because then it gets done and I can move on to the next thing. And so and and so on.
I just wasn’t a chilled out yoga type and oh my goodness the other thing, that fear of walking into a class. Despite having an extrovert job, I’m an introvert and the idea of walking into a room full of people I don’t know, yoga mat under one arm, friendly half wave with the other (“Hi…”) terrifies me, never mind walking into a room of people where I have to strike various awkward poses for an hour and then, get this, lie still and mediate for ten minutes. All of that is a complete butt clencher for me.
But I did it once and it changed my life.
I felt something I had never felt before. I felt completely nurtured, totally precious, a 100% full to the brim feeling of ‘I love me’, calm, peaceful, centred, completely elated and a little bit like I was orbiting the earth in a purple glittery spaceship.
I had spent 50 minutes, which disappeared in a flash, moving from one pose to the next, all under careful instruction (which helps me, as if you show me something and demonstrate ‘how to do this’, I’ll get it wrong as I’ll be so focused on watching you I’ll get my left and right mixed up and I’ll be like the girl falling over playing ‘Twister’), with some lovely chilled background music and my attention focused on only one thing. Holding the pose, leaving the pose, getting into the next pose and so on, until the session has ended and you lie for ten minutes with your eyes closed, feeling the weight of your body sink into the floor and your mind travel to another place in the glittery spaceship.
It’s hot, but not unbearably so, and as the session progresses, you can feel your body become more flexible and you’re able to get deeper into the poses. You sweat, so you remove the toxins that have built up in your muscles and system, so when you’re done, you feel like you’ve been born again – totally renewed (or “brand new” if you live in Glasgow!). I was so elated that I had survived the class (why wouldn’t I?) and I knew as I pulled my hoody on afterwards that I had found something that I would get right into. Not a passing fad or something I would do for a few weeks. I did it religiously (and still do) every Friday night at 6.30pm and I try to squeeze in another session during the week. Lately I’ve been doing five a week. I would go every day if I could. I have replaced other past vices with yoga. Smoking for one. I didn’t try to give up smoking. It was something I just never wanted to do again having embraced the world of yoga. Smoking was only something I ever did because I thought Madonna looked cool doing it in Desperately Seeking Susan (I know – so uberlame…).
Yoga’s addictive but in a healthy way. Everything that hot yoga has brought into my life in the past year has been positive and negativity has been kicked to the kerb. Doosh!
Top 10 reasons why hot yoga will change your life
1. The yoga buzz
Nothing gives you the feeling that hot yoga gives you. Yes exercise releases endorphins and gives you a happy rush and yes, there are lots of other highs in life that we enjoy as part of our daily lives, push boundaries to achieve or find in less healthy ways. Once you’ve felt it you will go back every week and you will make time to do it.
2. Being in the moment
When you’re doing hot yoga, you’re focused entirely on the moment. Nothing else exists, other than you, your body, your mind, the heat and the voice guiding you through the poses. We’re told constantly to ‘switch off’ from our stresses. Not so easy – it’s hard to train the mind to stop thinking. During hot yoga, nothing else exists apart from you, your mat, the poses and your instructor’s voice.
You will become a lot more flexible, very quickly and you’ll want to keep going back to get better at the poses. You’ll see progress just a few weeks after you begin and before you know it, your body will be doing things you only see on Instagram. I didn’t ever think I’d be able to do Camel Pose. I do Camel Pose…
4. You own it
It’s yours and you can’t be beaten. You can never have a bad yoga session, so you will never leave feeling disappointed, like you could have done better or that you’ve failed. We’ve all had a rubbish run huh? Not possible with hot yoga – you win every time and you feel proud of your body and mind.
For less than £10 a session, you will leave feeling like you’ve had a two week holiday in the sunshine with a spa treatment every day. You will be completely stress free, glowing and on a higher level. Nothing will bring you down.
You will sleep the deepest sleep you’ve ever slept. Not just the night after your session, but every night. Your mind will start to become calmer. Your mental focus will be better during daytime.
7. Body tone and posture
Your body will stand taller, everything will firm up a little, your arms and legs will feel longer and more toned, you’ll move more gracefully – you will feel like a superunicorn!
8. Immune system
Because of the compression poses you do, followed by poses which release fresh blood into the system and all your organs, your immune system will be strengthened and you won’t get run down. As someone who got run down regularly, suffering constantly from colds and a general feeling of ‘under the weather-ness’, I became really strong and healthy since I started almost a year ago. I haven’t had a cold or sickness bug once, despite my son bringing all manner of things back from school.
9. Weight loss
This is one of the best cardiovascular workouts you can get. You will burn calories and stimulate your metabolism through stretching your muscles and compressing your internal organs. It’s like pressing the ‘on’ switch with everything in your body.
10. Healing your body
Yoga can help to heal old injuries and also reduce the symptoms of diabetes, asthma, high blood pressure, depression, arthritis and obesity. The mental boost that you get from yoga stays with you and you’ll find that your approach to life starts to change.
So in what ways did hot yoga change my life? Well, I gave up my Friday night (large) glass or two of wine, because I do hot yoga for an hour, come home, drink a gallon of water, eat something green and healthy and go to bed (ok, occasionally I go out for a couple of glasses of wine…). It’s not rock n’ roll, but hey, we’re not living in the 90s anymore. We’re all about looking after ourselves. I watch what I eat in that I have become more body and gut aware in the past year and I know for me that wheat is a no-no, alcohol is pretty much a no-no (ish) and sugar is as bad as cigarettes. I used to be an insomniac, now I sleep well all of the time. I am more chilled out in my mind – the things that used to bother me now don’t.
Yoga has given me perspective and a lot of strength to remove negative things in my life and introduce more positive things (and people) to my life and I hold it all very dearly. And my body has changed. I look better, I’ve lost weight and I’m toned and strong.
Yes, I’m a hot mess, but not the kind I used to be.
I’m a happy hot mess.
Thank you Jack and Jules at Heat Fitness Stirling for putting this girl on a non-return, absolutely no coming back journey to ‘hot mess-ness’ and blissed out happiness.