Hot yoga might just sound like a bunch of people getting super sweaty while stretching, but it’s actually a super intense workout. I recently finished 30 consecutive days of hour-long yoga classes in 100-degree heat, and the experience was groundbreaking.
I quickly learned that what my body can do is more important than how my body looks. While I improved my balance and perfected my downward dog, one of the best feelings was knowing that I could actually wake myself up at 5:30 a.m. to drag my butt to class.
Here are some of the biggest lessons I learned from my crazy month of hot yoga classes.
1. The first step is the hardest step — and the most important
Even though I was pretty much still sleeping when I stepped onto the subway, I managed to drag myself out of bed in the morning and make it to class. That was a huge accomplishment considering I’m totally in a committed relationship with my snooze button. Plus, once I got the hang of things, poses started to flow more easily and feel more fluid.
2. What your body can do is just as important as how your body looks
It’s no secret that most of us are self-conscious about our bodies. It’s only natural to feel kinda bleh when you’re looking in the mirror, but once the poses start coming to you naturally, you’ll feel like a pro no matter what your physical reflection is.
3. Practice doesn’t make perfect, and that’s totally fine
Naturally, hot yoga gets super hot, but it definitely took me some time to warm up to the idea of sweating it out in just a sports bra and leggings. Eventually, getting a good workout became more important than the image in the mirror, and that was definitely a good feeling.
4. Sometimes the thoughts that pop into our heads are merely just empty words
For a while, the same thoughts continued to pop into my head when it was time for savasana. I thought I was doing everything wrong, but eventually I realized that it was okay that thoughts were popping into my head. That’s normal, and I’m human. Once I got over this self-criticism, my practice totally opened up.
5. Being hard on yourself is a total waste of your time
Sometimes you have to just tap out and lie in child’s pose, and that’s okay. You’re not always going to have the energy to give it your all, and that applies outside of the yoga studio, too. Give yourself a break, and replace your criticism with self love.
6. Once you learn how to focus on your breath, everything will fall into place
I used to find it super annoying when yoga teachers would talk about how important it is to focus on your breath. How do you focus on something you’re literally always doing? Once you practice breath focus, though, it all falls into place. Plus, connecting to your breath makes you feel more grounded outside of the studio, too.
7. The little things add up to be a big deal
Ultimately, the little moments really make hot yoga (or any workout routine) great. The warm welcomes from the people at the studio. The new friends you make in a class. The praise you give yourself when you realize you’ve finally got the hang of it.
So jump in! Dive into hot yoga or any other workout routine that you think sounds fun. Sometimes we don’t know how much we love something until we see how much it can change our lives.