I’m pretty sure that yesterday was the 87th class I have taken in the past 87 days. That’s what the count at the studio (Bikram Yoga Pittsburgh) tells me, at least. I’ve stopped counting, and almost don’t want the time to come to an end. Not that it hasn’t been difficult to keep going every single day. Often I don’t want to go, and often I’m dragging myself down to the Strip. Often I walk in there feeling low and cranky and tired. But I never leave feeling that way. I always feel better afterwards, no matter how the practice has gone.
It is different every day. Sometimes the studio is extra hot. Just a few days ago I thought I was having a heat stroke and seriously wanted to leave the room. My face turned bright lollipop red. My heart pounded like a hammer, even in sivasana, and would not slow down. I hated it. I complained a lot in the locker room afterwards.
I stopped bringing water in to the room with me weeks and weeks ago. I can stand it when I’m thirsty, but I still hate it when I’m too hot. I don’t mind the sweat, but I do not enjoy the sensation of boiling blood.
Still, even such dreadful situations teach me something useful. The aim of bikram yoga is not to torment yourself, or to push yourself beyond your endurance, but rather to do as much as you can do while breathing. The aim of bikram yoga, as far as I am concerned, is to breathe more effectively, as well as more efficiently. It is always better to sit out a pose or to back off until I have regained my equilibrium, because I can’t benefit from the posture if I’m forcing myself through it like a rag doll on marionette strings.
I named this post “reconnecting with my stomach” because I have started to wear tops that expose my midriff. Not so much because I think my belly is so beautiful. Indeed it is not. But seeing it helps me to suck it in, which improves the pose, strengthens my muscles, and better supports my spine. Having to witness my stomach in all its rounded and mottled moods also helps me to remain more conscious of my eating and drinking outside of class.
But I am also learning to be more accepting of my Rubenesque imperfections, also known as cellulite.
Yes, I still look longingly at the lithe, long and slender bodies of the younger women in class, and wish that I could recapture the lines of my younger self. But here I am, at 50, still quite strong, and getting stronger, and healthy, thank goodness, and awake, and waking. And it is just fine.