By Sarah Jayne Johnson
Around four months ago, I decided that I didn’t hate myself enough and began my journey into hot yoga. Perhaps you are unfamiliar with this flop sweat observance, and if that is the case allow me to explain; it’s yoga done in a room hot enough for the floor to open into heaven’s gates. If my calculations are correct, the room is kept at 900 degrees Fahrenheit and at one point they hold a lit match under your nose while calling you a maggot (okay, maybe I hyperbolize…but maybe…I don’t…) If you are looking for a spiritual journey of mind and body coming together as one, or a “self-help” saga into how to fully allow yourself to meditate then friend, you have lifted your hind leg upon the wrong tree.
I was first referred to hot yoga by my therapist, something I am very open about. If you have never seen a therapist and are able to do so, I highly recommend it. Having an unbiased person look intimately into your life and give an opinion that isn’t your mom saying, “you are better than the competition” or you best friend saying, “I’m sure you are just over qualified” is an cathartic experience. Their offices also smell great and usually have those essential oil diffusers that probably don’t really do anything other than make you think “Wow…I am relaxed”.
The first time I went to hot yoga I was nervous for a few choice reasons, the greatest one being “What if I yack all over my mat and then my upchuck sits there boiling in the Texan heat?” Luckily, no such tragedy ensued. In fact, after getting past the physical discomfort of doing movements in the core of the sun, I was starting to feel a little more confident. I wasn’t the best by any means, but I wasn’t falling over. It was then that a movement came along during which the instructor said, “If it is within your practice to do spider, please do so now” and out of the corner of my eye I saw a lean, tan, brightly dressed woman calmly prop her body into what I can only describe as sitting pretzel style in the air. I was overcome with inadequacy, self-comparison and (obviously) a looming dehydration.
After we had all “Namaste’d” and I quietly peeled myself from the floor to retrieve my things, I wondered how that was supposed to make me feel better. My limbs were burning (literally), my heart was pounding and I felt like Linus from Peanuts dragging my ripe mat next to my riper, fly attracting body. It was only the next day as every muscle from my big toe to my ear lobe throbbed in pain, did I recognize why it was important for me to witness a trapeze artist in hot yoga; it is okay if something is not within your practice.
As a creative writing major in college, I was forced to write in styles that I was (am) dreadful at. Styles like Science Fiction, Fantasy, Murder Mystery (okay fine, I didn’t have to write a murder mystery, but I guarantee it would be no dice), styles I watched others flourish at as I wrote self-deprecating notes on the back cover of my notebook. However eventually, I realized that the point of writing (as with many things) is not to be good at every single component of it, but rather to be outstanding at portions of it. Another perhaps, even greater point of writing (as with say, pulled pork) is to appreciate it for what it is and not overthink it. I learned not to compare my writing capabilities to others’ and to instead establish my own practices and procedures. I listened and appreciated others’ stories of far off lands and scientific something or others and I am sure they (reluctantly) listened to and appreciated my stories of grocery shopping and family gatherings. Just as I am not able to suspend my body in the air like a parrot, I am not able to write every kind of story there is to write; and that’s okay.
I still go to hot yoga. I still watch the woman levitate in the air and fly around the room like a ghost and wonder “how does she do that?” The difference is that now, I look at her with a sense of appreciation and respect instead of a sense of envy or disdain. I think of how perhaps she can’t play the jaw harp as well as I can, or eat green olives in large, undisclosed quantities. I respect her for her abilities and I like to think she (especially the jaw harp) respects me for mine.
I think it is important to write (and live) for yourself and hope others find relatability in the parts they can’t do themselves. You will not write the next Harry Potter, so stop trying. The wizards won, the owls went home and Harry is drinking spiked punch in Tahiti. I will continue to write about my trials and tribulations, whether they are hot yoga or hot ham and cheeses, I WILL BE HEARD! And I encourage every writer to do the same, because I want to read what is within your practice.