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Practically speaking, there are things we are not told about the hot room. Correction: There are things we are told about the hot room that we don’t always believe.

Some are pretty straight forward.

Being still takes less energy.

Breathing through your nose calms the nervous system. Breathing through your mouth, not so much.

The water you drink before you take class supports you more than the water you drink during class.

If it hurts, stop.

Oh yes. This one. Seems straight forward. But how many times have we heard, “listen to your body” or “back off if you feel any strain” or “take rest if you need it” and instead of listening, backing off, taking rest, we’ve ignored that knowing voice, rationalized the pain, and denied ourselves relief?

I’ve heard the saying, “If you want to practice when you’re seventy, practice at seventy percent.” Sure, sure, I get it, I want that. I want to be the silver-haired yogini goddess who reaps all the body-mind-spirit benefits of decade upon decade of mindful, authentic practice. I want to trust the process and evolve and build a foundation that will sustain me beyond my current class.

But I also want progress. I want measurable improvement. I want to balance longer, kick higher, extend further. But at what cost? Dare I admit, I’ve missed weeks of yoga because I pulled my back forcing it into upward bow when I knew somewhere deep I should have stayed in savasana?

So I have two options. Continue to push, grasp, hurt (which doesn’t really add up to much). Or measure something more important.

How about this? I first started hot yoga because of my panic disorder. Along with generalized anxiety, I have full-on-hit-the-floor panic attacks. I manage with meditation, medication, and a whole lot of yoga. Until five years ago, I’d never consistently practiced in hot rooms because they are All of the Things on my check list of panic triggers. So when I had the opportunity to revise a role in a play for a west coast premiere, I reasoned with myself that if I could endure an hour in the hot room, surely I could return to the theatre and brave an hour onstage.

I had four months before first rehearsal. I went to the hot room every day. The first week I put my mat just inside the door, so close you had to step over me to enter. The second week I moved a little farther in but still had easy access to the exit. Week by week, I continued venturing. There were classes I wanted to run from, to race for the door. There were classes I was stuck to the floor in savasana, my fingers and toes going numb. Yet week by week I marveled at being able to stay in the hot room. How could I forget just being in the room was my initial goal? And staying in the room was my triumphant success? Every single day I had something to celebrate.

Attempted Eagle pose and stayed in the room. YES!

Took Child’s Pose and stayed in the room. AMAZING!

Spent over half of the class not thinking about being in the room. HUZZAH!

Truly. I want to hear that voice again. I want to remember we get to decide what is most important to measure. We get to decide if the voice at the end of our practice is bringing us pain or cheering us on.

– Kimberlee Soo