Quest for HealingThrough Hot Yoga

I am writing this because I know that I am not the only one who struggles and I know from experience how hard it is to find healing for the wounds that we carry.

My quest for healing began in 1993 at the end of the summer after graduation when I checked myself into a Drug Rehabilitation Centre in Nanaimo. I was hurt as a child; I was abused and I have been punishing myself for it forever.

A physical result was that my hips have been locked-up, the muscles surrounding them seized, I guess from emotional trauma, and I have been injured in two car accidents from being so tight in that area. Not one health practitioner of any kind has ever been able to budge or even begin to relax this area of my body and I have tried everything: physiotherapy, painkillers and antidepressants (which were worse than having a back injury in a way), I’ve had massage of every kind from deep tissue rolfing to the gentlest touch, chiropractic adjustments, jin shin do, shiatsu, reiki, acupressure, acupuncture, I have been hypnotized and I have even been stung with live bees to promote healing in an area that I truly wished I could just shut out and ignore. Nothing has ever worked, particularly ignoring it. So many times in my life I have wondered how I was ever going to deal with this hurt that was more than just physical.

In a desperate attempt to find some solace within, I have abstained from alcohol and all other drugs for nearly two years, with some slips for which I am learning to forgive myself and I have successfully quit smoking cigarettes. I have written in a journal, read some self-help books, gone on a vision quest, taken up running, healed my dysfunctional relationship with my mother, reached out to long-lost friends and family, made a lot of apologies and even meditated for short and rather uncomfortable periods of time; anything that I thought might help. Working so hard to heal myself has been totally rewarding and maybe it was the knowledge of those rewards that made me willing to try anything, even "hot” yoga.

A friend I met in Nanaimo, someone for whom I will always be thankful, told me about his yoga class at a ‘hot’ yoga studio. What is hot yoga? Just what it sounds like; you do yoga in a room that is heated to the somewhat pleasurable and yet completely torturous temperature of 105 degrees! No, seriously. My so-called ‘friend’ Dylan signed me up for the two-day drop-in pass and my first class was one of the most exquisitely excruciating experiences of my life.

They say that the heat loosens up your fascia and so you get deeper stretches, which you do; they say that it facilitates the flushing and cleansing of toxins and you then sweat out, which you do; they say that in the 90 minutes of the class, your body circulates your super oxygenated blood through your whole body which, given the pounding of my chest and my beet-red complexion, I think it must.

What they don’t tell you is that it is an opportunity to let out all of which you have been hanging on to, I mean all of it. My head begins to pound and I feel dizzy. As I search the air for a molecule of coolness I start to lose it a bit, I take a sip of my water but it too is now hot. The towel that I have over my yoga mat is drenched with sweat and it smells in a way I have never smelled before: toxins, pouring out of me apparently!

I cried my first class, perhaps out of fear, and had to lay down for a third of it. Somehow I forced myself to go to the second, it’s no mistake that they charge you for two classes right at the start! But then my second class was way easier and I signed up for two more weeks. There is a point in every class where I feel like I can’t make it and I have one thought that enables me to go on, it is: "well I’m not actually dying”. I keep going. It was after my fifth class that the most amazing thing happened; I was bending down and my back popped with a kathunk! sound that was so loud it just about reverberated off of the walls. My hands flew to the spot and I was terrified that I had just seriously hurt myself but this time was different than all the other times when I had popped my back out of place; something was very right about how it felt. In fact, my back had just, finally after nearly 18 years, popped into its proper position and, although my muscles were feeling rather inflamed from their new situation, I could tell that it was a good thing. In fact, it has changed my entire body; my left hip has dropped about an inch and it has changed the way I walk, sit and stand, it has changed how my feet hit the ground, it has changed how I feel about my potential to heal and it changed the way I do yoga.

The next class after this was my worst. As soon as I tried doing the standing positions that work the hip areas I started crying and just couldn’t stop. It was a little disconcerting and embarrassing but I just laid there and let the tears stream down my face, I’m sure you could hardly tell for all the sweat anyway and I knew I had to let it out. I feel like I am in a new body now and it’s taking a little reprogramming; the stretches are all new and I feel weak on my left side, but it’s better than feeling frozen. I could go on forever telling you about how many things this has changed inside of me. I am not done healing, but I have finally really begun.

I never completed that rehab program back in 1993 and I am not done now, but I have so much more hope for the future. Enough thanks cannot be given to hot yoga, and I’m sure that they all know exactly what I mean or they wouldn’t do what they do; this letter is for all of you who still seek for healing. I should suggest that they add a sign to the door of that studio though, it should say: "What you will gain in this room is that which you let go of in this room.” Namaste.