22 May 2011

30 day hot yoga cleanse

the journey of a 30 day hot yoga cleanse

judge not, lest you be judged: i'd like to say that i realize there is judgement and a boatload of opinions about hot yoga. i'm not exactly opposed to your arguments, but the truth is, i like hot yoga and there is a studio here in louisville where i practice that i like a lot, too.  even though the instructors kick my ass every time i walk through the doors, my practice has never once been compromised; i've always left feeling strong and more connected than i was when i walked into the studio.  so all i ask while you read this post is that you just hold space with me for a bit without predetermined judgements. (you can judge me in full at the end when you see my b&a pics).

first things first: wtf was i thinking? you see, i have this really charming friend, louise. she's basically my sister but not my sister and her friendship brings a lot of joy into my life. she's inspiring, down-to-earth, easy going, in love, generous, kind, and [strange as it sounds], what i love about her, i also love about me. in our 30th class together, side by side we were finishing a challenging 90-minute bikram class, and after learning the basics of the sit-up from our instructor Tom, Louise and I start beaming. We were, literally, overjoyed to learn something new, even on day 30. And as we transitioned to the next posture, Tom looked at us and said: "These two ladies in the middle are beaming with positive energy. They are shining it out, like a fountain for all of you to be showered in." Point in case. I love Louise. Something about her has always held space for me to be the me i love. 

anyhow, so it was Louise's idea. she and i were both feeling, eh, sluggish? she's a jump right in kind of girl. i'm a see-saw, teeter-totter, i'll hang out on the fence kind of girl. the last day i decided i was all in. and that was that. note to self: goals motivate me.

what (the hell) is bikram? because quite literally, doing yoga in 105+ degree rooms does sound somewhat like hell to most people.  "Bikram Yoga is the 26 postures sequence selected and developed by Bikram Choudhury from Hatha Yoga. ...These 26 postures systematically work every part of the body, to give all the internal organs, all the veins, all the ligaments, and all the muscles everything they need to maintain optimum health and maximum function.  Each component takes care of something different in the body, and yet they all work together synergistically, contributing to the success of every other one, and extending its benefits." (from Here is bikram's master pose: a seated spinal twist.

It should be noted that I didn't do 30 days of the bikram classes, rather, 30 days of hot yoga, including these classes: 16 bikram (2 silent), 5 power vinyasa, 3 yoga core, 3 anusara inspired, 2 hot fusion, and 1 bikramyasa.

what were the rules? the 30 day cleanse ran from april 15-may 15, you had to complete at least 29 classes, which meant you had one official skip day, and you could do up to 4 doubles (meaning, you could essentially miss one day each week and make up for it by doing two classes). I only missed one day (derby day) and did one double (the tuesday before derby day).  the board at the studio was constantly updated with your "count." it was FUN to see that number grow and grow. 39 ppl signed up for the cleanse, and almost 20 finished! my friend ann def got an honorable mention (she ALSO ran the mini 3/4 thru the cleanse!) see my name at the bottom :) 
the official count!

how did i fit it into my schedule? the cleanse ran from april 15-may 15, and i knew i'd be in town the entire time. it did fall during grad school finals, major work deadlines, and kentucky's most celebrated holiday: the derby. but i set an intention and i carved out time and space in my life to keep it. paul cooked a lot of dinners. i did a lot of laundry. i was a bit less social than usual. we had visitors in town and i had to slip away for a few hours. but honestly, it was all worth it. i was only late to class one time, but other than that, i looked forward to 29 of 30 classes. the one exception was a friday night about halfway through the cleanse: paul as tired of cooking, i was waddling my hamstrings were so tight, and i had never been to a "bikramyasa" class before. turns out it was absolutely just what i needed. i left feeling so peaceful and at ease. then i promptly made paul dinner :)

also: i kept this challenge to myself. other than paul, my family, our visitors (paul's parents), and a couple local friends here and there (towards the end of the challenge), i didn't really talk about the challenge. i tweeted about it, but didn't tell anyone at work, and didn't talk much about it in passing. i felt like it was an internal commitment i made, not an external one. while it certainly showed in terms of lugging yoga clothes every day to the car and schlepping laundry up and down the stairs, it was more of an inward cleanse than anything.

what impact did the cleanse have on your body? a profound one. i noticed that i didn't lose any weight (in fact, i think i gained a few pounds!) but my metabolism was working like a horse. i drank at least 80+ ounces of water each day, had a demanding appetite, and felt less of a reliance on caffeine. my digestive system was impeccable. i always have this "long & lean waist" feeling when i do hot yoga regularly. that was certainly a benefit of the cleanse. my skin was so soft, my complexion fairly clear, and my hair was curly, as usual!

did you notice any mental shifts? about every sixth yoga session, i'd notice i was really "not feeling it." which can roughly translate to: i'm tired, tired of being hot, and what day is this, anyway? the resistance really showed itself on these days, and i noticed it, and i let it go. for the majority of the classes, i'd show up ready for a challenge, practice with diligence, and watch the blossoming happen. i felt like i could constantly lift myself and others with positive thinking and diligence. and in all honestly, it worked. i loved the heightened sense of connectedness that came with the challenge. on & off the mat.

okay, okay, what physical changes did you see? are you the size 4 you've always wanted to be? cue le sigh. no, i honestly didn't notice many physical changes. my arms are noticeably stronger, my waist longer {see b&a pics at the bottom of this post!}, and my quads a bit more defined, but all in all, i didn't exactly feel like i lost weight and noticed a huge physical change. that wasn't the goal, of course, but i wouldn't have complained it i'd noticed it. i will say that i noticed something about how much i admire strong, curvy feminine women---a group you could say i identify with. in my head, i've always admired very lean women, with their flat stomachs, small chests, and perfect pencil legs. but in my heart, i realize that's not me, and i'm better learning to love what i do have than longing for what i don't have. there is a serious learning curve to deal with on this topic, but the small shift that occurred within my thinking it worth noting. 

the quick & dirty facts:
1. where do you practice: betsy's hot yoga louisville  (aka: HYL...note: she'll be doing a cleanse again soon!)
2. what equipment do you use? Gaiam yoga mat, yogi toes skidless mat, klean kanteen 40 oz bottle, adidas cropped pants, various technical tanks, L.L. Bean boat & tote
3. how would you rate your experience (10 high)? 9.0 solid. only better if there had been more noticeable physical changes. but otherwise blissful + challenging + dynamic + oh-so-needed!

show me the money: part of the challenge included writing a $160 to HYL. if you dropped out or didn't complete 29 classes in 30 days, she deposited your check. if you completed, you payed $30. cha-ching!

we celebrated the end of the cleanse with a crystal bowl meditation, champagne toast, and vegan cake from cake flour bakery (AH-MAZE-ing cake- you'll see this again at my wedding!) here are some pics from the celebration, and my b&a pics (where i'm looking esp rough! i don't shower before yoga, peeps. please excuse the frizzy hair.)

the celebration cake, complete with two yogi's in half moon pose :)

champagne celebration (betsy, studio owner on left and dan, louise's beau pouring champagne!)

me + louise + liz (three powerful women!)

proud yogis :)

proud yogis in half moon with betsy (studio owner) in front

the "be the flow wall", a constant, positive reminder

there you have it! little old me after 30 days of yoga!
finally, i'd like to thank my major supporter, pw, who committed as much to this cleanse as i did. your unwavering support means the world to me. your ability to help me recognize and attend to my needs is unparalleled. for every ounce i open my own heart, i find yours is ready and willing to expand, too. 

hope you've enjoyed my recap! feel free to ask any questions in the comments or email me for additional details.

sending you loads of love and confidence for whatever challenges you decide to take on! i think the old wise saying "jump and the net will appear" certainly was true for this cleanse.  

xoxo stephanie alaine


Melita said...

omg congrats!! although you look amazing in the before i can definitely see more definition in the after! as always, you've given me some ideas ;) hugs and namaste love!!

CTR said...

Wow sis- you are ripped in the last picture! Great job... I loved reading about the positives AND negatives of this challenge. You have a beaitful way of writing this story in your personality... makes me feel like you are telling me the story in person, while we sip on coffee and watch little E-Bea play. I miss you and I'm so proud of you!

Love- C

marybethboswell said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
marybethboswell said...

Oops -- accidentally deleted this instead of editing it (writer's angst). So now I understand more about Bikram yoga. It sounds like it's not that different from yoga that's strictly focused on asanas -- except that it's really, really warm and that must somehow open up more dynamics for body/mind/soul than just normal-temmperature asanas. (I know this is dumbing it down a bit, but that's what I'm understanding.) That said, it also sounds like the 30-day session is a completely different animal, Bikram aside. I've never done anything for 30 days straight, except get out of bed. So your thoughts around intention and "doing it anyway" when you weren't feeling it plus your partner basically being committed to it -- all of that feels like a lot of transformation and stretching and growth. Physical/body shaping feels more like a, well-if-it-happens-so-be-it but I find my inner work and those rewards always exert the most influence, anyway, on how I'm perceiving my external body and what's going on there, silently, gently, and unobtrusively. What a great trip, thanks for sharing it with us.