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Gym Class Heroes: Hot Yoga

Ding poses with instructor after yoga class. Courtesy of Grace Ding.

Written by Grace Ding

Going into the class, I felt apprehensive, to say the least. As someone who can not even stand walking outside on hot summer days, I was eager to see how I would survive in a steaming room at 110 degrees for 90 minutes, not to mention attempting yoga postures.

Thankfully, I was lucky to have a friend who was not only enthusiastic but also intent to take on the challenge with me. That is how we found ourselves entering a small but welcoming building called YogaSource in downtown Palo Alto on a Wednesday afternoon. After taking off our shoes and renting our mats, we entered the studio and watched other students filtering in, casually setting up their spaces and moving into poses they were already familiar with. Meanwhile, being the clueless newbies we were, my friend and I stared in awe at the dim lights hanging from the ceiling that created such a calming atmosphere.

Within 20 minutes, I was extensively sweating through pores I never even knew existed. Although I had not been too overwhelmed when I first entered the room, the heat and humidity caught up to me quickly, and the towel and the water bottle I brought became my saviors. After a couple warm-up and breathing exercises, we went through a series of 26-set poses, doing each twice. I immediately noted that the main difference with this class and regular yoga class was that it was less focused on the flow of movements. Some postures focused on balance, while others emphasized flexibility or strength in different parts of the body. All three aspects were challenging, and I often found that one of my legs would be shaking from attempting to balance and support the whole rest of my body.

At first, I was preoccupied with watching other students perfect advanced versions of postures I could never imagine myself doing. I soon remembered, however, what the instructor had told us a few minutes before the start of class. He reminded us that as beginners, we should not be stressing to get everything right, but instead try our best and come out of the practice feeling energized and refreshed. After I began following his advice, I was able to feel an increased awareness of my body, as well as control of muscles I had never paid attention to before. This was also made possible because he would occasionally correct me on certain stances, so I could allow myself to feel the full stretch. Near the end of the class, even the sweat was not bothering me as much. I actually preferred the heat because it made me feel more accomplished.

Overall, I am grateful for an enjoyable experience. Although the physical aspect was tiring and difficult at times and I still felt sore a couple days later, I appreciated the chance to de-stress with my friend the day before a math test while at the same time becoming more in touch with my body and capabilities. The emphasis on self-improvement and self-awareness is particularly appealing to me, and is probably why I will consider going back for another class some time.

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