The End of the Beginning

The practice itself, done consistently and accurately, is the real teacher. -Tim Miller

As my friend Julie and I walked into the foreign studio for my 30th Bikram class in 30 days, I was surprised by how calm I felt. This was supposed to be a landmark, a momentous occasion, a practice to be forever remembered. I thought my hands would feel jittery as I laid out my mat, at least. But I only felt steady and serene as I told the instructor at the front desk that this was the last day of my 30-day challenge. (Humble anonymity just isn’t really my thing.)

The instructor, a kind-faced woman named Louise, recognized my name as I wrote it down on the sign-in list. I recognized her as well, and she quickly explained that she had taught my mom for years. Louise was one of my mom’s favorite instructors of all time! Even if I wasn’t finishing out my challenge at my home studio, it was comforting to know that I was still in good hands. And as I looked around, I realized that I recognized a fair number of yogis from my home studio in and around the hot room. Suddenly the foreign studio didn’t feel so foreign. This could be a good place to cross the finish line after all.

Julie and I set up our mats and then headed towards the bathroom. Her long auburn hair was in a loose braid down her back; mine was tangled in what could’ve been an abandoned ostrich nest on top of my head. (The last time Julie had come to practice with me, she noted that the whole shebang would’ve been much easier if we were bald. I heartily agreed.) The bathroom line was unusually long, but I have to imagine everyone was thinking the same thing we were: the only thing harder than doing a Bikram yoga class would be doing a Bikram yoga class whilst having to pee.

And then, something miraculous happened.

“Excuse me, are you Hannah?” A woman with dark hair asked from behind us in line. I’d definitely seen her in class before.

“Yes, I’m Hannah,” I answered in surprise.

“Oh, I was just reading your blog!” the woman exclaimed, “I absolutely love it, it is so funny.”

My jaw actually dropped. Could this be? I have a fan? I’m getting recognized now?!

“Thank you!” I answered, sputtering like I’d just been dunked in ice water. “Thank you so much, you have no idea how much that means to me.” My hands were clammy. My heart rate was through the roof. Julie and I just beamed at each other. If it was possible to be starstruck by my own sense of stardom, then I was. But the wonderful woman wasn’t finished yet.

“This is Hannah,” she turned to her friends, “she has a blog about her 30-day challenge. It’s hilarious and smart and insightful; you guys should really check it out.” The women behind her in line smiled at me and nodded, muttering things like oh yes, of course and well that sounds awesome, we’ll have to look it up. It felt like one of those moments I’d talk about on a radio show with Ryan Seacrest ten years from now, when one of my books tops the New York Times Bestseller List. (“Hannah, when did you first know that you had hit it big?” “Well, Ryan, it all began in the bathroom line at a Bikram yoga studio…”)

Was this real life? Had I died and gone to blogger heaven? Julie, a fellow writer and one of my best editors, looked just as excited as I felt. As soon as the women rounded the corner to enter the bathroom, we turned to each other and high-fived with such enthusiasm, we could’ve been third graders on the playground who just won a round of partner tag. We took our turns in the bathroom, smiled some more, and entered the hot room with our heads held high.

The heat that had once felt so oppressive and evil now seemed to greet me with a familiar, sweaty embrace. Since Day 1, my body has been changing. I don’t mind the sweat much anymore; in fact, sometimes it feel like I’m not sweating enough. I can stand on a locked knee for more than just a few seconds. I can latch my fingers onto my big toes when the instructor tells us to bring our foreheads to our feet. I can see my foot start to drift over my head as I kick back into standing bow.

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My butt still isn’t anywhere close to the ground when I sit on my knees. Nearly every instructor I’ve had seems perplexed by this particular inflexibility, Louise included. But rather than be embarrassed by my arrestingly tight ligaments, I’ve come to think of them as a distinguished characteristic. You know, like a wooden cane or a monocle. I’m just that girl with the tight knees. (Not to say that I’m going to stop working at stretching them out. Rome wasn’t built in a day.)

Louise’s enthusiasm during practice was infectious and her cues were fantastic. Focusing would’ve been easier if my mind hadn’t been so busy singing its excitement to the tune of 50 Cent (go Hannah, it’s Day 30, we gonna party like it’s day 30), but I was able to shut her up after the first couple of poses. I drifted in and out of the zone. I breathed through my nose. I let the sweat run freely down my face.

Every practice is exactly the same, but also completely different. I’ve come to love that about Bikram yoga. The heat might be stifling, the practice might seem endless, and the sweat might actually go up your nose, but the dialogue never changes. The only thing that changes is you.

Just before Louise told us to lie down for the final shavasana of the class, another miracle happened.

“Congratulations, Hannah, on completing your 30-day challenge!” she announced. And, as if on cue, the room erupted in claps and cheers. A full, boisterous round of applause. I could only look at Julie in ecstatic awe. All I need now is a picture with the Pope, and all my wildest yoga dreams will have come true.

And so, ladies and gentlemen, my Bikram yoga 30-day challenge has been completed. I feel happy, healthy, and fully qualified in claiming sweat to be a very close friend. It wasn’t always fun, and it was almost never easy. But in the words of Kelly Clarkson, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger (because your muscles will adapt to the poses eventually), stand a little taller (because the spine strengthening series really helps with lower back pain), doesn’t mean you’ll smell good when you get home. Or something.

I’ve received buckets upon buckets of fan mail begging me not to stop blogging, and I’ve had to change my phone number due to an overwhelming number of teary calls from readers who knew my 30-day challenge was coming to an end. But please don’t fret, my devoted fan base-

THE BLOGGING WILL CONTINUE!

I repeat, the blogging will continue. My big challenge finish wasn’t the end of my yoga adventure, but rather an extended beginning. I’ve become something of a yoga addict. There’s a very real possibility that if I stopped now, I’d start to look a lot like Christian Bale in The Fighter. Not to mention I’ve had a pretty awesome time describing my sweat in painstaking detail and cracking cheesy jokes for you guys, so I hope you’ll join me in weeks to come for more yoga adventures.

This week I’ll be trying some Vinyasa yoga. Upward facing dog, downward dog, sideways dog, hot dog, you name it- I’ll be all up in that business. Check in next Monday to see how it goes. (I have to imagine my Vinyasa skills can’t be any worse than my Bikram skills, right? Right?!)

Namaste,
Hannah

P.S. I know I promised pictures of the Pope, but for some reason he never responded to my invitation. Feel free to enjoy celebratory sweaty pictures of Julie and me instead.

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“Don’t put this on the Internet.” -Julie

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High School Musical levels of excited

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“Hannahsana”

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(impromptu sweaty dance party)

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Grief can take care of itself, but to get the full value of joy you must have somebody to divide it with.” -Mark Twain

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4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Marcia Imbrescia
    Jul 08, 2013 @ 21:18:32

    Congrats sweetie (or, in your case, is it sweatie?)… You did it. Knew you would. Heads up on Vinyasa, there’s not as much sweating or farting, but it can still be difficult – in a good way, of course.

    Reply

  2. tallmartha
    Jul 09, 2013 @ 16:16:24

    Great post! Sounds like you had an awesome 30-day challenge!

    Reply

  3. Connie Aramburu
    Jul 20, 2013 @ 19:31:13

    I must I must try Toga….I do have one position down pat. I can tie my shoes bending over…haha. All joking aside the blogs were so descriptive I was with you in all those wonderful places. Connie

    Reply

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