Confession time. There is one type of yoga I have stayed far, far away from. No matter how many people rave about it, no matter how life changing it's been for others... I have not tried hot yoga. Not Bikram, not other forms.

My reason are complicated. First, in general, I hate heat. I am the person who doesn't own an actual jacket or closed-toe shoes, which led to high comedy when I once got stranded in Boston during a blizzard. I keep my bedroom so icy that my husband sleeps with two comforters while I sleep with a sheet. I live in Los Angeles *despite* the weather, not *because* of it.

So yeah, the idea of voluntarily subjecting myself to an overly hot room? This seems insane. Someone needs to come up with Arctic Yoga, which you practice in leg warmers and cozy sweaters (with hot chocolate afterwards!). This is more my speed. 
But there's another reason I haven't tried hot yoga. A side-effect of the hot room is sweat. Lots and lots of sweat.

As a fat woman, sweat is emotionally charged for me. I lived for *years* by the mantra "never let them see you sweat." Sweating in public makes me twitchy. People stare at sweaty fat people. And they judge. This is sort of the "bad fatty" stereotype, right? The sweaty, smelly fat person who takes up too much space.

When I was very young, I dated a professional football player, and he and I would lift weights together. We weighed about the same amount (though he was a few inches taller than me), and I would watch him work out. He was shameless about sweat. He'd work out until every inch of his shirt was drenched and clinging to him, his hair slicked back and dripping as if he'd been swimming. Up until this point, I went to ridiculous lengths to keep from anyone seeing me sweat. I'd get to classes early, so I'd have time to touch up my hair and makeup. I picked out clothes that would never show damp. And I never worked out hard enough to get really sweaty.

Watching him go for it, someone my size happily and intentionally sweating, was really a revelation for me. I think for him, sweating was a badge of honor, part of the joy he got moving his body.

So I decided to work on my neurosis about sweating in public. I learned that wiping my hair down with a towel could make me feel like a badass, if I reframed it in my mind.

But yoga has exposed that I'm not as sweat-proud as I'd like. I was waiting for a class to start recently, and some new students stepped up to the front desk to ask advice about classes. The front desk employee described my class as "relaxing and recharging, for when you don't feel like breaking a sweat." I looked down at the sweat towel hanging from my yoga strap. I sweat like a faucet in this class, and overhearing that description made me feel a jolt of shame and embarassment.

I've found that I sweat a lot more than my classmates in many of my yoga classes. Sometimes this is because I am hot-blooded and sweat easily, but sometimes it's because I'm exerting a lot more sheer effort. In strength poses, I am holding up over 250lbs, and when I can't yet enter into a flexibility pose, it turns into a strength pose. Much of yoga is about using your body weight as resistance, and I am working with a higher level of resistance. This doesn't bother me -- I love the feeling of pleasant exhaustion I get after a good class -- but it still makes me feel self-consious. After one of my early Yin classes, one of my classmates saw my sweat-drenched t-shirt and tried to comfort me. "Don't worry, it gets easier as you get in better shape!" she said. I tried (and failed) to think yogic thoughts towards her.

Because really, what the hell is wrong with sweating? It's a form of the body cooling itself, nothing more, nothing less. Sweat has been co-opted by the movement to shame people for their perceived lack of "health," -- especially for people who identify as women -- and frankly, that is so far from okay. 1.) A person's health is no one else's business, 2.) Sweating a lot is not a reliable indicator of health, and 3.) Even if someone is deeply unhealthy, they are human beings who do not deserve to be shamed.

So I am ready to get over this silly anxiety about sweat, immediately if not sooner. And maybe hot yoga should be a step on that process.

 


Comments

09/19/2013 11:53am

I just read about you on Anna's blog and came over to find this wonderful piece! I really relate about sweating (especially in public). Hot flashes changed it a bit for me: out of nowhere, when I was clearly not exerting myself, I'd be overcome with heat and "the glow." :) And I am so with you on Arctic Yoga!

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Berta
09/19/2013 4:58pm

I was so happy to find out from Anna's blog that project bendypants lives on! I have loved to read about your journey but lost it after you stopped posting at the more cabaret blog. I will be bookmarking here!

I hear you on the sweat thing. It took a long time for me to get over my sweating aversion too, but I finally came to the realization that I sweat more when I am healthy. It's my body actually working and doing what's best for me when I am being active. It's another sign that I nourished myself with enough water, a sign that my body and I are finally working together and not at cross purposes. I came out of bellyfit on Monday night just drenched and feeling great.

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K
09/20/2013 7:30am

So I have to speak up on sweating because it has had an interesting life for me. For years and years I barely broke a sweat, no matter what I was doing. So naturally you think, "wow I'm fit cause I'm not sweating!" Then I train for a half marathon, and for the first few weeks of training, didn't sweat. Sudden after about 6 weeks of training, I became a sweaty disaster. I was completely confused, so I asked my run coach. He explained that as I worked my body more it became more efficient at taking care of itself, it knew I needed to be cooled and sweated more. He also pointed to one of the faster runners on the team and said, "See how drenched he is? Sweating show that your body is in good health and can cool itself when it needs to."

Since then I'm always proud when I'm sweaty, because my body is doing exactly what it needs to do, so that I can be fit and healthy. But I'm with you on hot rooms just to induce sweat, ick!

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10/29/2013 6:13pm

a lovely site. thank you. i've learned things about fat people i didn't know before. the post about your dad was really touching - moving, beautifully written, informative. greetings from england - i have been told to start yoga (people assume i know everything about it, being of indian origin) for core strength. I might just do it now! (My type is ENFJ - since you shared!)

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