I am the sweatiest person in my hot yoga class. This is a statement I believe to be true, and it embarrasses me to no end. I have always been a heavy perspirer. On hot summer days I melt like a snowman. During job interviews I sweat through my camisole, button up, and blazer. I have organized my closet into shirts that hide sweat, and shirts that don’t. I wouldn’t say my personal condensation rises to the level of a medical condition, but it is a feature of myself with which I must contend.
My wonderful friend Lisa Walters and I committed to doing 30 days of (mostly) hot yoga at our local Moksha Yoga Studio in St. John’s (read about her experiences here). Classes so far have been amazing. Just being in a room for one hour while an instructor reminds you to be kind to your body, to love yourself, to be aware (but not judgmental) of your limitations, is a form of therapy. My only issue with hot yoga is not one I can blame on the studio. It is a problem I have with myself, or more accurately, with my sweat.
I know sweating is part of the goal of hot yoga. It’s done in a room heated to about 38 degress Celsius and it’s meant to make you sweat in order to detoxify the body and help ease you into challenging poses. Despite this fact, during class I can’t help looking around the room and feeling like I’m the only one completely swimming in a pool of my own perspiration.
How bad is it? During practice my hair becomes soaked, my clothes get drenched, and sweat creeps into my eyes, mouth, and ears. I feel like I have a responsibility to warn anyone near me that they have entered a “splash zone,” and will likely get sprayed. I fear the instructor will come over to adjust my pose only to run screaming out of the room when she touches my sweaty, clammy skin.
Why does my sweat bother me so much? At first I thought it was because it makes me look ugly. Then on second thought, I realized that I don’t really care that much about my sexual appeal during hot yoga class. Sure, I look kind of nasty, but no one there looks like they are about to go out for a night on the town. Hot yoga is not a beauty pageant.
I think the real reason my sweat bothers me is that I view it as a sign of weakness. My inordinate perspiration feels like my body mocking me, loudly announcing to the class, “Hey everyone, look at this Fatty Fatty Fat Pants who can’t even handle some stretches in a hot room!” Each bead is a capitulation, proof of my failure to be in perfect shape. Surely if I were more fit I wouldn’t be sweating so much. My sweat becomes this sticky reminder of my lack of will power, discipline, of my inability to walk away from that delicious Nanaimo bar last week.
Almost immediately after convincing myself that my sweat was proof of individual weakness, I started to wonder. How can I be weak when I hold downward dog with such strength and stability? How can I be weak when my tree pose is balanced, steady? How can I be weak when my breath flows freely during practice? How can I be weak when hot yoga makes me feel so powerful?
I have come to realize that sweat is not my body’s way of mocking me, but thanking me. She is saying, “Hey girl, I appreciate you doing this for me, now let me send you something to help cool you down.” Sweat is a thank you. It is a gift. It’s not chocolate or a vintage dress, but it does keep you from dying of heat, so it’s still pretty good.
Understood in these terms, I start to feel better about my excess perspiration. Don’t get me wrong, I still find sweat kind of gross, I mean, it does make you sticky and a bit smelly, but it is not a sign of defeat. It is evidence of the symbiotic relationship between me and my body, each one giving the other something it needs.
For me, embracing my sweat has been a radical act of self-love. I have come to love myself, love my sweat, and really love hot yoga.