I opened the door and edged into the room to find a spot. The blast of heat was jarring. I moved among those already there, thankful for the unknown but welcoming faces that softened the air, and unrolled my mat somewhere in the back. I had been in this room many times, but never for a hot yoga class. I sat quietly, seeking a detachment from my day outside those walls and a presence within them and couldn’t help wondering what lay ahead of me. I had heard stories of what this experience was going to be like, but I quickly realized those stories weren’t a reasonable substitute for the real thing. Then again, what stories are?
The room was 105˚ when class began and the sweat was already pooling below me. The air was stifling and the windows set high above the bamboo floors had clouded, obscuring the outside world serving as a visual reminder of why I was doing this in the first place. The sound of the teacher’s peaceful yet resonate voice blended in with the class’s intentional breaths. We flowed from pose to pose, most of which I was familiar with, and it wasn’t long before I could feel my body laboring in this environment. Positions with which I was normally comfortable were becoming increasingly difficult and my focus danced. My legs shook, my head spun and my lungs gasped, forcing my mouth to open and clutch at the hot, wet air. Not even a third of the way through the class I had looked at the clock at least ten times.
That first hot yoga class was a challenge. There were moments that I wasn’t sure I was going to make it and those that I wasn’t sure I wanted to. It was hard and exhausting and uncomfortable and humbling. There were times I didn’t know exactly what I was doing and times I wished I was doing something else.
But, when it was over and I hadn’t quit and had done the best that I could, I was elated. I walked proudly, if not steadily, out of the studio into a beautiful moment filled with accomplishment and exhaustion. I was better for having done it. From the practice itself I was one step further on my infinite path toward balance and self-awareness. From the experience I learned just a little more about discipline and perseverance and determination. It taught me about myself.
Really, it was a lot like fatherhood.
Being a parent isn’t always pretty and it is always beautiful. It is the greatest and most difficult thing I have ever done. Being a parent demands patience and discipline and constancy. It offers joy and sanctity and light. It forces you to question, to dig within to find something deeper and to do things that are sometimes uncomfortable in order to grow. It makes you unsure and confident. It is draining and uplifting. Being a parent is a challenge and an immeasurable gift.
Life is like that a lot – illuminating parallels drawn in the space between the micro and the macro, between moments and the big picture. The contrast of the dark and the light within all of those moments, both the big and the small, can foster individual evolution if we just allow ourselves to be present. Show up, do your best and don’t quit. There are lessons there to be learned and benefits there to be found if we just choose to see them.
I will continue to strive to embrace all of the beauty and the difficulty of fatherhood. And I can’t wait to go to my second hot yoga class next week.