My first class at 502 Power Yoga was a Karma class. The room was packed beyond capacity, and the energy was high; you could feel the love when you walked in—which, when you’re new to this style of yoga, like I was, can feel overwhelming. My friend and I were the last two people to lay our mats down and I was ready to get my zen on and tune the world out — which is my default.
When class started and the instructor asked us all to generate hellos/give hugs/shake hands, I freaked out. She wanted me to what? No. I had come to do some yoga and stay in my own secluded world, not to meet new people or hug strangers. Not to mention, I was already sweating, as was most everyone I was asked to hug. Instinctively, I went directly to my friend and hugged her, but soon found I couldn’t avoid contact with other yogis any longer. I hesitantly shook hands and hugged two other already-sweaty people. I felt self-conscious for the entirety of my practice, worrying that the people I hugged were judging me for sweating before class had even started.
Coming into a class at a new yoga studio can be intimidating. However, when I started to meet new people at 502 Power Yoga, I realized that I was NOT alone. Instead, I was in this together with every other yogi in the room. I was connected to a room full of 30+ people—talk about powerful! Side note: The room is hot, full of badass yogis, and everyone is sweating. Nobody is judging!
In that same class, the instructor had us support our neighbors in Airplane Pose. I remember internally having a strong “Nope, nopeity, nope, nope” reaction to this; there was no way I was throwing off my balance to put my sweaty hands on someone else’s sweaty body. And then I felt another yogi’s hand on my shoulder supporting me, which gave me the nudge I needed, and I reached out to support my other neighbor.
Where can you go in your practice once you’ve moved past what is blocking you? For me, letting go of insecurities led me to become more consistent in my practice and made me fall in love with the Baptiste Methodology, which led me to taking the BIG leap to sign up for teacher training with 502 Power Yoga. Removing my rocks opened me up to following my passion and creating some pretty amazing friendships in a community that thrives off of supporting others.
It works that way; the support and community. You may come in feeling nervous, scared, or vulnerable, and then you realize we are here for each other. That support can move mountains (or fly airplanes in my case.) From that, strength in your practice happens. Growth in your life off your mat happens. Big things happen. The sweaty hugs are actually something I look forward to now.
Embrace the sweaty hugs and handshakes—it’s the beginning of something spectacular.
My hand towel addiction was real. I never entered a class at 502PY without one. Even when we started charging $1 to rent them, I found such joy in asking Kelly to just put another one on my tab (a.k.a card on file). Any time a pose got hard or I wanted to take a break, my towel was there for me, waiting to wipe the sweat from my brow, or nose, or hands, or arms, or well you get where I’m going with this. I had convinced myself that there was no way I could practice without it. You’ll fall. You’ll be so sweaty. What will you do when you need to catch your breath? THE STRUGGLE.
One ambitious afternoon, I decided to see what happened if I didn’t take a towel into class. My water bottle and block looked so lonely at the top of my mat but I powered through that first slippery class like a toddler who has just had their blanket taken away would, with some scowling, regret, and at the end of the day feeling a little bit proud. I found myself looking for it while holding Warrior II as my legs fatigued, when Dancer was called, and before Bridge pose; all of my usual hesitation poses. It wasn’t until that first class without my towel that I realized just how much I used it to cheat myself in class.
Now let me be clear, this is not a post to encourage you to stop using a towel. For me, giving up that 8″x16″ white, cotton crutch was about giving up hesitation, giving up my distraction, and about growing my practice. I had an easily accessible excuse to cheat my way through class and I used it like it was a final exam where the teacher left us in the room with our books. For you, it might be fixing your hair, adjusting your clothes, or getting another drink of water that takes you out of your practice. Believe me, there are many reasons why a towel is helpful during class, and since giving up my hand towel I do occasionally have to use a full mat towel.
The biggest realization for me was how much this applied to my life. I am the queen of procrastination. Seriously, I have been thinking about writing this post for two months. I’m constantly working to catch myself when I start to create distractions when things get hard. There is so much possibility when you can create space by giving up what you must. For me, it was not bringing a towel into class. It opened up being able to hold poses longer, dropping hesitation, and being fully present to the sensations in my body instead of the sweat dripping down my arm. Whatever it is that keeps you from taking yourself to your edge whether in the studio or off the mat, it might be time for that security blanket towel to take a rest. It might be scary, and may take a lot of self-restraint, but you may surprise yourself when you remove hesitation in your life and go for it.
Let’s talk about sweat. I have heard women say on multiple occasions throughout my life, “I don’t sweat, I sparkle.” Previously as a runner and cross-fitter I rarely experienced sweat (or sparkle for that matter) in my workouts. Actually, I never did–ever. The first yoga class I had with 502 Power Yoga I was prepared for the 90 degree heat by being super hydrated, grabbing a towel once I entered the studio (although I did not think I needed it) and bringing in additional water. With that being said, I was NOT prepared for the sweat.
My laundry detergent was also not prepared for the sweat. Now I’m a lady so I won’t go into details, but my Pinterest research on “smelly gym clothes” provided me with loads of recommendations; I tried all of them. I tried adding baking soda. I tried white vinegar. I tried soaking. I tried not drying. All of my clothes still maintained a certain level of ‘ew’. It wasn’t until I finally got up the courage to ask a fellow yogi friend, Jess, about how she managed the sweat in her laundry that I discovered something as simple as Tide Sport was the answer.
With that problem solved, there are no longer concerns about odor or other potential issues with my yoga clothes impacting my yoga practice or my confidence. But more importantly I should not have been so embarrassed. Conversations about sweat are not the easiest to be had, but it isn’t going to break connections either.
Regardless of my previous sweat to sparkle ratio in physical activity, I can officially say I sweat at 502 PY and I do so knowing that no one judges me for it. Being part of a community that allows for questions, mistakes, falling out of tree pose for the 700th time that week, is ok. The reminders from teachers and assistants that falling out of a pose is perfect reminds all of us that just as we are is just how we should be in our lives. There is usually a sweaty Baptiste hug at the end of that 60 to 90 minute Vinyasa Flow waiting for me, and I love it. It has astounded me that adding yoga to my life has truly helped with self-confidence in such a big way and that’s regardless of sparkle, sweat or choice of laundry detergent.
Know always that the community at 502 Power Yoga is just that, a community. Come with questions. Come with hugs. Come as you are. Leave sweaty.
Written by Melody Mayes