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Hot yoga poses unique obstacles, challenges

This past summer, when my friend Lisa slipped off her beach cover-up and revealed her new Sports Illustrated swimsuit model body, I almost fell out of my tankini. Who was this woman in Lisa’s body and how did she transform herself?!

After staring for some time, I began to pepper Lisa with questions about how she got her body to look so good. Whatever she did, I was going to do it too, even if I had to drink cabbage water for 10 days. Maybe I could get back into a bikini after all.

“I just finished doing the 30-day yoga challenge,” she said proudly, as her slender muscles glistened in the sun. Wow, I thought. That’s cool. Then she went on to describe how she went to Sol Yoga, a new heated yoga studio in La Jolla Village, every day, for 30 days straight.

“You should come try it!” Lisa proclaimed. I was hesitant - most yoga classes put me to sleep. Seriously, yawnsville. I usually had to go for a jog after a yoga class if I wanted to feel like I got some exercise.

I’m a runner. I like to hop on a treadmill and run like Forrest Gump. But lately, I had been losing steam and not going to the gym. I had to try something new or else the next bathing suit I was going to be in would have a skirt attached.

I decided to tag along to the next class. It was nice and cozy in the studio. I was toasty and warm before the session even started. I was sure to have a good nap in here!

Thirty minutes later, as I lay in “child’s pose” with sweat pouring off my body like a running faucet, I silently called out “Mommy!” This class was so hard! I was stiff, wobbly, ungraceful, and awkward. I loved it. This was a whole new way to experience yoga. I was sweaty, exhausted and I felt great.

But the timing wasn’t right. I just couldn’t commit. And yoga slowly fell off my radar.

Months went by and December quickly approached.

“Come back to class with me!” Lisa suggested. I told her I would try. I had put my workouts on the back burner, behind all the holiday parties and Christmas cookies, and I knew a nice yoga class would loosen me up and get me ready to exercise again.

I popped into the first class I could and learned an important lesson - you should never, ever drink alcohol the night before a yoga class. Hot, strenuous yoga and alcohol do not mix. I do not recommend it.

I hated that I had to slink out of class for a breather because I had too much champagne the night before. If I wanted to move my mind, body, and spirit in 2010, it was going to take some serious devotion. I had to commit now.

So I signed myself up for a year. President Obama carves out time for his workouts. I should be carving too! If the President of the United States of America can find the time, so can I.

I’m not going to kumbaya you to death, but I will be honest, my body feels better than it has in years. Most likely because yoga increases flexibility and lubrication of the joints, ligaments and tendons, massages all internal organs of the body, ensures optimum blood supply to various parts of the body while flushing out toxins that build up, and it tones muscles. No wonder I feel so good!

I have just finished the ninth day of my 30-day yoga challenge. Each time I step into that studio, I feel stronger and take pride in my body and how it goes to new limits with each class. I’m amazed how one year ago, I was fighting an aggressive form of breast cancer and now here I am, holding myself up with my chest muscles.

I really owe it to Lisa for inspiring me to begin this journey. Her grace and enthusiasm opened my eyes to new possibilities for my body, and subsequently, my soul.

A bikini-ready body would be great to accomplish by the summertime, but right now, I’m just happy with my simple personal enlightenment.

Maryann Castronovo is an SDNN columnist.