Sweat Psychology

Some years back, on my first trip to Mexico, I wondered if I could make it there.  You see, my arrival in Mexico was directly on the heels of being in Florida for the previous seven months.  Oddly enough, for Florida, it wasn’t constant heat and humidity as I was closer to central Florida than south.  So, when I stepped off of the bus from the airport and walked through the village to my new home, I was drenched in sweat before I even made it to my room.  I immediately became concerned that I simply wouldn’t be able to make it there for six months if I couldn’t stop sweating for two minutes.  I would literally get out of the shower and start sweating.  It was nuts!

Eventually, I learned to start ignoring the sweat – it didn’t stop – it’s Mexico for Pete’s sake! So unless it was an ungodly hot day, I just soaked it up.

Fast forward a decade and change (OMG, really?!?!), and I’m living in Colorado. I’m working on my fitness and flexibility goals. To this end, I started taking a Bikram yoga class once a week. Now, in order to get the most benefits out of this, my understanding is that I would really need to be going several times a week, but the reality is that I just don’t have that much free time on my hands, so once a week it is.  In case you aren’t familiar with Bikram, it’s a series of 26 poses with breathing exercises between them.  Oh, yeah, and the room is heated to about 104 degrees and pumped full of humidity. With all due respect to Justin Timberlake, Sweat Me A River.

Typically, in my workout world, things are too easy or too boring.  I’m a bit of an extremist I suppose.  Trapeze? Constantly changing, learning new tricks, improving, WIN. Pole? Put my hand there and then put my leg WHERE?!?! It doesn’t get any tougher. P90X? Daily changes kicking my arse. I’ve tried a couple different forms of yoga, and while they did a great job of calming my mind for about 3 minutes, I couldn’t get out of my head because I wasn’t being challenged enough. Enter the Bikram.

For my first class, I went in what I thought would be typical yoga attire: capri pants and a full-length tank top. OMG hot. OMG sweaty.  For the second class, I thought I’d try a different route and I wore shorts and a midriff-baring tank top. OMG hot. OMG even more sweaty?!?!  First class – I made it through. It was tough but I felt pretty good.  Second class – I made it through but it was a struggle.  I’m chalking up the differences to all being in my head.  Why? Well, in the first class, I knew that I must be sweating.  The guy in front of me literally had rivers of sweat running off of him (it was really gross), and while my super powers are strong, I just don’t think I’m that badass.  The clothing – the clothing kept the sweat away from my body, away from my mat, away from my overenthusiastic brain, thus giving it time to concentrate on balancing on my left middle toe while holding my right middle toe behind my head and scratching my nose with my elbow.

Something in my head said, wear less clothing the next time you go, so I did.  For some folks, this might not be an issue, but if you’re me or one of the entities living in my head, this is not the case. Now, I’m fully in my head.  Every move takes forever. I can not only see the sweat running off of me and pooling in a disgusting circle at my feet, I can feel it.  Everywhere. It’s horrid. I’m trying to towel off constantly. As such, my focus is in the complete wrong place. I’m not enjoying my practice; I’m not in the proper positions; I’m not receiving all there is to receive.

So what is this psychology of sweat?  There have been studies done about seeing the temperature and reacting accordingly.  Here’s a story about another time I was crazy sweaty.  I don’t like to sweat or be sweaty.  I’m no dummy; I know that it’s a part of life and a part of living, but that doesn’t mean I have to enjoy it.  I’m coming to the conclusion that out of sight, out of mind means more to me than I originally thought.  If I can’t see those cookies (which is why we have a cabinet full of junk that I forget about), then I won’t eat them.  If I can’t see that unopened bottle of wine (or 4) on the counter, I won’t open them and imbibe. If I can’t see that I’m a sweaty mess, I’ll keep pushing hard until the class is over.  Having a preoccupation with something, anything else seems to make almost anything an attainable goal.  Perhaps this is also why I like to keep a million things on my plate at once.  Do they all get done?  Hell no.  But I also don’t spend a ridiculous amount of time worrying about what’s on the plate.  I just pick something to handle and handle it. 

What about you? Do you join me in overthinking? Or are you one of the lucky without this affliction?

One thought on “Sweat Psychology

  1. I love hot yoga. I mean I really love it. I love yoga, I love heat, so hot yoga is just great for me.
    With regards to sweat, I am not an easy sweater! I don’t generally sweat, so honestly I love it that I can really sweat out so many toxins in a hot yoga class. Sweating is one of the bodes greatest methods of detoxification, second only to breathing, so in hot yoga, both of those things are achieved. Half the reason it feels so good after!
    But I get the sweat running off you thing, and I have very personal thoughts around this. It is part of my yoga practice NOT to wipe the sweat from myself with a towel or my hand. I recognized that the sweat was distracting me from my practice, and so I made up my mind to stop allowing it to do that. I also realized that allowing the sweat to distract me was an evasion from what I really wanted to escape- from just keeping still and facing the intensity of the posture.
    Now as I feel the sweat run off me I enjoy not allowing myself to worry about it or pay it any conscious attention, this was actually a big learning path for me and taught me a lot about myself.
    Well…thats my two cents on sweat psychology!!

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