What if I die?

I thought I would start using Sundays to answer questions or address comments I often get from people about Bikram yoga in general or my practice specifcially. I’ll start with the most common question that I get, “I would love to try yoga with you sometime, but I am afraid of the heat. What if I die?” That’s a good summary of what I hear often.

There’s a saying in my studio that basically goes like this: You will never be so lucky as to die during class. Unfortunately, you are going to have to stay in the room and do the whole 90 minutes.

See, dieing should be the least of your concerns. If you were so lucky as to die in class then that would mean you would get to stop doing class. Any discomfort you were experiencing would end. And that my friend is not going to happen. You will have to finish class. Sorry ’bout that.

I don’t think people are worried that they will literally die from the heat. I mean, I can tell them 46 thousand times that this never happens, and it doesn’t seem to make anyone feel any better. No one ever says, “Thanks! Now that I know no one ever dies I will totally be there Saturday.”

I think people are afraid of the unknown. I think they are afraid of how they will feel in class. I think they are worried about what other people will think of them during class. I could be wrong. Please feel free to tell me why you don’t come to class if this applies to you. I would seriously love to know.

Let’s look at these things one at a time:

1. Fear of the Unknown: I get this. The class is outside your comfort zone. You don’t regularly spend 90 minutes of your life doing anything in 105 degree heat with 40 percent humidity. Sure, you can look up what the postures are in advance, but that won’t help. That just freaks you out more because you know, you just know, you can’t do all those postures like that. Well, guess what? Most of us who practice 3 or more times a week can’t either. Feel better? Also, if you get bothered by the heat just sit down. Seriously, sit down. No one will bother you. No one will care.

2. How will you feel in class: I don’t know how you will feel in class. You could feel dizzy or like you want to barf. You could also feel totally awesome and wonder why you were so freaked out about coming in the first place. Every day is different. Every class is different. How you feel in each class is different. So stop worrying about what might happen and come see what will happen. Try to be in the moment.

3. What other people think: I have been practicing four or more times a week now for a year. I will let you in on an insider secret and just tell you what we are all thinking during class. It goes something like this, “Damn. Triangle is next. I freaking hate triangle. I hope I don’t get a cramp in my hip like I did yesterday because that hurt.” Or sometimes we think things like this, “Yeah! Standing forehead to knee. I love this posture. I wonder if I’ll get my forehead on my knee today. That would be so awesome.” Guess what we are not thinking about? You. You are not that special. The instructor is paying attention to you because that’s what the instructor is supposed to do. No one else cares what’s going on over on your mat. And personally, I’ve got to work on getting my forehead to my knee in standing forehead to knee. I don’t have time to put any effort into you.

So, then what is the worst that could happen? I’ve been practicing for awhile, and I’ve seen lots of first-timers and relative newcomers in the studio. Based on my observations (which are limited because, like I said, I do not have time to pay attention to you), here are the two worst things that could happen to you:

1. You sit down on your mat.

2. You lay down on your mat.

If you are lucky, and look seriously miserable, maybe an instructor will take pity on you and bring you a coconut water.

If you want to try Bikram yoga but are one of those people who are freaked out by the heat, I challenge you to really think about this. I do not think you are scared of the heat. I would believe that you might not like the heat, but I do not believe that you are really scared of it. I think you are scared of something else. Figure it out. Deal with it. And come. Then let me know how it goes because I won’t have time to watch you during class.



6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Sterg
    Feb 05, 2012 @ 16:01:02

    As one of the legion who asked you the “Will I die?” question, I’d say it was a combination of a fear of the unknown, slight concerns over blood pressure issues (which have been under control for a while now, but still…), and a general never been that stretchy/athletic vibe that is on me and my past.

    I was surprised by how much I did really just focus on me during the session we went to, and I felt very supported by the instructor and the rest of the class (at least the couple of people who I talked to later and were very friendly and made me want to come back).

    It was hard as hell and I swear that the clock hand did not move for 20 straight minutes at one point, but I really enjoyed it and now wish we had a bikram studio in Knoxville. Also, the worst thing that happened to me was that I sat out a pose or two until I got myself straight.

    Thanks for sharing all your thoughts here. I’m digging your blog!

    Also, Leigh Hall, you are a SUPERSTAR!!!!


  2. leighahall
    Feb 05, 2012 @ 18:20:01

    You know what I love? I love that you did it and that we are going to make it an annual event each December when we meet up. And you’re right – class can be hard as hell. If class is easy then I don’t think I’m doing it right. 🙂


  3. Trackback: I can’t do yoga because…… « My Bikram Yoga Life
  4. teenieyogini
    Feb 19, 2013 @ 01:49:38

    This really cracked me up. I’ve always thought the regulars should get little pre-printed cards saying all of those things.

    I also tell people, “yes, I’ve been practicing for a very long time. I am bendy and can balance on one leg, because I’ve been working on it for a long time. I’m still working in it. I am challenged every single day. I get hot, dizzy, nauseous, fall out, sit out postures… Heck, I’ve even walked into the room, started class, then decided, what I really needed was a nice hot nap and been solidly into dreamland before Party Time. It doesn’t matter. Show up and stay in the room, that’s ALL you have to do!” But they rarely go for it.


  5. mela0920
    Apr 24, 2013 @ 09:57:19

    Thank you for verbalizing the fears I feel about actually going to a class (something I’ve been wanting to do for a while!). Each of the reasons you listed ring true for me and I thank you for discounting each and every one of them and making me realize how silly my fears are! Who knows I might actually get up the gumption to do this and when I do this post will be one of the reasons I do. 🙂


    • leighahall
      Apr 24, 2013 @ 11:46:41

      I think your fears are perfectly normal and not silly at all! We let fear hold us back in so many ways all the time. Sometimes that is good, I think, because we recognize our limits and how far we can safely push ourselves. Other times we get caught up in our fear and it ends up limiting us. I hope you do try a class soon and tell us how it goes!


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