11/29/2012 01:37 pm ET Updated Jan 29, 2013

Hot Yoga Kicked My Ass, And I Liked It

I tried Bikram yoga. Twenty-six poses in 90 minutes in a room heated to 104 degrees. My first three sessions were horrible, okay and great, in that order. After my triumphant third session -- I got through every pose, no light-headedness or true misery -- I thought, "Hot yoga is my bitch."

In high cock, I walked into my forth class and smugly set up my towel. I was going to stretch and sweat copiously like a yogi master. Well, I survived the 90 minutes, but barely. It was torture. When class was over, I sat up to leave, and immediately sank back down. My fingers were tingling, and my head swam. I crawled out of the hot room to the front desk area. The normal temperature helped, but my hands and feet were still buzzing. I lay down on a bench, a hair's width from passing out.

The instructor asked, "What did you have to drink today?"

"Two cups of coffee."

Relief washed over her face. I wasn't having a heart attack. I was dehydrated. Apparently, one should drink a liter of coconut water an hour before class, and then drink steadily during. I did take sips of water between poses. But not nearly enough. The instructor gave me Emergen-C, an electrolytes powder, diluted in water. I clung to consciousness while I drank it. Within a few minutes, I felt much better. My heart slowed and the tingling stopped. Legs still shaking, I retrieved my mat, and got out of there.

Later that night, my hip went into spasm. It still hurts 12 hours later. My husband said, "So you almost fainted, and you can barely walk. Yoga is so great for your health!"

I want to go back. As soon as the hip stops aching.

Regardless of the physical toll, this new, challenging, possibly dangerous practice feels necessary and important for my sense of self. Some positive insight: At 47, embarrassment is behind me. I didn't care about being the oldest, fattest person in the yoga room. I had to stay intensely focused on my breathing, the poses. No one was judging me, including myself. And then, the swoon. Twenty years ago, if I'd almost fainted at a gym, I would have pretended I was fine to avoid making anyone else uncomfortable. Not so now! I said, "Help!" I needed it. I asked for it. No shame, no fear. It's really okay to be a bother.

Some negative insight, too: Being unprepared or too cocky about yoga, or anything, will kick my ass. The truth is, I've been coasting for a while now. Professionally, I've stayed within my wheelhouse for years. I'm coasting in my marriage and with my friendships. I've relied on comfort and acquired skills, and haven't pushed or taken risks. Past success, though, does not guarantee smooth sailing ahead. Logically, I know this. But I'd been willfully blinding myself to the uncertainties.

I'm not saying that, after four yoga classes, I'm going to make major changes in my relationships and career. But I am thinking about this stuff and making the connections. My thoughts are stretching, even if my hip joint stubbornly resists.

For more by Valerie Frankel, click here.

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