Casey Kuluz hated the heat, sweat and “all things exercise.” And she had a stressful IT job that she knew affected her blood pressure.
But when she heard “some lady from California” was opening a hot yoga studio in a space near her house, she was intrigued.
So much so that she and two friends bought the $50-for-10-class online special to what would become Bikram Hot Yoga Mobile.
“We had no idea what to expect for our first class, so we were not hydrated but looked cute in our long, cotton yoga pants and big, baggy cotton T-shirts,” Casey said. “We also learned that classes were 90 minutes long right before the teacher walked in to begin class!”
Despite her feelings for the heat, Casey kept showing up on her mat, though she admits she didn’t enjoy the first six or so classes. “I don’t know what made me keep showing up,” she said.
“Deep down, I must have liked it enough to continue. After my 10-day deal ended, my mind had me pre-pay for an entire year to ensure that I would keep practicing. And this is from someone who hates exercise and sweating!”
Of her group who started hot yoga in their “cute” attire, Casey is the only one still practicing. She soon realized she needed a consistent practice for the mental break it provided from her stressful IT job.
When she started practicing six-and-a-half years ago, Casey was at a different company, but as a young female among an older male management team, she had to work even harder to prove herself and gain respect.
“My last two blood pressure readings at the doctor’s office were high, which I knew was all work-related,” she said. “My yoga practice really helped get my blood pressure under control, and to better deal with the uncomfortable management style (that includes relationships inside and outside of work).”
The high blood pressure isn’t an issue like it was then, but Casey’s yoga practice continues to help her with her job in a different way.
“I work at a different company now, and my CEO says that I’m the only director who hasn’t gotten into an argument with him (yet),” she said. “I have yoga to thank for helping me keep my cool!”
Prior to joining Bikram Hot Yoga Mobile (now Sterling Hot Yoga & Wellness), Casey had taken some Pilates and vinyasa classes at the University of South Alabama Rec Center. But she wasn’t able to focus or relax. “My mind kept thinking about all of the things I needed to be doing instead of in yoga class,” she said.
At this point in her practice, Casey can fully focus in the classes and block out distractions for 60 or 90 minutes—and that’s one of the most important changes or benefits she’s experienced. Off the mat, she said she has developed “the ability to quickly process and let things go that are out of my control.”
Casey has come a long way since her first class—now she doesn’t mind the sweat! “Also, I’m surprised at how my body subconsciously reacts to various outside factors,” she said. “For example, I find myself doing breathing techniques when I’m getting overwhelmed or stressed without realizing it.”
Though managing stress is high on the list of reasons Casey continues to practice at Sterling, she said she can’t overlook the feeling of community she has found at the studio. “I’ve made some really dear friends who are caring, supporting and interested in the welfare of others… all things that I strive to be,” she said. “It also helps that the studio is close to my house!”
Like everyone else, Casey didn’t feel the way she does now about hot yoga after the first class. “I had a hundred different thoughts,” she said. “‘Why is it 90 minutes long? Why is it so hot? I need to buy some new clothes that don’t stick to my sweat. I need a water bottle that keeps ice frozen throughout class. And I have to come back within 24 hours?!?!’”
These days, Casey is a regular at the studio, and she is well on track to complete Sterling’s year-long “18 in 18 Challenge,” which requires 18 classes a month for every month of the year.
Making that transition from hating the heat to loving it, from control freak perfectionist to letting things go hasn’t always been easy, she said. But the change does happen, and she encourages anyone thinking about trying hot yoga for the first time to get past their excuses.
“You will have a million excuses. You don’t like heat. You don’t want someone else’s sweat to touch you. You can’t spare the time. You tried yoga before, and it wasn’t your thing. You can’t drink THAT much water to stay hydrated,” she said.
“Just show up, and keep showing up. You will likely not enjoy your first few classes, but it will pass. You will get used to the heat (and save on your A/C bills because you acclimate outside of the hot room). You won’t mind when you put your foot down on the floor, and it is sweat-soaked from the previous class. You will learn to drink water throughout the day, even coconut water (flavored is the trick for me!)”
Are you ready to try hot yoga? It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it! Join Casey and the rest of the Sterling Hot Yoga & Wellness community today. We’ve got a great introductory special where new members get 30 days of unlimited practice for just $30! Sign up here to get started!