When I took my first hot yoga class seven months ago, I was willing to try anything to get in a better place. Even if it involved turning upside down with my knees balanced on my elbows and sweat dripping from my head.

Id had a rough time in 2007 and 2008. My mother and two close friends died, my marriage broke up, all my kids except one were off to college. Almost everything that had given my life shape and rhythm was gone. I was lonely and heartbroken. And, on top of that, I was bored. So I sold my farmhouse in rural Pennsylvania and moved to Baltimore.

Once my 8-year-old daughter and I settled into a friendly neighborhood, I gingerly considered my next project: dating. I had not been on a date since the early 1980s. Friends explained that all the action is online these days, so thats where I started. “Sassy, Smart, and Sensual,” my profile proclaimed, trying to make up for the semi-disastrous condition of being over 50. When the first guy I met for coffee acted like he liked me, I was excited. Then I didnt hear from him for 10 days, when he e-mailed that he was not “interested in me carnally.”

Ouch! That was fun. I quit, realizing I was not in shape for dating, physically or emotionally. Around then, a new friend invited me to her hot yoga class. I had done yoga on and off for years. Id never tried hot yoga, but I was willing to.

The class—90 minutes of vigorous, flowing movement in a 90-degree heated room—was much more challenging than I had expected. The teacher was a goddess, and the class looked like a casting call for a yoga video. I couldnt keep up, and I sweated more than I did when I trained for a marathon. But the shower I took afterward made me feel like I had sloughed off my past and squeezed out my poisons. And I had managed to spend 90 minutes focused in the present, not fretting about all my plans and problems.

I soon became a hot yoga addict, going to three or four classes a week. After awhile, I could do poses I had been certain I would never achieve. But I didnt notice right away that my body was changing. Seven months in, I had to buy all new pants, three sizes smaller than the ones in my closet. In a domino effect of feeling better about myself, I got highlights and had a facial.

Around the same time, the spiritual centering must have kicked in, too, because I realized I would need more than exercise and skin treatments to change my life. I see my therapist on Thursdays, after yoga. What a relief to have found something that makes me feel good and look good that doesnt take magic, luck, or plastic surgery.

While I have had a few dates—a man approached me at a party and asked me out!—I can see that finding love may be a very long-term project. But at least I dont feel like Im out there with my cellulite jiggling and my heart pinned to the outside of my body. Namaste, baby.