Some love it, some hate it. I know I’m going to get backlash for this one. But here it is, in all its unfiltered glory: my experience with hot yoga.
I decided to try hot yoga for the first time tonight. I’m athletic, right? This will be a cakewalk. Here in Charlotte the temps are still well into the 80′s and 90′s. I know it’s ‘hot yoga’, and they jack up the heat to 90 plus degrees in the class, but seriously, how different could it be from hanging outside on a hot day, with no air conditioning?
Very different. In fact, when I opened the door to enter the room I thought I had walked into a wall of saran wrap – the heat literally slapped me in the face and wrapped itself around my whole body. I unintentionally gasped for air, which of course made me feel embarrassed, but not one person in the dead-silent room even looked up. These people were in the zone.
The class was packed, so I had no choice but to unravel my mat right next to the door since I couldn’t even get into the room. (This, later on, would prove to be accidental genius – every time that door would open I would get a nice rush of cold air).
Literally, instantly, I was dripping with sweat. I’ve taken yoga before, but the temperature must have done something to my brain because I couldn’t focus on what the instructor was really asking me to do. It didn’t help that she spoke throughout, offering encouragements.
“Let go of any anger, breathe into the stretch.”
Breathe? The woman in front of me just let out a hot yoga fart, and you want me to breathe deeply? I can’t breathe, and I am very angry. Moving on.
“I can see that some of you are stuck inside your heads. Quiet your thoughts, and listen to your body. What’s your body telling you?”
Well, right now my body is telling me that it wants to beat the shit out of me with a bag of trail mix. Oh yes, and that it’s afraid my sorry tree-hugging ass is going to give it a heart attack, or worse, an infection from this sweaty, nasty room. But I’m supposed to be breeeeathing into the stretch, in “downward dog”, watching my anxieties float away.
“Don’t worry about what your neighbor is doing, just focus on your own personal journey.”
I watch the woman next to me, her eyes closed, body contorted in a perfect posture of zen. Is it wrong that I want to push her over onto the woman next to her and watch a domino effect of wannabe yogis, disturbing all of their inner “Chi”s? Especially shirtless, long sweaty hair-man in the front row with tight boxer briefs? Maybe I need yoga more than I thought?
“Now sit down and outstretch your legs, reach for those toes, and remain here for a moment, your mind silent, in your stretch.”
Crap, is this class for an hour, or hour and a half? Why is this guy breathing so loud? A glass of wine would be great right now. Why is my second toe longer than my first? Thanks, mom, for passing along that wonderful trait. You are so kind.
I exit the room for a moment to get a glass of water, and out pops my good friend Jacque, the reason why I am here. “Holy crap! I can’t do this!” Me neither. After we mentally WebMD every possible disease we could contract from the sweaty room and hardwood floors, we decide we are going to march back in there, get our mats and get the hell outta there. But right before we re-enter, we have second thoughts. I say to Jacque, “Maybe we should just finish up? Only twenty minutes left.” She reluctantly agrees.
We open the door and realize that the lights are off, and everyone is face down on their mats, legs out. They all look like flattened, squished frogs. No one is moving. Oh, dear. Did we leave at the right time? Did the heat do them all in? There is another woman who is spread eagle up against a wall. Jacque and I look at each other and both agree that we are through.
On our way out, the girl at the front desk tells us she knows why we are leaving. It’s the same reason she left once too, but she came back because she did not want to quit. She tells us how hot yoga builds your strength and immune systems, makes you feel great, and how she hasn’t gotten sick in the whole two years since she’s been practicing. She hopes to see us again.
But will she? I dunno. As I drive home to my shower at 90 mph, I can’t help but acknowledge the part of me that is curious. Maybe those people are all crazy. But then there is that nagging thought that maybe, just maybe, they are all onto something, or somethings, that I am striving for. Could it be inner peace? Becoming fully aware and in the moment, rather than always darting to the next appointment? A state of Zen that doesn’t involve deadlines or caring what others think of me? Maybe.
But one thing I know for sure: if I do go back, I’m grabbing the spot by the door.
*How do you feel about Bikram Yoga? Torcher chamber, or sanctuary? Do I need to give it another try?