kidding! it was good...
i turn up at the studio with a 5-lb. yoga mat slung over one shoulder and on the other, a giant gym bag containing: three towels (two yoga, one shower), flip flops, a complete change of clothes, toiletries, a lock and key, and a water bottle.
i feel like one of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s Antarctica-bound men, those responding to the historically false but fantastic ad:
Men wanted for hazardous journey. Low wages, bitter cold, long hours of complete darkness. Safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in event of success.
like them, i’m filled with a sense of adventure. unlike them, my objective is keeping cool. it’s my first day of a month-long trial at a hot yoga studio. the rooms are heated to 98-100 degrees with 35% humidity.
when i check in, the girl evaluates my mat and towel before deeming them “the good stuff.” then she maintains eye contact while announcing my goals for the class: stay on the mat, stay in the room.
somehow, i'm unfazed and think, ok, my ticket to Hot Yoga Land is one-way. i must be really psyched to demystify this trend.
after leaving my stuff in a locker i head into the room. the soft light is cozy and enveloping, like a big hug. and yes, it’s hot but bearable.
the place has a lot of rules, which i appreciate. for example, everyone’s silent in the studio before class starts, lying on their mats in savasana and acclimating to the heat. a few poor souls even fall asleep and begin snoring.
i feel for them, because it’s hard to imagine a more brutal ending to a free citizen’s impromptu nap. one minute it’s, five more minutes, Mom. so toasty, i don’t even mind the lack of pillow… then gah! who are these people? why am i on the floor?
speaking of floors, they’re cork but sealed and nonabsorbent and marked so we align our mats to ensure everyone gets equal space. the Swiss-like precision warms my heart, making me even hotter.
then i remember the age-old battle sociologists revisit annually--how crime rates allegedly increase in summer. the truth hits me: this is the management’s way of protecting us from heat-induced violence!
and it’s brilliant. because a turf war is exactly the last thing you need in tight, hot quarters.
class begins. it’s equal parts grueling and survivable. the teacher is kind and doesn’t seem worried about me. which is great, because i’m fascinated by the amount of sweat i’m generating. minutes in, i’m glistening like a seal and my grippy towel is drenched. it looks like i just took it out of the washer, i marvel.
i should note that, on a practical level, @@hot yoga is a drought denier’s paradise.@@ a friend best summarized her experience with, “i just couldn’t keep up with the laundry.” it’s true: everything you wear or touch in relation to the endeavor will be soaked.
after other types of yoga, you think, i’m showering as soon as i get home. with hot yoga, it’s like, haven’t i already showered? oh, this is sweat! never mind.
and you must wash your hair, too. immediately. there isn’t powerful enough dry shampoo on the open market to save you.
after my sweat fascination ends, i tune in to the full-length mirrors we face during class. we’re either directly in front of our reflected selves or peeking around strangers, thereby checking out everyone else. this external stimulus makes it hard to go inward. i had a that’s what i look like in warrior two?! incident.
as class progresses, i silently congratulate myself for uncovering the secret to the thermostat tucked in the corner. i'll share: when the blue light switches on salvation, a.k.a. a light breeze, is coming. the yellow one means more heat.
a girl a couple of mats over is curled on her side, in the "life choices reassessment" or fetal position. momentarily alarmed, i relax when i see she’s breathing.
there’s no way around it: class is tiring. but i remind myself how much shorter this one is—a mere 60 minutes!
we eventually arrive at savasana, final relaxation. once the teacher ends class, we’re allowed to lie on our mats indefinitely.
initially, that sounds like the world’s greatest offer. but it’s actually a catch-22. because yes, you want to stay. but you’re covered in sweat, so you feel gross and want to shower. however, don't forget, you’re exhausted, so you'll never move again. and the loop begins: sweaty, so shower. but tired, so stay. but sweaty… ad nauseam.
eventually, i reach a compromise with the competing interests. i stay until i feel my heart rate return to normal and am sure i won’t faint if i stand up.
outside the room, the endorphin rush is potent. i probably look possessed but i'm exhilarated and can't wait to do it again.
in passing, it occurs to me: instead of standing outside supermarkets haranguing hungry people, solicitors should wait outside hot yoga studios to collect cash and signatures.
all told, my first class was great. but as i’ve said, the middle matters most. this initial time was tainted by giddiness and novelty, which skewed my opinion.
besides, what’s more life affirming than surviving one’s first hot yoga class? going back for more! tomorrow i’ll share the second half of my hot yoga experiment.