I attended a Hot Yoga class, at the recommendation of a friend, thinking it would be a good thing for my back and neck after my December car crash. Oh, the road to you-know-where is paved with good intentions and I’m here to tell you it’s more than a little hot along the way.
Hot Yoga. What is it? First clue? First word. Everything else doesn’t matter. I knew from the get-go what I was getting into, but thought I could handle it. I figured the best-case scenario would be me panting on a thin rubber mat begging for a fan and a glass of iced tea and the worst-case would be heatstroke. My experience was somewhere in between.
When you walk into a Hot Yoga studio your first impression is… well, hot. Highly heated hotness. When I arrived, the women in the class were in full-chat mode, despite the big sign on the door with the posted rules of etiquette stating the importance of “settling in to align one’s attitude with the purpose of class.” To be sure, this group was all about attitude, but it was more about how room moms at the elementary school level shouldn’t “drink at night and be all loud and noisy in the classroom the next day” (but being “all loud and noisy” in the dark, hot yoga room seemed to be okay in their rule book).
Once the teacher arrived, everyone did settle down and quickly changed their attitudes (gray hair or pigtails, teachers still get our attention – I dig that, big time). The teacher quickly pointed out to the newbies (there were three of us) that even though the studio was very hot, it was a dry heat (yeah, my desert community tried that tactic in their real estate guides before I moved here, too – fact is, it’s still HOT and hot equals miserable, lady). Dry heat. Dry heave. It’s so close, it’s not even funny.
Despite my whining, I found the class to be incredibly enjoyable. Learning the standing and seated postures (the asanas) was challenging, but I was fortunate to have “Gumby” (as the teacher called one classmate) as a sort of lab partner next to me, serving as my guide. I was amazed at what my body managed to accomplish and I completely lost track of time. For 50 minutes. It was then that I glanced up at the clock through bleary, stinging saltwater eyes and noticed that close to an hour had passed. I was impressed with myself. Then, I mildly panicked as I realized we still had another 40 minutes left to the class. Crap. Holy crap, to be precise. Every time the teacher asked us to bring our hands to “prayer center” – I was not centered, just mumbling frantic prayers that it would all be over soon. Hot Yoga, childbirth, people who live in Tornado Alley – I’m sure God has heard it all before.
Surely salvation would come in the act of the supine yoga poses (lying down), or so I thought. The idea of incorporating the hot environment to pretend I was on a beach somewhere in a lounge chair was exactly where I wanted to go in my mind. Wrong! Lie down and do some serious abdominal work was what this Yogi had in mind, which left me feeling as though I’d been stranded in the desert without the aforementioned ice tea (or fan), just waiting for the search and rescue iguanas before drifting into unconsciousness.
At the 90 minute mark, the exact moment when I thought I would slip into delirium, the instructor asked us to assume the shavasana pose (the appropriately named “corpse pose”, I learned later). I was happy to oblige, once she told us what to do. Lie still. Don’t move. Just breathe. The breathing was actually the hard part.
Lying on the floor staring up at the ceiling I had some time to think about what an incredible journey I’d been on and how calm, centered and happy I was. Not unlike Tom Hanks probably felt when that ocean liner picked him up at the end of Castaway. Thinking I might never again put myself in this kind of peril, the teacher snuck up behind me and placed a cool, lavender-scented washrag on my eyes with a quick little massage of the temples and a whispered blessing (it may or may not have been the last rites, I’m not sure). At that moment, with a smile on my face, I vowed to return.
I’ve heard heatstroke will do that a person.