In my efforts to try new things and become more of a risk taker, I’ve fallen prey to, I mean, been more open to the suggestions that Groupon and Living Social have been stuffing into my inbox. Like $29 for 10 classes of yoga. Okay, I’m no math whiz, but isn’t that less than $3 per class?
Looking at the deal more closely, I see that it’s not just any old yoga—it’s hot yoga. But I’ve made this pledge, and it’s really cheap…
The website instructs me to bring a yoga mat, water, and a bath-sized towel. Naively, I believe that the towel will be used as a bolster of some sort, rolled up into whatever shape is required in order to aid with positions, maybe use as a pillow during that wonderful part at the end where you lie there and feel good about all the yoga you’ve just done.I find a close parking spot and decide that it’s a good sign. That’s how optimistic I was at 9:00.
Entering the room, I am hit with a wall of heat, but I find a spot for my mat and, following the lead of my fellow yoga enthusiasts, I cover the mat with my towel and wait.
As I sneak glances of those around me, I note that everyone in this 104-degree-room is thin except me. I am by far the pudgiest participant. Ages range from late 20s to late 50s, but there is no one who looks like me. The two men on either side of me are wearing only swimming trunks, and most of the women are wearing a sports bra and spandex shorts. No leggings or yoga pants. No over-sized T-shirts or warm-ups.
It’s oddly silent, considering there are about twenty people in a space slightly larger than your average economy motel room.
The instructor starts off with a sun salutation, the stated purpose being to “warm up.” I had been sitting for at least five minutes in a room set to a temperature that reminded me of summers in Oklahoma where the only people outside were those getting from one air-conditioned building to another. I mean, out in the real world nobody stays in 104-degree on purpose, right? So I’m thinking, I’m warm.
Now I’m no stranger to yoga positions. I’ve practiced some form of yoga on and off since I was 17, when I purchased the paperback version of a yoga manual for a quarter at a garage sale. I can do downward-facing dog with the best of them. So I was probably a bit cocky joining this class, thinking I would surprise my fellow classmates, maybe even get words of praise from the yogi. “Hey, she’s pretty good for a fat, middle-aged woman,” I imagined them whispering.
But even if a few of the positions were vaguely familiar—though pushed to the nth degree—this was unlike any yoga I’d ever done because I had to hold poses when I was pretty sure I was going to pass out at any moment from the heat.
Balancing on one foot while placing the other foot firmly against one’s inner thigh is difficult but possible when there’s some skin providing a bit of traction. But when one’s thigh is dripping sweat, that foot just keeps sliding down the leg. And it’s just not an atmosphere where I could laugh about it and say something like, ” You want my what to stay where?”
That is when it dawned on me that the purpose of the towel is to keep you from slipping and sliding around in your own sweat.
But I’m persevering. I’m thinking that the class has got to be almost over, and then I can go home, take a shower, and never return. But the clock claims that it’s only 9:30. That means an hour to go. What was I thinking, signing up for a 90-minute class?
We get a brief water break. I go into the locker room to drink from the sink. (Guess who forgot to bring her water bottle?) It’s so pleasant in the locker room at its 70 degrees or so that I consider staying in there until the class is over. The only exit is through the classroom, so if I decided to leave early, I would have to go back in the studio, gather my mat and towel, and step gingerly around all the sweating people to gain my freedom on the other side of the door. And they would secretly shake their heads and think, So the fat girl couldn’t cut it after all.
So I went back for more. When I re-entered the studio, the stench hit my nose immediately after the wall of heat body-slammed me in a one-two punch. But something in me didn’t want to give up. I told myself that odor, no matter how bad, couldn’t kill you.
For the rest of the session, I enjoyed brief occasional successes followed by ridiculous, desperate attempts, all enveloped in a light-headed fog. Twenty minutes before the end of class, I arose from a seated position and got so dizzy that I lowered myself back down to my sweat-soaked towel to get my balance. My vision flip-flopped: the light became dark and the dark turned shining white. I had to get out of there.
I managed to get myself to the locker room where I drank thirstily from the faucet. I sat on a bench for several minutes trying to feel normal again. Then I noticed the shower. I had no dry towel, but I didn’t care. I peeled off my wet clothes and climbed in. The water brought me back to life and the world seemed like a decent place again.
I was somehow able to reapply my wet clothing to my body and I returned to the studio in time for the part where everyone is lying there feeling virtuous about having done yoga. I lay down with my back on my towel, no wetter than those around me who had not just taken a shower without toweling off. I deserved to lie down and relax, I thought. I survived.
But it still smelled incredibly bad.