Anyone who is anyone who is in her mid-twenties and has the ass to wear leggings as pants is into Bikram yoga right now. I don’t know where this ancient practice of abundant sweating began, nor do I know how it became so popular, though I suspect it has something to do with Madonna’s arms. Regardless, purposefully doing yoga in a sweltering hot room is not enjoyable for me. This is not something I would sign up for. This is like something you are forced to do before you go to war—one of those military boot camp workouts where they tear you down so they can build you back up into someone who doesn’t believe she deserves to live.
I’m not saying that anyone at Hands of Peace yoga intended to make me feel this way, I’m just saying that A LITTLE WARNING WOULD HAVE BEEN NICE.
Just so you know, the “quotation marks” that are used to describe Stacey’s Friday afternoon “vinyasa flow” class on the schedule are not used incorrectly (as I assumed) “to provide emphasis.” They are used correctly to imply that this “vinyasa flow” is not at all what it appears to be and will actually be taking place in a room that is roughly 105 degrees with 40% humidity (not hyperbole). To whoever makes the schedules: you are a jerk. Had I known then what I know now, I would have been more prepared. I would have brought a beach towel, a gallon of water, and a bucket to collect the many beads of sweat self-esteem I would lose over the course of ninety minutes.
Upon walking into the studio, I did notice that it felt a little warm. “Is it just me, or is it kind of hot in here?” I asked a friend. “It’s a bit warm,” she agreed. I shrugged. No big deal. First missed red flag. The second missed red flag came when I observed that every person in the room had thighs that don’t touch. New life rule: If it looks like a lululemon ad, you do not belong. Run away.
We began with a gentle warm up. I’ll admit that these ten minutes of glorified stretching are pretty much what I came for. If I could sit cross-legged on a yoga mat gently shaking my head “yes, yes, no, no” for an entire class, I would be happy.
But “restorative” is not Stacey’s style. No it is not. The “flow”started “flowing” pretty quickly. About a half hour into the class I finally understood that metaphor about stoking the inner fire that yoga teachers make sometimes. I had a fire going, alright. It was as though someone had ripped out my core muscles, pushed them into a smelting mold, and turned them over hot coals. When Stacey asked us to hold chaturanga for what felt like 12 minutes but was honestly probably 30 seconds, my arms shook uncontrollably.
Okay, I thought. This would be a challenging class. I can do challenging. I am open and ready for the lessons of this practice.
About halfway through the class was when I realized that it was not just the inner fire of my solar plexus chakra falling into my root chakra that was heating me up. It was the room that just minutes earlier had seemed“a bit warm” and now felt more like I was wrapped in a wool blanket in the Yucatan with a low-grade fever. There I was, in downward-facing dog, sweat just absolutely pouring off my face, and my hands and feet started slipping off the mat. I was trying to do everything Stacey said—lift and flatten and create space and breath and all of that. But I couldn’t keep my limbs on the mat. Because my mat was a freaking Ganges of perspiration. I eventually gave up and moved my down dog to the floor, where my sodden hands now squeaked across the faux wood. I resorted to wrapping my hands in tissues, which eventually were soaked enough to crumble, leaving me surrounded by bits of sweat confetti.
This was when the thirst struck. My 16-ounce water bottle, normally enough fluid to keep me hydrated through a class, now looked like a shot glass. I sucked it down like manna and my throat still swelled, yearning for more. My eyes darted around the room, maniacally seeking out a faucet to stick my face under. Nothing.
Stacey encouraged us to meditate on our own strength, and I screamed.
I don’t even remember the second half of class, because I was so focused on not dying. When it was over and I heard that blessed word, shavasana, I collapsed on the mat. I was the embodiment of corpse pose, its reason for existence. I lie there, arms outstretched and open to the heavens, legs splayed, eyes closed… and I wept. Not quiet tears. Not hushed sniveling. No, this was loud, unguarded howling. The really gross, unattractive kind of crying. I wept because I had seen the face of God in that room, and he had pointed at me and laughed. I wept because I was alive. I simply could not believe that I was still alive.
I do not suggest Bikram yoga. I am experiencing a few post-traumatic stress symptoms, not the least of which is the immediate, involuntary feeling of terror that sweeps over my body every time I hear Florence & the Machine’s “What the Water Gave Me,” which is the song Stacey ironically felt compelled to play on loop for most of the class. I’m not asking for sympathy. I just want these people to name their classes appropriately and learn how to use punctuation. Will not return.
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