yoga sol

A week ago, one of my girlfriends invited me to do hot yoga with her. I could come for free on her pass, she said, just to try it out. 

Okay, sure, I said. I hate being hot. Tell me more.

The class is an hour and fifteen minutes, she said. The room is 105 degrees. Get there early. There’s no talking. You will sweat a lot; bring a towel to put over the yoga mat so you don’t slip. If you can’t hold the poses, don’t worry; just being in the room is a challenge. Hydrate ahead of time.

Sounds like fun, I said dryly.

The night before our 9:00 morning class, I dreamed that I hadn’t left for the class in time and so I had to miss it. But then in the dream I realized it was a dream, so then, relieved, I got to go to yoga class after all. Everyone was so squished together on their towels that we couldn’t move our arms, and the room wasn’t very hot, and people were talking too much. What’s the point? I wondered. And then the instructor came up behind me, twisted my legs into a painful position and sat on them. I loudly swore at her, and she immediately turned on my friend and chewed her out for bringing me. I interrupted, telling her it wasn’t my friend’s fault but rather hers for sitting on my legs and we both apologized and moved on. Also, everyone was naked from the waist down.

The next morning, I couldn’t shake that dream. I felt jittery nervous, anxiously checking the clock, collecting two towels and an extra shirt, chugging water. Lots of people do this all the time, I told myself. You’ll be fine.

At the studio, the instructor had me sign a waiver, and then she gave me instructions. Only sip water if needed. If I get tired, just stand in place or lay down. Except for the opening breathing exercises, try to only breathe through the nose. If I get overwhelmed or dizzy, I can step out of the studio but should sit on the bench right outside the (glass) door so she can keep an eye on me.

I asked her how she got into hot yoga and why she likes it. She said she fell in love with it the first time she did it: the absolute focus, the meditation, the physical challenge. A busy, stressed teacher at the time, the classes provided a release, a complete mental break, from her regular life.

And then my girlfriend arrived and we went into the studio and —

The HEAT. It was fierce, almost scary. I’ve never felt anything like it. Everything in my body told me to run, get out, leave, and I had to mentally force myself to stay still, to unroll my mat, to spread out my towel, to breathe. Within minutes my skin was slick with sweat.

And then the instructor came in — it was just my girlfriend and me — and we began. The instructor talked nonstop, demonstrating an action when necessary but mostly relying on words to get us to do things. For the next 75 minutes she explained, described, encouraged, and corrected while we reached, stretched, twisted, arched, pulled, balanced, dipped, and tucked. The heat felt like a protective blanket around my body, holding me, and loosening and softening my joints, as I pushed my body to contort into unfamiliar positions. 

Just breathing was difficult. I wasn’t out of breath but I couldn’t talk — all my energy was focused on my body as I drug myself from one position to the next, sweat streaming down from my nose, my fingertips, my ankles, the tips of my hair. 

At the end, we stretched out on our backs, and the instructor dimmed the lights and gently set iced, lavender-scented towels into our hands. I draped the towel over my closed eyes — heaven. After a few minutes, we gingerly sat up. 

What the hell was that, I said. My girlfriend laughed. “You did it!” Slowly, we got to our feet — I felt light-headed and incredibly weak — and then we rolled up our mats, gathered our things, and walked out into the air conditioning. 

In the bathroom, we took a celebratory selfie, and I examined my underwear: yep, soaked through! On the drive home, I felt euphoric and mildly disoriented. More exhausted and spacey than anything, really. 

Back home, I peeled off my clothes — I could actually wring water out of my bra! — and then showered. I drank a quart of water, fixed myself a good lunch, and then, shivery cold, I snuggled up on the couch with a cup of coffee and my computer and wrote this. 

This same time, years previous: try and keep up, so much milk, the coronavirus diaries: week 65, in the bedroom, black lives matter, berries for supper, the quotidian (6.4.18), this is us, brown sugar rhubarb muffins, the quotidian (6.3.13).


  • KC

    (I have heard that it is actually Not Good for at least most bodies to do hot yoga; it is not the good kind of physical stress, even though it feels good afterwards and even though we love a challenge, etc., etc., because not only is it hotter than the human body copes with well, you’re not giving the body any *assistance* with coping with the heat – slowing down, wet cloths, fans, giving the body lots of electrolyte-y drinks [horchata! gatorade! salted fruit waters!], etc., like cultures that get heat but don’t have AC tend to do when the heat gets up to 105F. It was invented in the 1970s. YMMV, but that’s one I would not do regularly.)(vs. cold plunges, which also stress the body, but in very different ways, and which have been done as a health thing by some cultures for aaaages, and which have had positive medical reviews. I would love to get your review on that, too…)(heat causing more flexibility is definitely a thing, and there can be euphoria in Doing Things Most People Would Not Willingly Do, and there can be escape in doing extremely absorbing, hard things, and sometimes those are important, but having the temp at 105F *for exercise* consistently is most likely kinda bad for the body itself.)

  • suburbancorrespondent

    Hmmm, sounds like an active sauna? But definitely not for me! I once tried a yoga class where they kept the room around 80 degrees and I simply felt sick. I probably wouldn’t enjoy a sauna, either, though.

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