I attended a few initial classes and enjoyed the overall flow. Not too taxing, not too elementary. The instructors seemed nice and did a great job helping me transition through the poses. I don’t always understand what they’re saying because “yoga speak” is another language — literally and figuratively. Thankfully, instructors usually translate the name of every pose.
On a recent Sunday, I decided to try a different class. I was feeling sore from my rigorous weekly workouts and mused to myself that ninety minutes of tranquil yoga would be good for the body both inside and out.
I set up my mat on the wooden floor and sat waiting along with the other participants.
The spunky instructor walked in, glanced at the ceiling fans rotating in the small studio and said, “What do you think this is, Cindy’s class?” (I changed the name to protect the innocent). She proceeded to turn off the fans and turn on the heaters on this fine humid summer day. She said we were going “to feel the heat.”
That’s when I knew I was in trouble.
You may or may not have heard of hot yoga classes but I’ve avoided them like I would a snake on the sidewalk.
The instructor said we’d be “working hard” in her class. I silently prayed I’d make it through, vaguely recalling a similar sentiment from my aerobics class years.
During the warm-up, the instructor surprised me again by pulling up the bottom of my shirt and smearing on some type of balm that makes your skin feel hot. I wasn’t sure if I should feel vaguely violated.
She began throwing out yoga vernacular like a juggler on amphetamines. I tried to stay focused and keep up.
We did a multitude of poses that all seemed to end with the word “asana.” We did several adho mukha svanasanas (downward dogs), bhujangasanas (cobra poses), virabhadrasanas IIs (warrior IIs), trikonasanas (triangle poses), tadasanas (mountain poses) and a slew of others I’ll never remember (full disclosure: I had to look those up. I can remember “cobra” but I can’t pronounce its Sanskrit name).
As the room heated up and my skin began to perspire, my now-wet hair clinging to my scalp, I kept praying to whatever gods do yoga to help a sister out.
I was laughing to myself (Hahasana?) about how I thought I’d been so clever coming to this Sunday class where I would bathe in gentle yoga and feel rejuvenated and relaxed — something similar to how I felt swimming in Trunk Bay in the Bahamas.
Do you know how many yoga poses you can do in 90 minutes? A lot (millionasana?).
I was led into positions I’d never before seen. One was called the bird of paradise (svarga dvidasana). This was clearly for advanced yogis. I know you’re not supposed to eye your partner, but my mouth was agape as I watched a couple of people attempt it. Some birds did fall out of their nests. As for me, I just stayed where I belonged, with my feet firmly rooted on the ground.
Dripping with sweat, fatigued but also strangely energized, our class wrapped up with something I got pretty excited about: a headstand (adho mukha vrksasana). I haven’t attempted a headstand since I was about 12, but it’s something my childhood pals and I did often. Imagine my surprise when I had no trouble getting into that configuration again. I was doing a headstand at 50 (applausana)!
Then we did my favorite part — the meditation bit at the end of every class (shavasana or corpse pose). Because I was nearly dead, the corpse part was apropos. Usually I’m so relaxed at this point, I almost fall asleep.
Not this class. First my instructor returned and quickly massaged more hot stuff on my neck and shoulders. Maybe she was checking to see if I had expended the proper amount of sweat or perhaps she was just making sure I could fry eggs on my back. Then just as I was checking out, she began chanting in some otherworldly language, jarring me from my reverie.
This class was a trip. I was actually sore the next few days. From yoga. But I plan to keep it in the health regime. It’s supposed to be good for mind, body and soul, plus there’s no telling what’s coming next (surprisana!).