Friday, September 23, 2011
Yoga in Hell.
I went for my first hell... I mean "hot" yoga recently. I don't think I would have gone on my own but I had heard some of my colleagues talk about it and the concept intrigued me. I bought a Groupon and held on to it (1 month unlimited classes) till I knew I could take full advantage of it, planning to go at least three times a week. My friend Charlotte was as excited about me buying the Groupon as I was anxious. She told me to wear as little clothing as possible (which immediately made me nervous), drink lots of water, not to eat a big meal, etc... I was glad to get the inside scoop, but the more she shared, the more I regretted hitting that "buy now" button. I was also told that there was no talking, no staring at other people, absolutely no laughing (which is something I struggle with even in non-yoga settings), and if I felt like I was going to die, there was no escape other than to lie on your mat, stare at the ceiling and die. Sounds great to me. Do people really pay to have this experience?? So there I was. Dressed, mat in hand, water bottle filled, ready to experience this total cleansing of my body. Charlotte snagged my mat and put it next to hers in the back row while I got a quick orientation of the yoga from the instructor, who was noticeably pregnant. I breathed deep and opened the door to the inferno. The first thing that hit me was the smell. It immediately reminded me of the time I lugged my gecko's cage up two flights of stairs with my nose stuck on the top of the cage. I pictured myself sitting crossed legged on my yoga mat as a cricket basking to its death under a heat lamp (as often happens in my gecko's cage). The lamp is meant to keep the cage warm, but sometimes the crickets don't realize they are being fried, and they essentially just stay there till they are toasted. The image of me on my mat turned brown, crispy, shriveling up to nothing until finally it was an unrecognizable figure. The heat wasn't too too bad I suppose... I am Malaysian after all, but the smell... holy crap, the smell was toxic. I don't know that I have the words to describe it. I have changed plenty of baby poop diapers, cleaned up dog feces and urine, you name it, and between teaching, parenting, and dog-owning, I've most likely smelled it, but this... this was a first. Oddly, no one else was bothered by the smell. No one was hacking or gagging from the odor- instead they were laid out on their mats in "savasana" (dead body pose... which I later learned was a pose for reenergizing and relaxing...odd...) in the 100 degree room. Actually, it's a 105. You'd be surprised what that extra five degrees does to you at that heat. We start off with a breathing exercise. The instructor tells us the name of it, but really I think it should just be called the "I both look and feel awkward" breathing exercise. People all around me are making a buzzing sound on the inhale and no matter what I try, my breathing doesn't create noise. I try to look at several people, but their eyes meet mine and I feel like they think I am staring at them breathing oddly, so I look away and try to focus on myself. Out of the corner of my eye I notice something moving, and even though it is "yoga faux pas" I turn and look at the man in front of me to my right. After just the first breathing exercise, he is dripping sweat from his arms, as if someone is standing above him pouring water over his arms. I am totally grossed out by this amount of perspiration and wonder if anyone else realizes how much of a sweat issue this man has. I start to feel something tickle my arm and look to find sweat dripping from me too! At that moment, I added a pool of sweat around my "fried cricket" image. I eye my water bottle and my sweat towel... but we've been told to refrain from water till after the breathing exercises and that wiping sweat actually creates more sweat so I try to distract myself. I judge the instructor furiously and create a mental list of traits that describe her. First thing that comes to mind is that she is a wuss for not joining us (even if she is 9 months pregnant) and I imagine her unborn child boiling in overheated amniotic fluid. Surely, this can't be good for her baby. I add "irresponsible mother" to my list of traits to describe this instructor. Somehow it makes me feel better. Breathing exercises are over and I am convinced that class should be almost over. I search for a clock to see how much time has passed... not a time keeping device anywhere. I note that I should have snuck one in... maybe sewn it into the corner of my mat. Hindsight. We continue on into a number of poses that are challenging, but even worse when you are slippery with sweat and have no clue what you are doing. The instructor offers little instruction on how to actually do any of these so I find myself trying to look at others without appearing to look at others. I add "poor teacher" to her list. At least adding to her list gives me a way to pass the time. I start to feel lightheaded and wish I had stopped after one plate of salad. The third is most likely what threw me over the edge. I start to taste vinaigrette which is never a good sign. I eye the trash can and wonder what would happen to the energy in the room if I threw up and more importantly, how long it would take for the rancid puke smell to clear out of the room. The door seemed tempting too. Even though it was in the high 90s outside, I knew that if I could make it to the door, relief would be on the other side. I decided to sit out a few poses and try to take my mind off of the nausea. I laid down in the "dead body" pose since the instructor had said that would be the pose to do if you needed a break. The longer I laid there, the more claustrophobic I felt. I felt my heart racing and while others around me were finding inner peace, I found myself chanting my labor and delivery mantra: this too shall pass. Then it hit me. "For Pete's sake," I told myself. "You've delivered three kids. You've insulted the instructor numerous times in your head. And now, you are going to accept defeat and just stew in your pool of sweat?" Always one to be motived by competition, I rose to my feet and told myself that I wasn't going to throw up and a little bit of nausea never killed anyone. I was determined to finish the class standing... or whatever it was that they did at the end. I suffered through what seemed like an eternity (I thought the class was ONLY supposed to last 90 minutes!) and felt an immense feeling of relief when the instructor, now drenched in sweat from just standing on the platform and speaking, said it was our final breathing exercise. I finished with the group and was about the grab my mat and bolt from the door when I noticed that everyone around me was not actually leaving. They laid on their mats and just continued to soak in their sweat. Not wanting to stand out as the newbie, I laid on my mat until I heard the door open. I rolled up my mat and headed for the door, welcoming the cool air that hit me as I stepped into the hall. It was over. My salad stayed down, I didn't pass out, and no one was hunting me down in the locker room for staring at them. The feeling was exhilarating. I felt as if I had just had the most amazing workout ever. I felt energized and incredibly healthy (which was soon undone by the bag of onion rings I consumed when I got home). Dave made a comment about how sore I would be for the next few days and I chuckled claiming I really hadn't done much to be sore... truth be told... I couldn't walk for three days following the class without feeling the pain, or as my mother would call it, the healthy ache. I've been back several times since (I think I started this post at least a month ago!), mostly to get my Groupon's worth, and even though the 90 minutes still drags on forever, I always enjoy the post-hell feeling (except if it involves having to apologize profusely to the man at Office Max for coming in all sweaty and smelly to get a few office items after yoga... but really, it wasn't worth going home and changing, only to go out again... I am sure he understood). However, my Groupon is up this week, and I am secretly glad that I don't have to go back. Perhaps I will just crank up the heat in the basement when I work out... any takers?
Posted by Shernina Nichols at 12:29 PM