Photo I took at MOMA, NY
I thought it would feel like a sauna, breathing in a dry sweet heat. It didn’t. Hot yoga, or bikram yoga, was more like walking into a toasty warm cabin on a snow day. Except it was a good 104 degrees outside in Texas, never mind inside the toasty cabin. There might be a sun warrior pose, but thankfully there’s no actual sun in the yoga studio, so it’s not like working out in your driveway. As people waved out their towels and rolled out their mats, the instructor flipped on the ceiling fans. Good, hot yoga for pussies.
The woman beside me smelled of kibble. But there wasn’t time or room for me to relocate. It was my very first class, and I was told to drink a lake before we actually began, to avoid dehydration. As I glugged, I surveyed the room. There were three lean men, the balding type who wear bicycle shorts and a leather rope necklace. The women were dressed the way I imagine young tomatoes dress when they’re video-sexting guys: skimpy tank bras and low-slung wee shorts that seem to be going steady with their cracks. And yes, I would TOTALLY wear that shit if I had your bodies, you hussies.
When we began, I kept repeating to myself the words I’d heard from several people before class: with your first time, your only goal is to stay in the room. They didn’t care if I just lied there, doing nothing. I’d have reached a goal. What the hell is that? Seriously?
90 minutes later, it was over. I stayed in the room. I did every single pose, or at least tried. My muscles were shaking. I watched other people pounding back water. I looked down at my body and was astounded that I wasn’t dripping fat. Clearly fat folks have crap cooling systems–our bodies have to be inefficient–because the lean, strong, dancer bodies of the class were soaked in sweat. I HEARD their sweat. Not just one person, all the people around me were raining. There was a pitter patter of sweat, a chorus of drips hitting mats, and all the while, I’m not sweating! My face is beet red, and it looks like it has its own pulse, but I’m not dripping sweat. I realize fat people must ingest their sweat, and it must be caloric, because I don’t sweat really at all, not until afterward when my muscles are shaking.
Surprisingly, during the cool down, or "aware, awake, open-eyed meditation" time, liquid began to stream out. I was crying. "It’s okay," the instructor said to the room, "to let out some emotion now. It’s natural." I’d read about women crying during massages, emotion pushed out of them on a table. I understood the idea of it but never felt that kind of release myself. But there I was, crying. What a wonderful release. The instructor told us to thank ourselves, reminded us that it was a hard decision to come, that we could have taken the easy way out, didn’t have to be there, didn’t have to commit, but we were there and needed to be applauded for it. Then she asked them all to clap for me. "I want you all to applaud Stephanie. It was her first class, and she did every single pose." I was surprised, and it made me feel proud of myself.
When I returned to my car, downing coconut water, I called a friend to tell her it was hard–I mean really, who can keep both elbows pressed into your ears with your hands above you, no space between your palms (try it now for a good minute, then multiply that minute by 60)–hard, but good. "I think I’m going to be back tomorrow," I said.
But I never did go back. I know the story works best if I say here that I never went back, maybe because I was afraid of dealing with the emotions, but the truth is, I think it had a lot to do with just how much prep I had to do before class. I couldn’t show up unprepared. I needed to start hydrating the night before, no eating beforehand. It was like work before even showing up to work. Much easier to hop on the elliptical machine and watch "The View." Not exactly the same view I got at the yoga studio, and certainly not the same results, but still, it’s something.