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With my current yoga instructor moving on to bigger and better things, I'm looking into other local options. I’ve had experience with several other local teachers, but as often happens with yoga studios, the atmosphere, instructors, and schedules have changed.And while I’ve been practicing Iyengar yoga for several years, my real love is vinyasa yoga, since it offers cardio as well as flexibility, strength, and stress management.
First up: Since I struggle with heat under normal circumstances, starting with debilitating heat- and sunstroke episodes as a kid and continuing with me turning into an epic sweat-er as an often humiliated adult, I of course decided to try a Bikram class at a studio with membership options (all you can asana for a monthly fee). This “hot yoga” may seem counterintuitive for a melter, but if you’ve ever been the drippingest drip in an exercise class, you might understand how comforting it could seem to be surrounded by a room-full of quickly dehydrating classmates. You won’t stand out, right? Vinyasa is about movement in conjunction with the breath, so postures flow from one to the next.
Vinyasa is about movement in conjunction with the breath, so postures flow from one to the next.
And the bar was really low for this class, which turned out to be a hot vinyasa class. The goal of a person’s first hot vinyasa class is to “stay in the room.” That’s it, that’s all you have to do. Not be bendier, not do a perfect handstand, not breathe regularly and calmly, not be deeply in tune with your deepest self … just – don’t leave, okay?
I didn’t leave. However, there were moments when I did strategically reach for the water when I just couldn’t take anymore. That cool move was less convincing when I ran out of water. And there were other moments when I saw my reddened face, soaked clothes, and tightly curling wet hair in the wall-length mirror and wondered why the hell I was there.
When the sweat wasn’t blurring my vision, I could see a beautifully toned young woman, who I would later hear discussing the insurance problems she’d have until she was 24, reveling in the practice as she glistened. The shirtless guy with the dreadlocks, who wanted it “hotter the better” so he could ride his motorcycle home comfortably through the cold night, was flawlessly strong.
I stopped looking to focus on my own survival.
But then, something happened. During savasana, aka "corpse pose," which all yogis look forward to, I was lying on my back and trying to make my heart stop racing, and the instructor was talking about our collective intention for the class and … she put a cold washcloth in my open palm.
While I was supposed to be lying quietly in my private swamp, integrating the benefits of my moist practice, I used that deliciously chilled piece of heaven to wipe my salty face, to cool the arteries pounding in my neck, and, finally, to lay it on my brow like a feverish smallpox victim just waiting to die.
It was glorious.