Stinking Hell Torture: The Hot Yoga Experiment

In January, a new tenant moved into one of the semi-derilict shops at corner of Vedder and Keith Wilson in Sardis.Excitedly, I noted that it was one of those über trendy Bikram Yoga (hot yoga) joints, and  it was slated to open up mid-month.

I would join! I would spend my time becoming a yogi! I would become a skinny yoga bitch, and hang out with other skinny bitches! Yes! Yes! Yes!

I promptly forgot about it.

Fast forward to a week ago. I went whizzing by in the car on the way back from a shopping excursion in Abbotsford, and resolved to check for a website when I got home. I looked up the website, and spent a few minutes glancing over the info about hot yoga. It was hot. You did yoga. You needed a mat and skimpy clothing. Water was a good idea. Bring a towel. Being that I actually owned all of these things, it sounded feasible. Now all I had to do was sucker someone into going with me, because I’m a pussy, and don’t try new exercise things solo.

My friend Rachel (who is already skinny, hawt and a fitness instructor to boot) took the bait. We made arrangements to meet up at the yoga studio later in the week, and would go sweat it out together.

Fun! Or something. (Being that there are no husbands or children at yoga, it was bound to be better than being at home.)

When the evening finally rolled around to go to hot yoga, I was psyched. I was going to NAIL it. Never mind that I’d never actually done yoga in public before and really  had ZERO clue what going to yoga meant. It wasn’t that I hadn’t tried to go to yoga. I tried. Classes would be cancelled, I’d get stuck in traffic and be late and not let in, my childcare would flake, pizza would jump up and force me to eat it. The intentions were good, but the execution was lacklustre.

After paying for my 2-week trial membership, stashing my belongings and filling up my water bottle, I dragged my mat and towel into down the hall, and yanked the door to the studio open. I was immediately smacked in the face by the sickeningly humid heat that was beyond the door. Stepping into the studio (set to 107 F), I swore I was having a bad acid flashback to 2002, when  I thought it was a great idea to rollerblade the Humber River trail in Toronto on the hottest day of the year. Blind panic set in, as I realized that I would be sequestered in the hot chamber for NINETY MINUTES…while working out. I found Rachel, who was lying on the floor in the corpse pose (savasana) and noisily set about rolling out my mat, slurping my water, and settling myself in. A few minutes later, the instructor walked in, and the class began.

Bikram yoga begins with a repetitious breathing exercise (pranayama series) while standing. This lasts several minutes, and requires massive concentration and coordination. In the heat, I have neither. By the time we were five minutes into the class, I was sweating like someone had splashed me with a glass of acrid water. I could smell my sweat, and let me tell you, it was NOT sweet. In fact, when preforming strenuous exercise in extreme heat, I smell like an onion that has been left on the counter for a few days. Mmmmm.

On and on, and on and on went the class.

The room was filled with mirrors on all sides, and I was astounded by just how fucking fat I really am. It’s not a secret that childbearing and office dwelling (coupled with a natural tendency to take sloth to a high art form) have been unkind to my body. I’m 5 ft 3. Until 2001, I was 100 to 110 lbs. After 2001, I inched up the scale, adding another 10 – 15 lbs a year. My first pregnancy dragged me up to 201 lbs at 9 months, and while I managed to claw my way back down to 161 lbs, my body is flabby, stretched and highly unattractive. The mirrors in the yoga studio amplify this to the nth degree. Here a bulge, there a bulge, everywhere a bulge, bulge! If I had known I was such a dumpy haus frau, I would have Sylvia Plath’d myself in the gas stove years ago.

Relentlessly, the class wore on. The smell of fatty getting her heart-rate up permeated my nose, and I understood why we had to bring towels to class: to sop up the oozing perspiration so you don’t slip on your damn mat.

One of the aspects of the first class that kept throwing me was the silence. My greatest desire was to snort out caustic and sarcastic remarks every time the instructor would say “Lock your knees. Head to knees. Tighten up! Tighten up! You’re a Japanese ham sandwich, and there is no space anywhere between your head and legs…”  A Japanese ham sandwich? What the hell does that mean, man?

The other thing that was driving me nuts was having to stare at myself in the mirror, and not at other people. Other people are more interesting. Other people are not me, with my red face and quivering back fat. Sadly, it is rude to stare at others getting their Bikram on, and so I had to settle for looking myself in the eyes and telegraphing to my reflection”NEVER AGAIN! NEVER!”

Eventually, the class came to an end. I fled for the change room. Rachel was also red-faced and was also taken aback by the stink from working out in what is essentially a sauna. We chatted briefly, and I went home.

During my drive home, I felt something I hadn’t felt after exercising in over a decade: pleasure. I DID IT. I DID IT WELL. I MASTERED IT. I DIDN’T QUIT! ME! I DIDN’T GIVE UP! I had a rush of pride, and felt on top of the world. My legs and body tingled. I had energy!

Okay, I lie. There is one bastard pose that I can’t get the hang of. Just one. It is made of evil and hate:

Stupid padangustasana. But I digress…

In fact, I had so much energy, that I went to the early morning class the next day. And the day after that.  Both times sucked while I was in the studio, and I swore it was going to kill me, but I reminded myself that if I am capable of pushing out a baby with no pain meds, then I can damn well survive a hot yoga session.Then I took a day off to re-coup, and went jogging for 45 minutes instead (jogging is still not fun.) I went back again the next day, and guess what? It still sucked, and felt like hell while I was there, but the minute it was over? ECSTACY. The best part of hot yoga is finishing the hot yoga, and living to tell about it. Especially when the energy jolt hits you, and  you feel like you can go forever.

Tomorrow is another class, and another chance to torture myself in the ungodly heat for an absurd duration of time.

I can’t wait.



8 thoughts on “Stinking Hell Torture: The Hot Yoga Experiment

    • I’ll try just about anything once or twice. If I didn’t get some sort of gratification out of it, I wouldn’t have gone back. I now need to check out “normal” yoga, to see what I get out of that. It may be completely my speed. I can definitely see how you the heat would induce a panic attack, especially since you’re having to be silent and your mind goes into over-drive. If you know it’s not your bag, don’t go. I saw one chick pass out about 12 minutes in on Tuesday, and it’s not worth that.

  1. that was THE BEST thing i have ever read. laughing hysterically.
    I went to my first bikram class tonight and you are dead on the money!

    Thankyou =)

  2. Brilliantly written! and so true, what the hell IS a Japanese ham sandwich? And where are my deltoids? This information would be useful!! I started 41 days ago and had my 40th session today – utterly hooked. Apparently the REAL high is on your 60th session if within 60 days. What they don’t mention is you can have a string of seriously crappy painful days in between – your body starts to do some weird things – but then it gets better again and the high comes back. Amazing.
    I’ll be following you for comradery and awesome writing!

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