Hot Mess

Perhaps you’ve read this hilarious post about a hot yoga participant. While I’m not about to sell my yoga mat, I have Feelings about my most recent hot yoga experience.

It started, as things sometimes do, with a Groupon. This new hot yoga place opened near us and I was interested in trying it out. Now, I’ve done hot yoga ONCE with my friend R. It was a new experience for me, I admit – I’ve been doing regular yoga for six or seven years – but hot yoga? It’s Different.

Hot yoga primer: Bikram Choudhury developed his version of the class in the 70’s. Based on hatha yoga, classes run 90 minutes and consist of 26 poses and 2 breathing exercises. Everything is done in a room of 105 degrees Fahrenheit with about 40% humidity. The theory is that  you can do deeper poses, relax the muscles, release toxins, blah blah blah.

Upon my arrival a grouchy man with long stringy grey hair, beard, and glasses took my Groupon coupon and told me to sign in and sign the waiver. He sort of looks like Ted Kaczynski with longer hair. I’d read the place’s FAQ online and I knew the waiver was coming. This adorable Australian woman signed in at the same time and was told that since it was her first hot yoga class, her goal was to stay in the hot room for the whole 90 minute class. She looked at me, panic in her sparkly green eyes, and said, “Oh dear, now I’m getting nervous.”

“That’s all you have to do!” I said cheerfully. “Just stay in the room. You can do that.”

Famous….last…words.

In the changing room she asked if I’d done this before. “Just once. Just rest in child’s pose if you get dizzy.”

“He’ll yell at you if you do child’s pose,” another woman said.

“What? Everybody tells you to rest in child’s pose if you have to stop!” I said.

She shook her head. “He’ll tell you it’s not one of the Bikram poses.”

Aussie and and looked at each other. “So glad I knew that before,” I said.

Silence is strictly enforced in The Hot Room and no amount of vocal expression, save breathing and the occasional grunt or groan, is tolerated by the Yogi (the Yogabomber? Since he looks like him?). If you have friends in class, you are definitely not allowed to whisper to her, “Why did I do this, again?” or “I think my face is melting,” or “He can take this class and shove it up his Iyengar.”

Class started with some singing bowls, which was nice. Then the nice stopped and the pain started.

Since I had read the FAQ, I knew that new people were supposed to stay in the back of the room and watch more seasoned practitioners do their thing. I somehow ended up in the middle then in the front, not far from Yogi. He never introduced himself, and praised the people who had clearly been coming for a while, calling them by name. There was no general, “You’re doing great, class” or “Everyone is looking good.”

Someone DID get called out for doing a 27th unapproved pose, and while I avoided being corrected for doing child’s pose but here is a list of things I did not escape being corrected for:

  • Trying to take a drink of water at a time not approved by Yogi, which prompted a lecture to the class on how he likes you to only drink when he tells you that you may because it’s just “too confusing” for the class if people drink when they feel like it.
  • Trying to extend my leg during standing head-to-knee pose when my standing leg was NOT STRAIGHT ENOUGH.
  • Wiping sweat out of my eyes. Yogi wants you to “let it pour off you like a river.” Right into your eyes? Got it.
  • Adjusting triangle pose by moving my stability leg, not my other leg. I didn’t dare tell him my foot actually set sail by itself on a river of my sweat…
  • Various other knee-straightening-related infractions, prompting several lectures about his knowledge and understanding of Knees and Knee Problems so we’d better just listen to him, because dammit he’s been to India and they know All About It.
  • Moving ahead too fast – I lifted my arms before the rest of the class at one point because I’d totally spaced out. It was ten million degrees…

In the dressing room after, I was asking if there was a prize for being corrected that many times in one class. Another woman said that all Bikram instructors are like that and I should keep coming back.

WHY are they all like that? It’s true, the only other one I’ve met was bossy and grouchy, too. I know it’s hot in there, but geez. It’s like saying, “Children make me so grumpy and pissy,” and then going to be a third grade teacher, and blaming you being grumpy on the kids. YOU KNEW THERE WAS GOING TO BE HEAT IN THERE, RIGHT?

I learned my lesson about judging yoga teachers too soon. But I’m very curious to see how this will resolve. I have nine more visits to Yogi’s Silent Hell and I’m pretty sure I”ll be keeping you all updated. Until then, namaste, bitches.

3 Comments

  1. …I’ve been practicing Bikram for eleven years and have found that every studio is very different in its atmosphere and attitude toward the practice. I prefer studios with a more relaxed, friendly vibe. Maybe you do to? I would suggest don’t give up on Bikram Yoga, just try and find a different studio.🙂

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