On many Monday mornings at some bright and early hour, you’ll find me hurrying into my local gym with my bag slung across my shoulder and a little blue mat tucked under my arm. The clap-clap of my flip-flops across the tile floor follows me everywhere I go until I kick them off onto the shelf outside the hot yoga studio. Then, I step onto the warm hardwood, and the heat of the studio wallops me like I just walked into a human-sized oven with about eight or nine other people. This is not how I will meet my end I tell myself as I unroll my mat and get prepared to twist myself into unnatural positions all in the name of fitness.
I swivel my head around the room observing my fellow masochists (how else to describe people who get up for a 6 AM class, on a Monday no less). No one says a word. I’m not sure what the problem is. I’ve had my coffee, so I’m more than willing to chat, but apparently, there’s an unspoken rule that chatting before yoga class is forbidden. I stretch in silence eagerly awaiting the start of class so that I can get this over with. I haven’t decided if I enjoy this class as much as I hope that it will somehow magically stop, or at least slow, the aging process. Surely, I can’t be this inflexible. I’m only in my early 40s. My back groans as I reach for my toes.
The instructor is a small, thin Asian woman who apparently does not have a hard bone in her body. She bends like a rubber band moving from one pose to another as easily as most people breathe. She starts out the class by lulling everyone into complacency. We sit cross-legged and comfortable, an easy repose even for this guy. We breathe in and out slowly and calm ourselves down. At this point, I’m always impressed that I’m still hanging with the class, but as if I’ve given her some cue, she changes direction and starts bending us rapidly in the most unbecoming ways. I stumble to keep up.
I guess all of this would be okay if it weren’t so damn hot (it is “hot” yoga after all). We’ve barely started stretching and I’m sweating profusely. Drips of sweat run down my back and my legs. I may as well be showering because sweat drips off my forehead in rivulets. The tiny towel I’ve brought to class is useless. It quickly becomes damp, its absorbent powers spent after a few swipes. Drops splat on my mat and I dab them away furiously. Nothing can undo a pose like my feet or hands slipping in sweat.
I saunter through the myriad poses like an out-of-tune dancer in a bad high school production of The West Side Story. If this class had a critic watching, he’d likely wretch all over my performance. That’s okay because no one’s watching. Or are they? I peek over my shoulder at my fellow yoga participants. Everyone appears to be concentrating on their own form. The paranoia in me says they will talk about me after class. “Did you see that totally clueless guy at the back of class? How can one person sweat so much? Yuck.”
The class assumes a rhythm that would be artistic in its movement if I weren’t present. I’m having kindergarten flashbacks when I first realized that maybe, just maybe, I was born without the rhythm gene (I would later confirm my suspicions at junior high dances.). My response to her persistent instructions is always a second or two delayed. I wait for the lady next to me to move into the pose to make sure I understand it correctly. Who bends like this? Why?
I feel like George Costanza in an episode of Seinfeld. I’m actually surprised Seinfeld never thought to put George in such a ridiculous setting. It would be comedic gold. Nevertheless, I soldier on through the class despite the fact that the studio begins to smell like the guy’s locker room – hot and sweaty with the taint of mildew or maybe it’s athlete’s foot. Who knows?
Midway through the class, my legs and arms shake as I balance in each successive pose. A slight wind could knock me over at this moment. I’ve given up on containing the sweat. My mind searches frantically for something to think about other than muscle strain and sweat. My stomach suggests that I consider blueberry muffins, but who can think of food in these conditions? I settle for some water instead. The grim reaper of dehydration sulks in the corner.
Finally, the end of class nears. The instructor slows the pace, and I am thankful. I survived. My muscles will revolt later and leave me in a state of paralysis, but I will deal with that in the privacy of my own home. I spread the sweat across my aching muscles with the useless, damp towel, roll up my mat, and escape to the dramatically cooler confines of the gym. Hopefully, I won’t embarrass myself again until next week.