'So you might get a headache, you might feel dizzy, you might even feel like you’re going to die. Don’t worry, that’s all perfectly normal. Whatever you do, don’t leave. The aim of today is just to stay in the room’
These are the mildly terrifying instructions one is given before entering a hot yoga class for the first time.
|Me practising a pose, not really!|
So I thought yoga, even in a hot environment like the one I was about to enter, was meant to be a calming and relaxing experience, allowing you to connect with your body via your breath. How wrong I was. Hot yoga is a very different animal indeed, hence the warning, before you attempt it for the first time, to take it easy. I wasn’t really sure what to wear so had gone for shorts and a t-shirt and was, quite possibly, the most overdressed person in the room. There were muscular ladies in bikinis and men in trunks, although there were a few hardcore exceptions, dressed in head to foot thermal running gear, I assume to generate even more heat.
I have dabbled with yoga, pilates and occasionally body balance, on numerous occasions but it’s been a good 7 years since my last attempt and never before in 40 degree heat. The class was a relatively even mix of beginners and advanced practitioners. This was a good set up as the instructor most of the time, walked around the class, talking you through your poses. rather than demonstrating them, so having people at the front who knew what they were doing for you to follow, was very helpful. Although there were moments where I was hit by the stark realisation of exactly how good they were as they expertly flexed in ways I never would. The poses, I am reliably informed, were a mix of Ashtanga, Hatha and Bikram yoga.
I was also advised that generally one takes 3 towels to a hot yoga class, one to put over your mat, one to mop your brow and then one for the shower afterwards. This seemed excessive however I quickly understood why. Not to go into too much detail here but the sweat is unbelievable, it pours over your eyes, in your mouth and when you bend over, up your nose. It pours off of you in a steady stream almost, and you leave class in a similar fashion to exiting a swimming pool. Having a shower afterwards is mandatory.
I had every symptom listed to me in my first class and I did repeatedly think I would have to make a break for it, into the cool of the heated reception area. However, I was successful, I didn’t pass out and while I struggled to maintain my balance I didn’t do any comedy falling over backwards or a poorly judged indiscreet attempts at passing of wind (I’ve been caught out with that one before). I didn’t manage to hang around for the meditation at the end though and I stood up far too quickly, causing me to weave about to find the door to the changing room, whilst mentally batting the stars from my vision. I say stars they were more like purple clouds.
The sheer bliss of the cool shower afterwards almost brought real tears to my eyes, as opposed to sweat based ones. I walked out of the subterranean studio feeling a little bit like I’d visited another land, a spa-like underworld, like I’d spent the last hour and a half sat in a humid cloud and some of it’s fluffy ether had transferred into my mind. It was warm, comforting and bizarrely serene. I realised then what exactly it was that I was feeling, I felt relaxed. I’d forgotten long ago what that felt like and needless to say I happily confess, I am well and truly hooked.