Satan, Inventor Of Hot Yoga

I swore up and down for years that I would never do hot yoga.

We’ll get into the obvious whys a little later when I explain my very sound reasoning for believing that it was indeed Lucifer himself who invented the practice, but first, I want to tell you how I got there to begin with.

I work out three times a week. I want to clarify, however, that I am not a person who enjoys being active. My husband loves to work out. He’s a triathlete. Like, running 12 miles for him is a warm up. It’s not unusual for him to bike 75 miles in a day… for fun. My idea of fun is knitting and watching Downton Abbey. But I recognize that if I want to live longer and feel better, I must get the old body moving. On Mondays I do a pretty hard core two hour yoga class. On Wednesdays, I do another one hour yoga class with a scary Russian gym coach-like teacher who basically yells at me when I get a pose wrong. I realize this is the opposite of what yoga is supposed to be, but, my practice improved dramatically after I started going to her class. Tough love, I guess. On Fridays I do a barre class, which is supposed to be what dancers do to stay in shape when they aren’t dancing. There’s a lot of tucking your pelvis and micro movements on your tippy toes. Good times.

When my Russian gym coach teacher cancelled her Wednesday class (she decided to become a massage therapist… ouch!) I knew I had to find another workout and it needed to be something to really get my cardio up, because I knew I wasn’t doing enough in that capacity. I tried a myriad of things: swimming (too many wardrobe changes and bad for the hair), Zumba (no), Jazzercise (really, really no), speedwalking (felt too much like running) – you get the idea. Then I saw a class online called Core Body Yoga. It was a Wednesday class that specialized in movement and cardio. It was only an hour, and I thought, “Perfect! I can do yoga!”

I did read the description where it said it was in a heated space. But stupidly, I don’t know, I thought this just meant the room would be warm. As in, maybe a little warmer than usual. For some reason I did not equate “heated” yoga with “hot” yoga.

So, I get there on the Wednesday morning and the instructor, Amanda, seems really nice. I know it’s a level 2 class, which doesn’t intimidate me because I’m pretty much a level 2 yogini. I’m amped. I’m ready to get my heart rate up! Amanda asks, “Have you ever done hot yoga before?” and I want to say “Uhh, no – why the hell would I ever do yoga in a furnace?” so it isn’t until that actual moment that it dawns on me what is about to happen. My mouth gapes open. I want to run; I’m a deer trapped in headlights. My confusion over how I made such a mistake cancels out my fight or flight response.

“Don’t worry!” she says brightly. “Take it easy and just get yourself into child’s pose if it feels like too much.” I suddenly, weirdly, recall a Facts Of Life episode where Tootie runs away and ends up in a bus station. At the station, she befriends a girl her age, who is also a runaway. Then the girl introduces Tootie to this really ‘nice guy’. It turns out the girl is a hooker who is looking for other lost girls to turn into hookers! and the ‘nice guy’ was her pimp. Even though Amanda is not wearing a bad ass rabbit coat and is probably not a hooker, she reminds me of that girl on the show. Clearly she is leading me astray and I am in trouble. But, then again, I really can spend the whole class in child’s pose. I don’t have to do anything, and I can still say I went and tried it.

When I walk into the class, I am assaulted by a wave of heat that is so intense I think at first it must be a joke. This is Palm Springs in August. This is the inside of a sauna. No, I think to myself as I lay out my mat, this is the mouth of hell.

We begin with stretches. I feel I can probably do this much. I look around. There is a vast differentiation of body types, genders and ages. It can’t be that bad, not if this woman who looks old enough to be my mom is doing it. Right? Ten minutes in and I’m not even sweating that much. The heat is intense (I am sure it is around 115 degrees; it is actually 100 degrees with 40% humidity) but I am coping. In fact, I am coping so well that when we move into our first sequence, I decide to try it.

Ten minutes after that choice, I am sweating more than I thought was humanly possible. After another ten minutes, I am sure I will have to go to the hospital for dehydration. It’s not just that I am sweating, but I am dripping sweat from places I have never sweated before. My ankles, my fingers, behind my knees, are soaking wet. It’s so wrong.

Then, I start to get angry. Who invented this? Who thought, you know, yoga is really too easy. Who thought, instead of amping up the intensity of the poses, it would be better to make every one do them in a room that is basically the same temperature as the sun? And that’s when I came to the conclusion that it  must be Satan. It had to be. It’s probably just as hot in hell as it is in that room. Satan’s having a good old laugh at this one. It’s a knee slapper. Idiots, like myself, not only volunteer for this nonsense, but PAY for it too.  For the Devil, watching a hot yoga class is probably the equivalent of us watching an episode of The Bachelor.

Thirty-five minutes in and I am ready to both vomit and collapse. My heart is certainly going, but I’m also afraid it will explode and there is a pretty decent chance, I’m sure, that I am close to actually pooping my pants. I gasp for air and down I go, into child’s pose. Amanda comes over and rubs my back. “It’s okay – you did really well, Amy. Just relax and breathe. We’re almost done.” I lay there for a while, not daring to get up as heat rises and it’s cooler on the floor. I am also sweating so much that I slide off my own knees. I am too exhausted to be mad any longer.

I decide that I will stretch with everyone else at the end of class. I am surprised to find that I am much more flexible than normal. Then I realize that with the room so hot, my muscles were bound to be looser. Perhaps this is the one benefit of hot yoga. After the blessed Shivasana, I roll up my mat, dry myself off as much as possible and head for the door. When I walk out of the room, I can practically hear a chorus of angels singing. It is so cool and lovely that I think I may weep. What’s really amazing is that I feel good. I had never sweated so hard or so much in my life. I don’t even know if I had ever even worked out that hard. I was expecting to faint or something, but I wasn’t expecting to actually feel good.

So while I still posit that Satan might well have invented hot yoga and thoroughly enjoys himself when he watches us from his diabolical direct TV link to a class because of the suffering, I will now admit something else: I go to hot yoga every week. It still kicks my butt. I still cannot get through an entire class without spending time in child’s pose. I do not like it. At all. But I do like the feeling after a lot. What’s one hour a week? We all know that the devil has invented worse things like death by chocolate cake and that abysmal Shake It Up show on Nick. All in all, hot yoga isn’t that bad. That’s a lie. It’s bad. But it really is worth it.

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