I didn’t quite know what to expect from my first hot yoga experience. I’d taken sporadic yoga classes before, but never in an environment where, according to my friend Courtney, my “toes would sweat.” Forget any concern over the fact that I’m about as flexible as uncooked pasta. My goal here, frankly, was to not faint or puke.
Luckily, Courtney had advised me on best practices for hot yoga preparation. Turns out they’re not that different from pre-race preparation. Don’t eat anything crazy the night before. Hydrate. Eat something light-ish a couple hours before class. Hydrate more. Bring towels, water, and for the love of everything holy, wear sweat-wicking clothes.
I drove to the yoga studio dressed in, essentially, a running outfit, trading socks and shoes for flip-flops. I armed myself with a mat, three towels (two for class, one for the car), a bottle of water, and a mantra of “Just…keep…breathing.”
I met Courtney and another friend outside the studio. We signed in and staked out places for our mats. It was warm in there, but the door was open – kind of a warm-up to the W-A-R-M-up.
Then the door closed. No turning back! The instructor, a curly-haired woman named Katie, started class without fanfare. She had music playing for us – fairly common, but new to me. I liked it, especially considering it was not relaxing, spa-type music, but classic rock: the Rolling Stones, the Doors, CCR. There’s nothing like doing a warrior pose while “Paint it Black” churns into your ears. At least I think it was “Paint it Black.” My ears were pretty soggy by then.
I did fine for a while. To my relief, the positions weren’t extremely difficult – no handstands or pretzel-like twists. The main challenge/focus of hot yoga seems to be, well, the heat. It didn’t take long for sweat to start beading and rolling down every inch of my body. My fingers got pruney. I eventually had a towel crumpled at each end of my mat, for wiping off my hands, face, feet, ponytail, and the mat itself – that thing gets slippery.
I wish I could say that I sweated, stretched, pointed my toes and engaged my core without missing a beat for the entire class.
Ohhhhh not so.
Although I never needed to full-on sit down and rest (Hooray!), I did take a few “just stand there and take three deep breaths” moments, since I suspected no one wanted to see a demonstration of the lesser-known “Pancake Pose.” But thankfully, nearly everyone was doing the same. There was a vibe of “We’re all in the same sweat-filled boat, so if you need a breather, for Heaven’s sake, take one.”
Lying there, sodden, in the final resting pose, I thought to myself, “Hard? Yes. Helpful to my running? Probably. Worth doing again? YES.”
My friends cheered for my survival. Buoyed by their support and maybe a sweat-logged brain, I squished over to the front desk and signed up for more classes.
Do I expect to make it through hot yoga without any breathing breaks anytime soon? No. Will I successfully touch my heels to the ground in downward dog anytime soon? Good LORD no. But sweating so much that I have to put a towel over the driver’s seat for the ride home… well, living in arid New Mexico, it feels great.