I used to imagine hell as a cave-like volcano belly, roaring with fire and inhabited by unhappy people and devils with pitchforks.
Now I am wiser, older, sweatier. I know that hell lies in a Bikram studio.
I am a sometimes yoga practioner and tentative admirer of summer. I say ‘tentative’ because I’m not a fan of heat. Sweating, red faces and potential body odour put me off the intensity of a heat wave, and, in fact, anything warmer than a mild day. The basic rule of thumb is, if it makes me sweat, I disapprove.
Why on earth did I go to Bikram then? It’s simple. I’m a sucker. I’m easily persuadable. I’ve got the backbone of a bowl of jelly. Oh the hours I’ve spent bored at parties because on my way out someone had the misfortune to mutter, ‘No, don’t go!’. I’ve written about my FOMO before too – a disease I am starting to see the last of now that I’m the ripe old age of 27. But I still feel the pressure when it comes to things that are Good For Me. And Bikram yoga falls into this category.
Imagine you’re in an oven.
A steamy, steamy oven.
It’s so steamy your fingers have wrinkled into prunes, sweat is running under your bra and down your back, off your temples and even through your toes.
And a lady is telling you to touch your toes.
And stretch to the left.
And put your hand under your crotch so you can grab your other hand behind your left ear with your legs shoulder length apart.
Eventually I just stopped moving and thought ‘Fuuuuck this lady.’ I just wanted to survive the 90 minutes intact. I sat as still as I could, aware that the hot ground was permeating my thighs and radiating heat into my head – is there no way to just take the hot hair helmet OFF?! I splashed water from my rapidly warming water bottle on myself (subtly). I exhaled loudly. I tried not to make eye contact. I gave up wiping the sweat away and dedicated myself to surviving the heat. People were bending impossibly flat all around me and I just stared mutely at my wrinkly fingers, despairing that even my water bottle had turned tepid. The instructor said things like, ‘It’s NORMAL to feel nauseous and like you might faint.’ Normal?! NORMAL?!!!? Why pay to put yourself in a situation where it’s NORMAL to feel like the heat is invasively molesting your every pore? Why did that skinny bitch look so goddamn sexy at the front of the class? Has the Boyfriend noticed her? I’m the least sexy yoga person ever. I looked at the clock: twenty minutes had passed. That was it. I couldn’t anymore. This was pain. I got up to leave, but with sweat running down my face and my feeble protestations muted by insecurity and sheer spinelessness, I was forced to return to my oven-like mat by the iron-clad instructor in her short shorts and tube top. I stopped caring if I made eye contact with anyone. I worked out the mirror was reversing the clock and FORTY minutes had passed. I hoped the boyfriend would still want to touch me considering I was doing an admirable tomato impression, and was sweating out approximately the Pacific Ocean amount of water from every pore. I lay down. The instructor bellowed across the class, ‘Don’t lie down! It makes it harder for the other people.’ I sat up. Exhaled. Wiped sweat from my upper lip. Splashed water on myself (less subtly). Exhaled. Wiped sweat from my temple. NEVER AGAIN echoed in my mind as I tried to cool down by sheer force of will.
Eventually, the class ended and I made a swift, ungraceful exit while everyone was doing the ‘relaxation’ exercises. I ran to the shower and cried a little as the cool water ran over my red skin.
I am lead to believe that this was a particularly bad class and the temperature malfunctioned, leaving thirty people yoga-ing in a room with 55% humidity. What I’m wondering is, is it worth going again to find out if this was an anomaly?
Right now, the answer is…
Well. I’m sure you know.