The joy of standing half-naked in a room full of people swimming in their own sweat cannot be underestimated. My feet are cushioned from the hardwood floor by a bright purple yoga mat, dimpled like a cloud, sporting a cherubic portrait of Miley Cyrus; as it turns out, fitness equipment is not something Marshalls heavily stocks.
For the last two months, I’ve been extending my early mornings one day further by waking up at 7 a.m. Saturday to go to a free yoga class at a sparkling studio in Midtown. And not just any yoga, but hot Hatha. If the latter word means nothing to you, you’re in good company. I couldn’t tell you the difference between Hatha, Vinyasa, Pranayama, Yin-yasa or any of the other forms of yoga they teach, which I pulled off the studio’s website for the purpose of listing forms of yoga I know nothing about. The key word here is “hot.”
At least, that’s what initially got me interested in getting out of my comfort zone and trying something new. It was early January, and between the cold of winter and the chill of a recent breakup, I thought a little warmth was just what I needed. So the next Saturday, I sacrificed my sleep, woke up bright and early, packed up my recently purchased and unfortunately decorated yoga mat and drove to the studio — the source, I was sure, of a newfound sense of peace that would soon be filling my life.
It was a brisk, drizzly morning, and my spirits rose as I opened the studio’s frosted glass door and basked in the warmth of the smiling faces that greeted me.
“Is this your first time here?” the attractive young woman behind the front desk asked.
“Yes,” I said, and tried to communicate with my eyes that it wouldn’t be the last.
She gave me a quizzical look, making me wonder about mine, and said, “OK, hun. Just sign this release, and you can put your stuff in one of the cubbies. We lock the doors when the class starts. The studio is down the hall on the right.”
Papers signed, clothes and keys deposited in one of the bright pink cubbies that lined the walls of the front office (so much for soothing colors), I followed her directions to the door through which I would find my haven from the cold world outside.
If you’ve ever, while swimming, jumped from a hot tub directly into a freezing cold pool, you’ll know the feeling, just in reverse. Compared to the icy temperature outside, the outer office had felt positively heavenly. The inside of the studio proper, on the other hand, brought to mind images of fire and brimstone.
Don’t get me wrong; it was a lovely space for bending yourself into unnatural positions. But as I walked to an empty spot in the room and saw the thermostat set to 110 degrees Fahrenheit, I couldn’t help but wonder what I had gotten myself into.
An hour and a half later, with the voluminous amount of sweat I had shed turning the sticky surface of my mat into a slip-n-slide, utterly exhausted but alive with the sweetest sense of grooviness even the hippest of hippies couldn’t imagine, I had fallen in love with this weird and ecstatic form of activity called hot Hatha yoga. I’ve been going every weekend since.
So if you ever feel your mind has gone pretzel-shaped, it might be worth finding a place where you can do the same to your body.