Dear Hot Yoga Class:
I don’t know what I did to piss you off.
I’ve been doing yoga for most of my life. All of it, if you count the toddler years I spent sleeping with my butt stuck up in the air (‘Child’s Pose’). The concept of hot yoga seems flawed to me – if the whole point of yoga is to gradually increase my flexibility by stretching the fibers of my muscles, then doesn’t super-heating myself to the point that I can stretch them *beyond* my own point of flexibility sort of…defeat the purpose?
What I’m saying is, isn’t it cheating?
More to the point: Isn’t it, oh, say, a wee bit dangerous?
If the whole hot-yarding-on-muscles-thing isn’t, surely the attempt to stand in a tree pose (looks like photo above, only less serene and more sweaty, stinky swearey people) on a soaked towel atop a slippery mat would qualify. I felt like the floor was taunting me. “Fall, you fool! Right on your fool face!”
Also, attempting to grab my feet and go into any kind of balance pose was ludicrous. You know what feet are covered in when a room is that hot and humid? Sweat. You know what’s hard to get a grip on? Slippery-eel feet.
I try my very best not to hate anything without giving it a shot, though. Some things are harder than others – for example, the first Twilight book is waiting for me on my bookshelf. If books can laugh, it is positively cackling.
It always weirds me out when people dislike things without trying them. My dad hated yoghurt, but had never tried it, which caused this conversation to happen throughout my life:
Me: “Just try it. It’s good.”
Dad: “Nope. I hate yoghurt.”
Me: “How can you hate something you’ve never tried?”
Dad: “Why would I try something that I hate?”
Me: “But – the – I don’t –“
Cue end of conversation, because I don’t know how to argue with that logic. I don’t even know what that logic is.
So, hot yoga. What’s your deal? Why did your instructor tell me to ‘work to really compress’ my spine? Why did she insist that spinal pain in the neck was okay? Why did she tell the only guy in the class to move his knees closer together in a pose that was surely crushing his testicles–unless they had retreated in fear?
(Is that what they do? I have no idea. It seems like if cold=retraction, then hot should = more extension, but I don’t know if there’s more to be had, or if balls are just . . . . You know what? This is an unnecessary tangent.)
Yeah, we’re all grownups, and no, we don’t have to do what the fancy teacher says even though she stands on a box made of mirrors. (Mirrors!) But a teacher has a certain power. That’s why there’s all those laws about what they can and – mostly – can’t do. So if a ‘yoga’ teacher tells a room full of people to bend their necks as far backwards as they can and then maybe just a leeeeeetle bit further, they’re probably going to try. Everyone wants the teacher to like them.
I guess my problem is in the use of the word ‘Yoga’. If they called it ‘Hot Aerobics,’ that would be fine. You sort of expect to have to protect yourself from overzealous instructors in aerobics. People have an idea that yoga is safe, and healing, and that lets them drop their guards a little and maybe trust a bit too much. A good fundamental rule of yoga is to always, always listen to your body. If there was a hierarchy in the studio it would look like this:
It’s also possible I just had a bad teacher, and hot yoga is actually brilliant. I mean, the ‘Hot’ part wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it would be, so there’s that. I’m sure I’m a bit more detoxified than I was before I sweated through my clothes in a 105°F/41°C room. Maybe it works for other people, but it’s not a relationship I’ll bother continuing.
In conclusion, Hot Yoga: I’m sorry. Please know that it’s not me, it’s you.