If asked to pinpoint our decision to try yoga, it would have to be when we just happened upon a couple of mats on sale for an impossibly low price at Kohls. A blue one for Dom, purple for me. We were in need of some stretching and structured exercise. Suddenly, two random, very fine looking mats had appeared in our path. Call it fate. Call it destiny.
It isn’t that we didn’t believe yoga was real work. We did, which is why we decided to give it a go. We talked about it for a month, then another month. The mats, still in the Kohls bag, still in the car, waited patiently. Finally, we googled yoga in Westchester, ready to pull the trigger.
Who knew there were so many different names for yoga? Or so many places to “practice” it? Web sites all whispered persuasively: peace, fitness, flexibility. We focused on those sites that repeated the mantra “Practitioners of all levels welcome.” Each beckoned seductively through gentle color schemes, special introductory offers, free parking.
What’s a newbie to do?
“Check the reviews,” Dom suggested.
“OK, here is one,” I said with authority. It was close enough to home and the class schedule offered lots of options. Every review was positive: clean studio, friendly staff, private showers and even a little yoga shop where practitioners of all levels could purchase the necessary accessories of the discipline. What more could we ask for? Giddy, we unfurled the blue and purple mats and, as the site instructed, found a couple of colorful beach towels.
And when we showed up at our first yoga experience, a ninety minute Birkram class, we were sure we were on our way to inner peace and new found strength. What we didn’t know? So much.
The parking was free as promised.
As promised, every single person associated with the studio was nice, from the barefooted boy who gave us the senior discount even before we asked to the woman who would orchestrate our torture.
And though I never got to check it out, there was, as promised, a little shop of yoga, too.
The first clue that we were out of our league was the dress–or rather the lack of dress–of our fellow practitioners. A shirtless man with a German accent smiled so broadly that I almost didn’t notice he was wearing nothing more than a black Speedo. Sports bras and minimal spandex shorts, clothing that looked more like underwear than yoga wear. In gym gear, we were woefully overdressed.
It was when we opened the double doors to the studio, though, that we should have sprinted for the nearest Dunkin’ Donuts. One hundred and seven degrees. 40% humidity. If we accepted the sale on mats as our reason to give yoga a chance, we missed the equally obvious message that maybe Bikram wasn’t the yoga we were meant to practice.
But they say you see what you want to see and what we saw was downward dog, lotus flowers. The heat aside, I think we still believed we could fight the good fight. The first couple of activities were sort-of, kind of, do-able. But this was the tease, the baby stuff, a warm up for our descent into the fire and rain of hot yoga hell.
Instead of finding inner peace, my mind wandered and I wondered how many people passed out during a single ninety minute session or how many threw up. I tried to focus. But the challenge to grab a sweaty left ankle with an equally sweaty right hand was too much for me. I could see the clock in the mirror. I might have confessed to any number of sins or crimes if I thought that would make the clock read 5:30.
Then it was over. We didn’t puke or faint. On some level, there was temporary euphoria at having survived, at having passed this cosmic test of endurance. But I knew I would not set foot again in a hot yoga studio.
The lesson? Do your homework. Master the basics. Don’t quit.
Tomorrow, we return to yoga. When we open our mats, we hope to feel the burn, but not the heat.