Hot Yoga

I walked into an unassuming room – the sign on the door said ‘Namaste – doors will open 10 minutes prior to class.’ A young, sturdy blonde sat behind the desk and introduced herself. Her name was a short single-syllable word which I hadn’t quite caught since I was distracted by the giant circular tattoo between her breasts. ‘Sun as in centre of the solar system – Sun’, she repeated matter-of-factly. My new yoga instructor was named after a star – the life-energy of which is produced by nuclear fission, its birth a result of shockwaves from a nearby supernovae. Despite becoming aware of the unimaginative beginnings of my previously thought to be exotic name, I was psyched.

After taking my shoe’s off and the appropriate introductions Sun directed me to the ladies room where I greeted an underwear-less fellow student, and deposited my bag. Then I walked into a room, its’ heat enveloped me and I felt like I was home despite being in Ithaca. The thermometer by the door read 98 F. I silently cursed Farenheit and did some not-so-quick calculations in my head and when I was done – approximately a minute later – wondered at the futility of the exercise.

Ooooh!! Look who thinks he’s too good for Celsius!

There were five people in the room; boerderline-pervy-geek-man with random hair sprouts over his body, dressed in shorts; Chubby-pink-cankled-girl dressed in track-pants, a t-shirt and her own sweat – since a conservative muslim background seemed unlikely for this caucasion blonde, I chalked up her under-exposure to self-esteem issues; smiling-skeletor – a short, skinny woman who looked 65 but was probably 75, with equally short frazzled hair that made her look like she had recently been electrocuted. I was shocked the heat hadn’t given her a heart-attack. And last but not least, the over-enthusiastic nerd – she was already doing some strange but impressive movements on her mat that made me feel inadequate even before the class had started. At that moment a beaming Sun walked in (no, not literally) and asked us to begin our ‘practice’ with Pranayama. I was going to do this, come heat, come Sun, come crazy back-flip. I did all 25 postures just as I was told but for some reason looked completely different from the rest of the class in the floor to ceiling mirror in-front of me.

The ‘Pretend you’ve lost the will to live’ pose.

Chubby-pink-cankled Caucasian with self-esteem issues looked like the hippo from the silent cartoon-movie by Disney -‘Anastasia’. Borderline-pervy-geek- man looked like a emaciated naked Santa with Crisco rubbed all-over him, playing a warped version of musical statues, the over-enthusiastic nerd still looked much like the over-enthusiastic nerd – even if she was doing it wrong, she made it look right and Smiling-Skeletor – to my shock was still a Smiling Skeletor. Perhaps permanent-smile plastic surgery/botox/other strange procedure had become a reality. I on the other hand looked and sounded like a cross between a sweat-soaked-wide-eyed-mime and a starched cricket. More wannabe ninjamonkey than amateur yogi by any standards. 25 postures, 3 head-rushes and 32 water-breaks later, my heart was pounding and my breath was shallower than the puddle of sweat I was standing in, my wish for death was sincere and urgent. The Sun was going to kill me, the bad news was that it would be slow and painful. As I stood on one foot, simultaneously did a lunge, twisted my spine sideways, with my arms in the air – flailing at times – I caught sight of a poster on the wall at the far-end of the Studio. It depicted the blue-coloured, monkey-faced Hanuman, with a halo – no, Sun – behind his being. In my head, I heard a judgmental Aunty or two reprimanding me for my un-Islamic practice; I wondered how they would fare if brought to a Bikram Yoga studio.

I continued to imagine them appallingly informing their friends of the lack of air-conditioning, and worse-still the deliberate heating of the room. They would bring their thunder-thighs to ‘try something new’, probably to feign fainting from hyperventilation, never to return again. Some would repeat the story, as if it were a natural disaster of epic proportions, as if they were survivors. Better still, I imagined a JPG (read: arch-nemesis/jooty-purse-girl) try some Bikram, in her designer-wear tracks, high-heeled sneakers , evian in hand. I wonder if the heat would get to her or the inability to be in a room with another sweaty person, first. As I chuckled at the thought, I lost my balance, my eagle-pose turning more into an ass-on-floor-pose. I snickered at my fall in the mirror and got up to join the rest of the class. At the end, as we lay in our puddles of sweat, and the Sun chanted ‘Om Shanti’ with sharp T’s and a slant on the a so that it came our more like ‘ShanTy’. I wondered if anyone had told Sun she wasn’t saying it right, and if saying it right or wrong really made any difference at all. As I got up to leave, I knew the masochist in me would return. Besides, on my seventh day in Ithaca, I was missing Lahore, my workout and the general comforts of establishing a routine.


Zainab Shah is an aspiring chef and writer, currently living in New York.


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Categories: Sports & Fitness


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One Comment on “Hot Yoga”

  1. October 23, 2011 at 2:15 am #

    That was a great description of a yoga class. I can picture it perfectly. Keep up the good writing!

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