My teacher introduces herself as Yoga Bandana, or at least thats what it sounds like to me. We begin class by setting an intention, she suggests 'Gratitude' but I've done hot yoga before so my intention is 'To Not Die.' We start out in downward dog which is where you discover that you have unusually tight shoulders and see-through pants. An upside-down glance toward the mirror informs me that wearing khaki spandex without underwear was unwise because when I bend over you can definitely see my butt. Also, several pubes have worked their way out of the front of my spandex like the first blades of grass through frosty March soil. My hopes that no one has noticed my pants problem deflate when I see that the guy behind me is staring at my ass. This guy is about fifty years old and his hair is as long as his shorts are short. No shirt. Does he not realize I can see him in the front mirror? He immediately answers this question by catching my eye in said mirror and refusing to look away for several poses. I try to avoid his gaze to no avail; he has a strange magnetism.
Now we come to my least favorite part of the Sun Salutation: Chattaranga. For those of you who don't know, Chattaranga is where your hands are shoulder width apart, you lower yourself from plank until your elbows are half bent and hold yourself still, hovering a few inches above the ground forever. It could be likened to the low push up position or waterboarding. Finally, we make our way back to downward dog, the "resting" position (resting?!).
At this point I am going out of my mind with pain and would gladly give the enemy national secrets to make it stop. I have sweat at least two gallons as evidenced by the large circles in the fabric surrounding my armpits, neck and yes, crotch. I am definitely in the lead for sweatiest yogi. It's probably been about twenty minutes. I wait another 5 before looking at the clock because I want to be very gratified when I see how much time has passed. I finally allow myself to look: we are seven minutes into class.
Yogabandna tells us to relax completely. The guy who's been staring me at obeys instantly, letting out a huge fart. And this is no ordinary fart. Its an I'm-a-vegan-and-get-all-of-my-protein-from-beancakes fart. Silent but very deadly. I know it's him because it smells like the way he's looking at me. I seem to be alone in finding the fart extremely funny.
Next comes Eagle, where you wrap your left leg around the right one nine times and your arms mirror this up top. To no one's surprise I can't do it. I tell myself it's because I'm too sweaty, I can't get a grip but deep down I know it's because of my kankles. My huge, Scottish ankles (evolved after centuries of pulling carts of potatoes through the mud) don't have the usual tapering, it's just a leg with a foot attached, no transition. I once went to the doctor for a sprain; he said "Wow! That is one swollen ankle." It was the other one.
YogaBandana tells us to take a deep breath and I do. Right on queue, bean cake guy out-relaxes himself. Between the moisture that's fogging up the windows, the 100+ degree heat and the smell, I have a sudden realization that this is what it feels like to be inside a fart. Except not an ordinary fart cloud where you would just take a nap probably, this is a torture chamber fart cloud where not only are you trapped but are forced to hold excruciating positions for years at a time. I believe I've heard of such a place, they call it Hell.
As I step back into downward dog my back foot slips, throwing me entirely off balance. Each individual limb tries to grip the slippery surface so now I look less like a downward dog and more like a dog on roller skates. I touch back in with my intention to not die. The teacher notices and she adjusts me, shifting my pelvis forward and holding it in place. At first I feel violated, then I relax, realizing that someone else is actually doing the work for me, then I begin to really enjoy it and now I'm wondering if I'm a lesbian. As if holding my pose, holding my breath and trying to avoid beancake guy's gaze isn't enough, now I'm having a sexual identity crisis.
My new girlfriend instructs us to choose our favorite pose from today's class and "find our full expression" so I snuggle into child's pose.
I suddenly realize that this Om Shanti song has been playing for 17 minutes and the only two words in the song are 'shanti' and 'om' arranged in various creative ways such as 'om shanti' and 'shanti om.' As it's playing, we assume the aptly named 'corpse pose.' I close my eyes and the ancient Indian art works its magic; I relax beyond thought. Beancake guy follows suit.
Now is my least favorite part of class where everyone chants "Ooooommmmmmmmm" together slowly three times because they haven't heard enough of that word in the 'om shanti' portion of class. I hate this part because everyone chants "Om" with meaning but they don't actually know what "Om" means. I was raised Buddhist -- its actually Sanskrit for 'Gullible American.'
Finally, we "Namaste"' our way out of there, lugging sweat soaked yoga mats which are now as heavy as a tires (but not as sanitary.) I make a beeline for the locker room where I strip down naked, leap into the best shower ever, towel off, and step onto the scale. I've lost five pounds! (Please don't respond to this blog saying it was all sweat. I don't believe you.) This gratifying moment makes the whole class worthwhile. Although I will be far too sore to return for the remaining six days of my free week, I can't wait for two years from now, when my instant weight loss and yogi's high are the only thing I remember about this experience (and the people at the front desk have forgotten me again).