Knee bends in the sauna

When we moved to Calgary many moons ago, I noticed a little storefront just around the corner from our house. Hot Yoga, the sign announced. And I was left to wonder, was this just a particularly sexy type of yoga or was it the name of the studio?

Nearly two years passed before I discovered the answer: hot yoga was simply yoga….in a really hot room. (It was also the name of the studio.)

The whole business sounded dreadful – exercising in an overly hot room – so I didn’t give it another thought. Because I don’t like to be hot. Can’t stand it. Whine like a small puppy without food – that’s how much I fuss when it’s more than 83 degrees outside. (Fahrenheit.)

But then it was January and yet another New Year had been ushered in and I was in no better shape than the year before. ‘Do you want to take a yoga class with me,’ a friend asked. And I, willing to try many things at least once (as long as it’s not chicken feet, congealed pork blood or a rollercoaster) said yes.

I arrived at the studio, carrying the hot pink exercise mat I’d purchased at TJ Maxx several years ago on a whim. Under the (misguided) impression that if I purchased a mat….I’d exercise. I wasn’t completely deluded – I have used that mat at least 3 times in the last five years. Most recently on Tuesday night when I created an obstacle course for the crazy, cooped up Johnson boys.

Money well spent, I’m sure.

My friend greeted me in the studio hallway, slightly distressed. ‘It’s really hot,’ she warned me. ‘Like a sauna.I don’t see how you could do this if you were claustrophobic.’

The little bit of courage I’d managed to scrape together in order to don tight pants, threatened to leave me at the mention of the word sauna. I’ve never understood the point of sitting in a wooden shack – essentially steaming oneself to death.

I was the last student to enter the dim room filled with mats and people lying on their backs. The heat…was oppressive. Hovering in the air like one of those thick mats gymnasts somersault onto in their regimented training centers.

Public humiliation aside, I suddenly wished I’d worn a bathing suit instead of black stretchy pants and a t-shirt. ‘There’s no way I’m going to last an hour and fifteen minutes in this room,’ I thought to myself, while seriously contemplating bolting from the room – back to the arctic temperatures that had rendered me housebound for four days. Instead I lay down on my mat. And breathed. ‘The heat is merely an obstacle,’ I tried to reason with myself and breathed some more.

Five minutes later, I sensed an increase in the intensity of my obstacle. Somebody had just turned up the heat.

‘Just lie down when you need to; drink when you need to’ the instructor had suggested in her very-Zen-voice when I told her this would be my first – ever – hot yoga class.

But now, trapped on a mat in a onehundredandeight (108F!) degree room with 47% humidity, I couldn’t fathom attempting even one pose. Posture. Exercise. Whatever. Frankly, I couldn’t even imagine lying on the mat in the room.

I glanced at my tiny green bottle of water with regret. Its measly contents might get me through the first ten minutes. This mirrored den of heat called for one of those beer hats with straws.

The unlikely-to-ever-get-angry instructor started the class with some breathing. Inhaling. Exhaling. The women – regulars, I’m sure – exhaled with such force it sounded like I was lying in a pit of snakes. A very hot, very humid pit of snakes.

And I had to somehow get through 75 minutes of being trapped in the pit?

I gave it a valiant effort. I did the poses, exercises, whatever. I didn’t (exactly) fall over onto the mat. I didn’t embarrass myself – except for revealing my horrifically dry feet to the women behind me. By the end of the class, my shirt was completely drenched in sweat. And my face as red as a – very blissed out – pomegranate.

I was late picking up the professor, so instead of languishing with my icy lemongrass towel, I stuffed my sweaty self back into my way-too-warm down coat. I couldn’t find my socks anywhere, so I stuck my exposed feet into my clogs and hotfooted it back to the car.


The one benefit of spending an hour in a hot yoga class? You don’t even notice the cold when you get out.

‘Oh, is it -25 degrees Celsius? I hadn’t noticed.’

5 thoughts on “Knee bends in the sauna

  1. I did hot yoga once. Exactly once. And had a nearly identical t-shirt-wearing-melting-I-think-I’m-dying experience as you. It was MISERABLE. My friend Leslie LOVES it though and proudly makes me “feel how wet my hot yoga clothes are!” (completely sopping)…

  2. Had to read this one aloud to my other half. We were both laughing out loud. (I have recently begun taking a beginning jazz class for adults. I recommend that. It is slightly embarrassing – but at least the temperature is comfortable!)

  3. Seriously! My friend somehow got us a 2 for 1 deal meaning we have to take one more class this week. These are the times that try (wo)men’s souls. Kristen – I’ll look into that jazz thing.


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