Two winters ago, I became a hot yoga enthusiast. My introduction to hot yoga began as follows:
One sunny but brisk afternoon, I was all geared up in my spandex leggings, Under Armor, mittens, and ear warmers. My Ipod was freshly charged. I was itching for a good winter run. Well, I walked outside my door, ran across the street and inexplicably tripped over the curb and sprained my ankle. This was kind of embarrassing, as a) I was literally ten feet from my front door, and b) about 4 people asked me if I was okay as I limped back to my apartment. I was mostly mad because ankle sprains mean you are out of the running game for some amount of time.
So, this is how I found myself taking advantage of a hot yoga class; I had to do something while my pathetic, purple ankle healed. Immediately, I was hooked.
So what is hot yoga, you wonder? Do I meditate and say Om? Do I sit in the cross-legged Lotus pose and imagine my thoughts as clouds drifting past me? Am I pretzel-y? Finally, is this even exercise?
Well, here’s the deal: the type of yoga that I am in love with is Vinyasa style yoga, which essentially means that you are linking movement with breath. (It is also called “flow.”) Translated for you non-yogis, this means that you are going through the various poses in a sequence such that you are constantly moving. Regarding the above questions: I do sometimes meditate and say Om; I couldn’t get into the Lotus pose if my life depended on it; I choose pink penguins, not clouds; and I bear no resemblance to a pretzel.
So, I am now an addict. I love how you feel when you are done with yoga. Since it’s so toasty in there, your whole body feels like your muscles could just melt off your bones. In a good way. I love the incense; I love the votive candles; I love the blue walls.
I go to Amazing Yoga in Shadyside, and I have to say I have had nothing but good experiences here. The yoga instructors are friendly and upbeat; one has sexy sleeve tattoos, in fact. They strike a great balance between pushing you and encouraging you to give yourself a break. They also play the Black Eyed Peas before class sometimes, which is a bonus.
Now, at this studio, the scenario is this: the main teacher walks around and instructs the class, and occasionally he or she has another helper who walks around and very gently helps you adjust a pose as needed. Given the silent nature of the classes—and the chaos that resumes when everyone is trying to put away their mats and get coats and gloves afterwards—I’ve never spoken to most of these helpers.
I mentioned that this yoga is hot. It is. 90 degrees in fact, and as I said, it feels great. However, this also means that you sweat unbelievably during this class. I mean, I’ve gone on ten mile runs and sweat less than this. You are dripping. I once had someone say to me, “Ew. How can you be in that room with all of those sweaty strangers?” Personally, I think people who think that way are pansies, as anyone who has engaged in any type of team sport has gotten over sweat a long time ago. People who are attracted to this type of yoga generally are athletic, play or have played sports, and also tend to be sort of organic, earthy people who aren’t bothered by stuff like that. It’s really not a big deal.
However–to put everything together for you–what this effectively means is that on numerous occasions, I have had a spritely young man who could fit into my yoga pants run his hands down my sweat soaked spine when I was in Child’s Pose, or adjust my shoulders when I was in Upward Facing Dog. No complaints here; this feels great. Not a second thought.
Not a second thought until a particular Saturday afternoon when I was shopping in Kards Unlimited. I had probably been doing work at a coffee shop, and so I was carrying my computer bag with my laptop. I also had a coffee, and I was reading a book jacket as I wandered obliviously toward the cash register. Now, anyone reading this who has been in this store knows how small the aisles are. You can barely fit in one, and when another person is there with you, it’s like trying to squeeze past a fellow hamster in one of those tunnels they make for them to play in. As I wandered, I walked into the person in front of me. I looked up, and—guess who it was—the spritely yoga helper.
Now, I have no idea what the protocol for this situation is. I’ve never spoken to this guy—I don’t even know his name—but he has seen and touched my spandex clad, sweaty body on numerous occasions. What is the standard operating procedure (SOP) here? What do you say?
Well, I can tell you what you don’t say:
Me: “Hey, you’re the guy who helps out at yoga.”
Spritely Yoga Enthusiast: “Yep. Hi.”
Me: “Thanks for all of the spinal adjustments. They’re great.”
Spritely Yoga Enthusiast: “It’s what I’m there for.”[Awkward pause]
Me: “You know, sometimes I wish you were there when I’m in Balancing Half Moon…because you are really helpful in that pose. I mean, you know. With the balancing.”
Spritely Yoga Enthusiast: “…”
The thing is, the one thing hot yoga doesn’t do for you is improve upon your ability to converse in a less awkward manner. However, the great thing is, I did manage to maintain the Ujayyi breath the whole time; maybe the yogis know more than I think. If I can make it through this unscathed, imagine the future awkward scenarios I can navigate with nary the bat of an eye.
If you want to meet your own spritely helper, check out Amazing Yoga, complete with 90 degree heat. It really is excellent.
 The same ones I wore to vote on November 2nd, actually. Maybe these are my unlucky leggings.
 I say this as though I was all calm and collected, but in reality I sat on my couch and bawled my eyes out like an idiot until my roommate at the time came out of her room and asked me what the heck was the matter. I responded that no, my family hadn’t been axe murdered by a deranged mental patient; I was just mad at myself because I had derailed my running plans indefinitely. Sorry about that, Christine.
 Explaining what I mean by “various poses” goes beyond the scope of this post. I suggest Google.