I like to think of it as my contribution to the popular Laughter Yoga movement. Here’s a list of 10 things they leave out of the oh-so-enticing, hot-yoga-will-change-your-life brochures.
1. The stink. Your clothes and towels will find it. After a few hot yoga classes you will notice it. And it won’t go away on its own. Fortunately, there is help. Here is what has worked for me: White vinegar in the rinse cycle does wonders. You just have to run an extra rinse cycle at the end. Baking soda added at the beginning of the wash cycle also helps.
2. Drama Queens If you have been to a yoga class before you may have noticed that some people like to vocalize their yogic experience in the moment, usually with moans of pleasure or sighs of release. However, in hot yoga the vocalizations manifest a little differently. The pleasure moans are not unheard of, mind you, but you are more likely to hear load grunts, groans, scoffs, and even some swears as the so-called drama queen curses the sadistic teacher, the unbearable heat, the invasive smells, their own limitations, etc.
3. Emotional Outbursts Sometimes you might be the one making all the noise a la “#2 Drama Queens.” Giggle-fits a.k.a. “the giggles” are fairly common. On the other end of the spectrum, you have tears. Yes, right in the middle of class, you’ll begin sobbing for no apparent reason. In hot yoga class you are bumped right out of your comfort zone and confronted with yourself, your limitations or perhaps where you are holding on so strongly that when you are unable to control something (the heat, your body, etc.) you are forced to just LET GO. It can be pretty intense. Along with the physical release, you also let go of some serious emotional sh*t (as I affectionately refer to my “breakthroughs”). Fortunately, the yoga room is a safe place to be vulnerable and you are sweaty enough to hide the tears. So, cry (or laugh) it up. It’s good for you.
4. Creatures of Habit Whatever you do, don’t, seriously, don’t EVER mess with the regulars. You can tell these people by their rituals and routine. They arrive extra early to ensure their “spot” in the room and get pretty darned protective of it. If you do have a run in, best way to avoid a all-out brawl in the yoga studio: quietly pick up your mat and move. That’s it.
5. Bodily Function Overload. You are likely to fart or even throw up in class. Yoga postures twist and compress the abdomen and stimulate the digestive organs. It’s kind of the point. So, yes, farts in yoga class happen. They’ve “happened” to us all. So, it is safe to say that no one will judge you because of a little tootage. However, if you have the “death farts,” maybe you should consider skipping a class, you know, out of consideration for others. Also, backbends stretch the lining of the stomach and leave you feeling a little queezy (Holy Camel!). Often the heat and excessive sweating is enough to make you feel nauseous. It is for this reason most yoga studios and teachers recommend that you don’t eat for two hours or so before class. Either that or they don’t want to clean up your “leftovers.” Ew.
6. Over-Sharing You will get up close and personal with complete strangers. Like, in ways that, if it happened outside the sacred space of the yoga room, would induce bodily function overload. Here are some examples: The Sharing of The Sweat No it doesn’t stay neatly within the confines of your own mat and towel. It’s messy, it splashes, and sometimes on the most inconvenient of places (like in your eyes or in your mouth!); The Roaming Strands of Hair When you finally make it down to your mat after a standing series you notice not one, but two hairs stuck to your arm and neither one of them are from your own body; Your Smells Are Telling Whether it is the garlic in the italian food you had for dinner or perhaps you had tee-many-martoonis last night, the sweat, gives you away every time.
7. T.M.I.! Along the same lines as #6 … You might get an eyeful, i.e. wardrobe malfunction. In other words you’ll gain MUCH more information about somebody than you want to in this particular, sweaty, bendy context. To avoid wardrobe malfunction: ladies, wear clothes that fit and cover all the right places and guys, please wear fitted shorts, or at the very least, wear skivvies under those swim trunks. Which leads me to …
8. Modesty, Schmodesty You really won’t care that you are practically naked in a room full of strangers/mixed company/acquaintances, also mostly naked. Sheesh, I mean isn’t it enough that you are there – and willingly so?
9. It’s Not The Most Ideal Singles Hang Out Seriously. You will look like crap immediately after – sweaty, flushed, splotchy. And don’t forget about the aforementioned bodily function overload and over-sharing. It can be a bit much for even the most desperately seeking individual.
10. You will become adept at strategizing as you will find yourself plotting your escape at certain points in class. Okay, after this pose I will roll up my mat, navigate through a weave of sweaty people to the back of the room and tiptoeing quietly, I will scale the back wall until I make it to the door, at which point I will stealthfully open the door and make my way out to cool fresh air FREEDOM!!!
Mostly, I want to tell you that you won’t always like hot yoga and it will probably push your boundaries a little (okay – a LOT). I personally enjoy being bumped out of my comfy zone. I find that is when I really learn something about myself.
Having a sense of humor is important when diving head-on into personal transformation like we do in hot yoga. It is also helpful to know that you are not alone. So, please share your stories and comments below!
By the way, I highly recommend smiling in class, as much as possible.
For some added smiles, here is Nina Paley’s comic “Why I Quit My Yoga Class”