Yesterday was one of the worst nights of my life.
Rachel Bahler, fitness guru extraordinaire, invited me to go to her Bikram Yoga class with her. Beginning students get the first ten days for $20, so I figured I might as well blow my dough on something healthy (and hipster-y). I’ve taken yoga before, and I loved going to classes (with my mom…) because the teachers usually ate up how flexible I was “for a boy.” (all credit really goes to my mom and her weirdly flexible hips).
I knew beforehand that Bikram took place in an especially sweltering studio, but I figured I had grown up in Texas and survived those summers- how bad could Bikram be?
The following is a recount of my first (and last) Bikram experience from last night, exactly as I remember it.
8:20: Rachel and I walk through the glass doors and into the yoga studio and then it smacked me in the face like a hot wet towel (mmmmm)—are we in a sauna? Ew. It felt like I’d skipped the next sixty years of my life and walked straight into hell. Only then did I realize I had never actually gone outside during Texas summers. It was too fucking hot. And you’d die of heatstroke! (foreshadowinggg…)
8:23: I realize the entire group of students is basically half naked. Am I overdressed in gym clothes at a yoga class? I realize I am setting myself up for failure if I don’t conform to the dress code, and SHIT- I had left my yoga diaper at home! I end up taking most of my clothes off and sit in my basketball shorts, waiting for class to start. Thankfully, I had eaten Chipotle a half hour beforehand and am completely bloated with the faux-Mexican goodness, so great. Luckily, nobody’s body in here threatens me other than Rachel’s.
8:25: I’m already dripping sweat. I haven’t done anything yet. Class hasn’t even started. Rachel lies calmly on her yoga mat. She isn’t sweating. Rachel is rude. I express regret for having entered the room from hell before class has started. Rachel reminds me that “it is good to get our bodies acclimated” to the swamp we’re cooking in. I resent her for her informed opinion and write her out of my life forever.
8:30: Our instructor enters the room and starts to lead us through some suspicious breathing exercise.
8:35: We move onto some “Standing Poses.” “Standing Pose” is French for “Tyler adjusts his body to look as skinny as possible, despite technique or form.”
8:40: I keep falling out of my poses. I am disappointed in myself for not being the yoga god I remembered being in the seventh grade at McKinney Recreational Center. I remind myself it was my first time doing Bikram, and am angry anyway.
8:42: I am told to lock my knees and grip the floor with my toes. I wonder what Melissa Beck-Matjias, my ballet teacher, would say about the fact that I am continually being told to lock my hyper-extended knees.
8:45: I look to my right and see a female student who is probably a good fifty or sixty pounds heavier, and three inches shorter than me. Big Girl is her new name. She’s obviously a regular, and is doing the poses better than most. She’s barely sweating. She becomes my inspiration and source of frustration.
8:50: I fall on my face repeatedly. I mean…it must be the carpet…and the towel I am standing on, which is completely drenched in my own sweat. I’m used to hard-wood floors, so….that’s obviously it.
9:00: The instructor tells us to grab our ankles. I do so.
9:01: I am unable to keep a firm grasp on my ankle because my body is so slippery. I can’t balance because my feet are so covered in sweat. I wonder what any of my ex’s would think if they saw how pathetic I was at this moment in my life. I wish I had never been born.
9:05: We are told to do a glorified panche, with our back leg bent. I fall out of it. Who is surprised? I look at Big Girl. She is doing it perfectly. I am pissed.
9:18: My water bottle has been empty for about ten minutes. It suddenly dawns on me how overheated I am. I feel overwhelmed, dizzy, nauseous, generally annoyed how good at this Big Girl is. I look over at Rachel and gave her an “If I don’t leave soon I’m going to vomit everywhere” look. She calmly reassures me that if I need to, I can leave the room. I decided to stick it out for as long as I can.
9:19: “I’m gonna go outside,” I announce to Rachel. I am embarrassed to have barely made it through half of my first class, but exhaustion and heat stroke are clearly two different matters, and I don’t want my epitaph to have any yoga references in it, that’s not very heroic.
9:20: I tell the instructor, “I think I need to leave.”
“Why do you think you need to leave?” she asks.
“Because…I’m about to die,” I answer truthfully.
“Don’t leave. Just lie down and watch and breathe. It’s normal to feel overwhelmed your first time. We’ve all been there. There are only about twenty-five minutes left.”
She obviously has no clue what she’s talking about. Nobody has ever been in as much pain as I am. Nobody, ever. Obviously. I am thoroughly upset. Don’t worry, there are only TWENTY-FIVE MINUTES left.
9:21: Rachel gives me the most sympathetic look I have ever seen a human being offer another human. I lie on my back and stare up at the ceiling, embarrassed at the way I’m going to die. I try to breathe through the pain I’m in. I end up inhaling wet, stagnant, 110 degree air, and whatever fumes are lingering on my borrowed yoga mat from the hundreds of people who have used it before me. I hate all of them.
9:25: Other people in the class are sitting down and resting. This makes me feel less pathetic. Unfortunately they get back up and keep going. I feel pathetic again.
9:30: I look at myself in the mirror. My eyes are bloodshot and my entire body is red from heat. I contemplate going as a Bikram Yoga Victim for Halloween.
9:35: The teacher asks how I’m doing(?!). What a bitch. She tells me “Nobody has ever died in this room before.” I tell her that is reassuring. I contemplate throwing a handful of sweat at her, but that would require too much energy.
9:40: I continue to switch positions on my mat, sitting on my knees, cross-legged, lying on my back, stomach. I realize my efforts are completely in vain as long as I’m lying underneath the heating vent. I continue to feel my pulse to see if it is inordinately fast. I think about how saunas have warning signs on them, and wonder how long their suggested time limit is. I think of bringing this point up to the instructor, but decide against it when I see that Big Girl is still going strong. If she’s still alive, I will make it…
9:45: I can’t focus on anything. I’m dizzy and can hardly make out the numbers on the clock anymore. I wonder if I will have any cool heat hallucinations. I recall one of my friends telling me how he had spoken to Barbra Streisand when taking acid once. I hope the same thing happens to me, but I don’t think she’d ever come into a room this hot.
9:50: Time is moving at an unprecedentedly slow speed. Rachel keeps pushing her water bottle closer and closer to me, trying to get me to drink from it. I write her back into my life, considering she is sustaining it. I don’t know where I am anymore. I have also never been so publicly naked. I pull my polyester basketball shorts as far up as I can. Screw what is socially acceptable. I am going to look so awful when I die.
9:55: I feel bad for finishing Rachel’s bottle of water. Sorry, Rach…
10:00: Class has ended. I have trouble standing up and leaving the room, and collapse in front of a fan in the locker room.
10:03: My instructor tells me to come back tomorrow because my body will adjust to the heat quickly. She congratulates me and tells me “Good job.” I can think of about ten million things I would like to say to her. Thank you is not one of them. I feel lucky to have made it out of this alive. I pass Big Girl in the lobby. I ignore her.
I’m never going back there.