Comfortably Breathing is for Wimps: Trying Hot Yoga

I just got ClassPass.

Question for y’all: Does that mean I’m one step closer to being cool, or am I like a full 2 years past when it would’ve been cool to have this? Example: One of my friends doesn’t have Netflix and if she got it now, I would just consider her more normal, not more cool, because having a Netflix account is more common now than having a landline.

Anyway, so I got ClassPass. For those of you who don’t know what that is, you basically pay a flat fee every month and then get X number of classes you can take at a bajillion fitness studios (everything from your basic gym to super high-end fancy boutique gyms) around the city. Which is great, since one Flywheel class is $32, but you can go twice for $22 or less, depending on your ClassPass plan. Okay, I’m not getting sponsored by them or anything, so I’m gonna move on. You understand how this works.

So anyway, having a Class Pass means I now have free reign to try a whole bunch of the fancy shmancy boutique fitness studios that all those #fitspo bloggers and celebrities with selfie-filled Instagram accounts regularly attend.

So I decided to take a hot yoga class.

Hey, we all make mistakes.

Psych Shawn Yoga

I had done hot yoga exactly three times in my life previously. All three times were in the span of a two-week period that I got a GroupOn at the encouraging of a very, very exuberant, fitness junkie friend. She had the body of Julianne Hough and a really hot boyfriend but still seemed totally normal. She adored hot yoga and went every morning before work.

Hey – if she can do this, so can I, I thought. It turns out I really couldn’t, since I had never taken yoga before. But I went, and I semi-enjoyed it, because my friend was very encouraging and it was very cheap. And it was in the middle of winter so frankly the heat was welcomed.

But then she went on vacation, so obviously why would I go without her, and then my GroupOn expired, and that was that.

Fast-forward three years to when I got my ClassPass. I’ve taken a few kickboxing, rowing, circuit training, etc, etc, classes and wanted something that would be a little more encouraging of flexibility. I grew up dancing, so I was ready for a class that would help stretch out all those muscles I’d been wearing out lately.

So I signed up for hot yoga at this really hip studio in downtown Atlanta. The photos on the website made it look ~very~ stylish, and they gave you those silent disco headphones while you were yoga-ing so you could move in time with music and block out all the noise of the outside world and focus inward. (Which is always a terrifying exercise, but I figured why not.) The studio also had mood lighting in the ceiling that changed according to the moves and music.

Goat yoga
Still looking for a local Goat Yoga class.

Basically, a lot of ways to distract myself from the fact that I was doing yoga.

Additionally, the studio was listed as “lightly” heated. Lightly heated is fine, I said to myself. I love hot weather and showers so hot they almost burn my skin, I always have. This will be ideal.

I showed up to class, was given a tour of the very chic studio, stuck my stuff in a locker and made use of the complimentary hair ties since I forgot one, and found myself sitting on a mat in the middle of a lightly heated room.

I hate hot yoga

Hey, guys? Hot yoga is the absolute devil.

Within 5 minutes of the class starting, every single memory of hot yoga that I guess my brain had buried away to protect me from the trauma I must’ve experienced years ago came RUSHING back.

I hate hot yoga. Why? Because it’s hot and it’s yoga, neither of which are fun things. I know I said before I love heat, but I don’t love THIS kind of heat.

Have you ever been in a sauna? In a sauna, you’re in a very small room that is being continuously filled with very hot steam. It gets so filled with steam that you can’t see anything anymore and it’s so hot and the air is so thick and the room is so small that it gets much harder to breathe and for a few seconds you convince yourself that you’re going to die. You’re going to be the dead body the CSI techs uncover in the opening scene of their TV show.

Additionally, yoga is just not a fun activity. You know what’s fun? Dancing. I grew up dancing for years and years, so yoga to me just seems like the warm up stretches you do before the actual dance class begins. Except when you’re done with a yoga class, you’re done. That’s it. You got all warmed up to walk out to your car and drive away.

You know what else is fun? Literally ANY OTHER TYPE OF WORKOUT. Swimming, you’re in water; kickboxing, you can pretend you’re punching your ex in the face; cycling, you can lose yourself in the music and make up dance moves like you’re in the music video; circuit training, you can fantasize about how hot you’re going to be when you finally get that killer bod you’re working toward; running, you can concoct elaborate scenarios to motivate yourself, a la Mindy.


So in hot yoga, you’re slowly suffocating to death while doing an activity that is, apparently, as much about mental wellness as it is about physical wellness, and OH MY GOSH I DON’T CARE ABOUT INNER PEACE, I WANT TO BE MENTALLY CHOREOGRAPHING AN EMMY-WINNING DANCE ROUTINE WITH CHANNING TATUM WHILE I FLYWHEEL MY WAY THROUGH A REMIXED BRUNO MARS SONG.

… Suffice it to say that I accidentally did not sign up for the silent disco headphone class, so I was just stuck with the generic music that has the magic ability to make 60 seconds of class time feel like a full year.

Most importantly, the biggest thing that I forgot about hot yoga that hit me like a ton of bricks about halfway through class: Everyone smells and everything you touch is wet.

Yoga fail

This boutique studio was actually pretty great about controlling that B.O. smell – candles and air fresheners and some other magic, because it wasn’t terrible. But man, I suddenly recalled with amazing clarity the exact stench of that other studio. To go back to our sauna analogy, let’s say that the death chamber sauna is located inside the shoe of a man who just ran a full marathon and sweated his way through three pairs of socks.

Instead of taking a hot yoga class, just lock yourself in a public sauna that has never been cleaned and touch every damp surface with your face.

So during this 55-minute class, I’ve got a lot of stuff going on. I have to actually physically remind my body to breath as often as possible. I’m trying to stand up straight despite the fact that I’m sweating from every place in my body – including my legs. Did you know shins even had sweat glands? When was the last time your ANKLES sweated? – and creating little sweat puddles and slip hazards all over my yoga mat. I’m trying not to inhale the particularly strong musk emanating from the large, shirtless man next to me. Oh, and that’s another thing:

There is a very particular set of people who go to hot yoga:

  1. The woman in a rush. I don’t know if she has kids at home or she’s just a very important person with lots to do, but she shows up late to the warmup, does her workout in the very back with a stressed look on her face, then runs out the second it’s time for the cool down.
  2. The worryingly skinny hippie guy. He has long hair, he regularly attends every single yoga class at the studio, he wears hemp necklaces, and smiles peacefully at the instructor at the end of class like they’re just explained to him the meaning of life. He sits on the front row and his entire yoga outfit consists of a pair of very tight, small shorts.
  3. The guy who should not be shirtless. And yet, he is. At the very least, he should wear one to absorb the river of sweat rippling down his spine, but he somehow doesn’t feel the need.
  4. The girl you hate. She’s beautiful, wearing a sports bra and bike shorts, and her mascara somehow doesn’t melt down her face. Her hair doesn’t collapse in the increasing humidity as class continues, but instead simply starts to curl around her face and it makes her look perfect. And you just know she doesn’t even need to take a shower after class.
  5. The newbie who’s never coming again. They’re clearly uncomfortable but doing their best to follow along. They fall over more than they stand up straight, you they look at the clock every 15 seconds. But hey, they gave it a shot. But you can see the happiness as they walk away, knowing they’ll never enter these doors again.

That last one? That was me.

NSYNC Bye Bye Bye