Even though the world population has shifted from mainly rural to mainly urban in the last decade, there are still lots of folks like me who live in the sticks. Doing things like taking a yoga class becomes a different thing in our case from driving to the neighborhood gym. Since I live 40 miles from the nearest town large enough for yoga studios, when I decided to take a class, I was more interested in the schedule than I was the type of yoga. I couldn't afford to be picky if I preferred not to wait around for a couple hours after getting off work. So I looked in the phone book, and didn't pay attention to anything but the schedule. There it was: M-W-F at 4:00. Perfect. I don't know what rock I'd been living under, but the word "Bikram" writ large across the ad in the yellow pages didn't trigger the term 'hot yoga' in my mind, and that left me in for a big surprise.
I showed up with a comfy pair of sweatpants and a long- sleeved t-shirt. As the woman at the desk was giving me a little orientation information - explaining that the room was heated to about 100 degrees Fahrenheit - I realized that my concept of yoga clothes weren't going to work here. Apparently, I wasn't the first to make this error. Susie told me they had loaners. Now, it's been a while since the last time I wore hot-pants, so when she handed me the little scrap of shorts, I thought, "No way." She said, "Trust me, you'll fit right in."
Susie continued, giving a few more orientation tips, which started to seem like a set of warnings. "Our first-time students are encouraged to rest whenever you feel you should - kind of take it gradually. The instructors just ask that you do your best to stay in the room for the entire time." What? Were we still talking yoga here? I'd seen pictures. Sure, I might not be able to balance on one leg while holding the other one over my head at my first try, but come on. How hard could it be to stretch as far as I could go and stop there? Why would I get desperate to leave the room?
Her next suggestion: "OK, I see you brought a bottle of water. That's good, but you'll be tempted to drink a lot, and I recommend you just drink sips - not too much at a time." Hmm. What was I getting into here? It sounded like I was facing some kind of ordeal - not what I had in mind at all since I was thinking of yoga as a peaceful, low- impact way just to stretch and keep my aging body flexible and strong.
Once I was dressed in the little bit of shorts, I opened the door to the yoga studio and was met with a rush of hot, stultifying air. Oh goody. I walked to an open space, spread my mat, lay on my back, and understood exactly what she meant by asking me to at least stay in the room. I was already dripping sweat, and we hadn't even begun the class.
Ninety minutes and twice through the 26 poses later, I was indeed still in the room. In the non-competitive, supportive atmosphere I had been completely guided to go to my edge, but not so far that I would be turned off by struggle. In fact, I was exhilarated. I lay on my back at the end, eyes closed in the peaceful, very hot room, and knew I'd be back for more.