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Hot Yoga, or, Does a Writer Need to Sweat?

Hot Yoga, or, Does a Writer Need to Sweat?

One of the tough things about moving to a new city is finding a new doctor, new dentist, new hairstylist, new yoga studio, new place where I can lay out in my bathing suit and people won’t think I’m trashy, etc. As far as a new yoga studio goes, I’ve been a bit overwhelmed by the options around here. I decided to give Down Dog Yoga a try since they offer a $49 introductory month for new students, and I’m a sucker for a deal.

I gave the website a once-over and saw something about “sweaty fun,” but I didn’t give it too much thought until I got to the studio and noticed it was a bit warm in the lobby. Was this one of those places that heated their studios? Oh well. I didn’t mind sweating a little. I signed up for the intro month.

“I see you have your own mat,” the boy at the counter said. “Do you want to rent a towel for three dollars?”

Three dollars?! You can buy a towel for that! But all I said was, “Nah. I’ll be fine.”

Then I opened the door to the studio and was hit by a blast of chokingly hot air. This wasn’t just a warm studio. This was hot yoga. And I hadn’t realized it.  D’oh.

Eva doing tree pose by the James River.

Eva doing tree pose by the James River.

I don’t get hot yoga. I mean, it’s fun every now and again to see how much sweat your body is capable of producing, but I don’t get why people feel the need to do it all the time.  I know the heat makes you more limber, but it seems like eighty degrees is warm enough to promote flexibility. No need to crank the temperature to a hundred, which makes it difficult for me to breathe. And I know the sweating is supposed to detoxify you, but aren’t you also sweating out things your body needs? Like moisture and salt? I don’t know. I guess I’m a fan of moderation.  Some sweat = fine.  Gallons of sweat = excessive.

I’d gotten to class ten minutes early, so by the time it started, I was already soaked in sweat. I looked around at everyone else in their expensive Lululemon outfits. Then I pulled off my old tank top and decided to do the class in my sports bra. So what if these people thought I was trashy? I need something semi-dry to wear for the ride home.

We started in downward dog, and beads of sweat dripped from all parts of my body, splashing onto my mat. Maybe I should have sprung for the three dollar towel rental. I was drenched and sliding all over the place on my sweat-slick mat. When I tried to do crow pose, my arms slipped on my sweaty thighs and I nearly face-planted. The summer sun was streaming through the window, directly onto me, raising the temperature in the room even higher. This was what yoga was like in hell.

This is pretty much what the yoga classes in the DC area look like… No joke.  photo credit.

After class, I walked to my car. My skin was slick and smelled sour. If I’d known it was going to be a hot yoga class, I would have brought a change of clothes and a towel so I could shower there. Instead, I had to drape my semi-dry tank top on my seat and hope my stink wouldn’t soak into the car. So much for stopping by Trader Joe’s on the way home.

I’m not sure why people like hot yoga so much, but I have a guess. There’s the limberness and the detoxifying, sure — good stuff. But I bet a lot of people like it because the sweat makes them feel like they’re really working.

I get that. When I was in college, I didn’t think yoga counted as exercise because I went to a yoga class and didn’t sweat. Oh, how little did I know back then.

These days I frequently I go to non-heated yoga classes and don’t sweat (or don’t sweat much). But I can tell by the way my body feels afterwards that I worked hard. Unlike a cardio or spin class, a lot of the movement is yoga is small, and the work is internal. Standing in Warrior II, it may look like nothing much is happening, but the yogi is pressing her back foot into the mat (engaging the hamstring) and keeping her right knee deeply bent (engaging the quadriceps). She is pulling her leg muscles together while reaching out with her arms (engaging the triceps ) and lifting her chest to stretch. She is working on balance and strength and concentration. Even though it seems like she’s not doing much, both her body and her mind are working hard.


Warrior II pose. photo credit.

I think some people want external proof of all the internal hard work. And when you leave a hot yoga class, dripping in sweat and smelling like a locker room, ain’t nobody gonna doubt you worked hard.

I can understand that. Not so much with yoga but with my writing life. From the outside I know it looks like I’m not doing much. It’s been three years since I quit my full time job to focus on writing. So where’s that published novel with my name on it? I know I’m working to make that happen, but it might be difficult for other people to see that. Sometimes I really want something external to prove to the world that I’m working hard at this. That I’m not being lazy, barely breaking a sweat.

The thing is, people sweat in hot yoga classes not because they’re working any harder than in a regular yoga class, but because somebody turned up the heat. A lot of sweat doesn’t always mean your workout was more legitimate.  Sure, I could turn up the heat on my writing — give myself ultimatums and chastise myself even more for not being where I want to be — but will it really make my writing practice any better?

Much of the forward movement in the career of a writer is small, and the work is internal. Just because you can’t see me sweat doesn’t mean I’m not doing it right.

Working hard on an arm balance.

Working hard on an arm balance.

*As a side note, I will not be returning to Down Dog Yoga because they really pissed me off. My healthcare provider told me that, due to my medical history, I should not do hot yoga. I ask the studio for at least a partial refund, but they refused, claiming that their practice is “safe for all.” I was really annoyed that they presumed to know what’s best for me, despite the fact that they don’t know me or my medical history and in fact are not healthcare professionals themselves. Plus, $3 for a towel rental? Boo. I say the nay-no to Down Dog Yoga. Whew. Glad to get that off my chest and excited to find a normal-temperature yoga studio.


About evalangston

Eva Langston is a writer, among other things.

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