At a stretch: adventures in hot yoga

It’s a touch before 7:30pm and I’ve entered the Devil’s womb. I successfully navigated the River Styx, snuck past Cerberus, entered the seventh Circle of Hell and crawled between Satan’s bright red thighs to make my home in the hottest incubator known to humankind. I’m not the only one who has taken up residence here. Bodies lay scattered in the dark, contorted into unnatural shapes. A large man moans in the corner, an almost comforting vibration in this ungodly, heated room.

I’ve tried yoga before, but never hot yoga. I saw this place advertising a beginner’s deal while walking home one day and thought fuck it, I’m feeling my 28 years, have little-to-no spiritual meaning in my life and, more importantly, would give anything to stretch just two or three centimetres in height. What have I got to lose, apart from 10 litres of sweat?

A woman named Tina met me at the entrance to the womb. She provided me with a towel and reminded me that this may be a strenuous experience. Technically, I’m about to enter Tina’s womb – she’s the one running the show – but I’ll continue referring to the Devil for two reasons:

1.     Tina is lovely and does not deserve to have her womb commented on nor entered.

2.     The logistics of entering a womb as a fully-grown, albeit short, human are frighteningly complex.

I lay my towel on the pelvic floor and take a seat. Beads of sweat start running down my forehead and it’s not because there is an abundance of women visiting Satan today. The temperature is 38 degrees and, contrary to my first impression, people seem to be not only enjoying themselves, but actually thriving in these Sahara-like conditions. Tina enters the womb through its side door and encourages us to listen to our natural rhythms.

‘What is your body saying to you?’ she asks.

‘Get the fuck out of here,’ my panicked soul whispers back.

‘Is there any chatter happening?’ Tina continues.

‘Why aren’t we leaving? I’m marinating in my own juices.’ Hush soul, she can hear us.

Mistakenly confident we’ve now silenced our internal dialogue, Tina takes us through a range of unnatural positions designed during the Cold War to stretch the body to breaking point, known in the yoga world as asanas. I convulse like a rabid dog. Coincidentally, I’m told to move into downward dog, an asana designed to move blood to your already flushed face as efficiently as possible.

‘Now hold your pose and raise the eyes. Look to the side and say hi to your neighbour. Go on, give them a wink.’

No worries Tina. I turn to the left and smile at the woman next door. It’s more of a twitch, but no harm done; she doesn’t acknowledge the heaving shape next to her. I turn to the right and am pleasantly surprised – this bloke looks worse off than me. I smile as if I’m actually enjoying myself and give him a knowing, comforting wink.We’ve all been there mate. It’ll get easier, I promise.

I lower my gaze and blink the salty concoction of sweat and tears from my eyes. My soul whimpers.

Sixty fiery minutes pass and I realise I’m actually enjoying myself. Well, that may be a stretch, which is kind of the point, but I no longer feel like I’m bathing in hot sauce. Tina invites us to stay as long as we need and I find myself unwilling to leave Lucifer’s safe house, terrified as to what awaits me in the cold, Melbourne evening. Perhaps a turmeric latté.

I arrive home and cook dinner. As the chicken simmers away as I had been not even an hour ago, my newly unclouded mind, trained by the practices of thousands of years, raises a never before considered question: why the fuck am I cooking a hot curry after hot yoga?

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