(Almost) Naked Yoga

[pullquote align=”left”]A few nights ago, my friend M and I decided to try something new: Bikram Yoga, a popular form of hot yoga. We were greeted as we entered the building and asked to fill out a brief form with our personal information.[/pullquote]We were administered a yoga mat and a towel, instructed to change, and advised to stay to the back of the yoga room, the area apparently restricted for “new” students.

Entering the studio was like being transported to the climatic equivalent of the core of India. (I guess that’s the idea anyway.) Huge heaters mounted on the ceiling produced a steady, dry, intense air that heated the room to a reported 100 degrees Fahrenheit/38 degrees Celsius. (Although, I suspect it was much hotter.) The room was full of people, all intensely concentrated on preparing themselves for an onslaught of enlightenment. Unnervingly, several of the men were wearing nothing but Speedos, and most of my classmates were already visibly sweating.

The alarmingly toned, admirably thin, almost-naked instructor flounced into the room and mashed people closer together to accommodate late arrivals. I defiantly stuck by M and refused to make eye contact with her probing gaze, determined to not end up between two unclothed men. She allowed it and then began chanting rapidly in Dutch. I quickly realized that my Dutch ability had not entered the realm of Bikram Yoga vocab, and any inkling I had of following the instructor’s Dutch directions was cut off as the entire room began buzzing. My heart had just about recovered when, in the middle of the teacher’s monotonous Dutch, she shouted, “Janelle? Where’s Janelle?” I meekly raised my hand. She queried, “Can you understand Dutch at all?” I nodded, attempting to look like I would make a brave attempt at comprehension, hoping no one would ask me after class how long I had lived in Holland. She announced she would do the second sets in English, much to my relief (and consternation…I should speak this language!).

Thirty minutes later, I was feeling great…a bit light-headed, but the panic of passing out amongst strangers had faded. Too bad for the (almost) naked guy in front of me. He apparently didn’t read his body signals correctly and was now flat on his back with a wet towel on his head. There’s no leaving the room until class is over, because “the temperature shock would be too much for you.” I began to wonder how this situation would differ in the United States. Are Dutch instructors also liable for pushing a participant into a health crisis? I hoped that I wouldn’t find out.
Ninety minutes later, I was exhausted from the rapid-fire Dutch and bizarrely fascinated by the liter of sweat that had left my body but also rather proud of the strange contortions I had accomplished, supposedly because of the heat. We were released from our claustrophobic surroundings with the promise of amazing results. Hell, I’ll be back next week, but I think I’ll be sticking by my tried-and-true Hatha Yoga habit, complete with a calm, fully-dressed, English-speaking instructor, soothingly guiding me through the poses.
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