Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Hash marks

I honestly can't explain my actions sometimes. Lately it feels like I'm on autopilot, or a hovering observer, or a Greek chorus singing ominous warnings to myself outside myself to do or not do things which only get trapped in the fogged up crystal ball of my skull. And there will always be something I'll be wanting to say but I just...won't. I'll bite down on the confession until it retreats into the mist and disappears and poof, the moment is gone. If I had been keeping track via hash marks of all the opportunities I've missed in this exact way, I'd be the proprietor of a warehouse full of slashed up, wounded, decaying Renaissance murals. Yes I'd count my hash marks on valuable, old works of art for dramatic purposes. Dear everyone who is able to express their feelings out loud in adult words, what's that like?

This habit of mine manifests when it really, really counts and also, when it is stupid and doesn't really matter or when expressing discomfort or discontentment or just turning around and leaving would actually save me physical pain. I was reminded of this last night, when I went, against all better judgement, to a hot yoga class.

This was not my first foray into the disgusting rodeo that is hot yoga. It was actually the third class I've taken in about five years. I understand there are people who enjoy it, benefit from it and make a career out of teaching it and to them I say, kudos! And you physically stink most of the time but that's an occupational hazard so I allow it. I practice yoga regularly and so it always seems like a natural progression to go hot. Kind of like "do all of this really difficult and demanding shit but make sure you can't breathe at the same time, mkay?" And the physical challenges actually appeal to me. The gradual pace of arriving at advanced poses and testing the limits of my flexibility make yoga one of my favorite things in the world. I enjoy the idea of testing it further and I think maybe that is why, in the abstract, hot yoga sounds appealing.

The first time I did it was in this cramped, extremely crowded studio in Astoria. It was a Saturday and there were about four hundred people in a studio apartment sized room. I don't remember that much about the actual practice, only that the man in front of me was in the middle of a warrior 3 pose and all I could focus on was the puddle, and I mean deep wide puddle of sweat coming off his head. It made me nauseated. That was enough for me to give it up for a year or two. Then, when I first started doing yoga about five years ago, I took a class with this lovely young woman who I then ran into at a bar a few weeks later. She told me she was opening her own studio near where I live. Of course, I had to check it out. Plus her classes were really cheap. One of the downsides of yoga classes is how dang expensive they are and how inconvenient the class times are to someone with two jobs. Well, it turns out this new studio was hot yoga only. This time, although there was more room to move around, I couldn't actually breathe. Breathing, as a matter of fact, is one of the main focuses of yoga and each time the instructor said "focus on your breathing" I searched the room frantically for a paper bag in which to hyperventilate. I never found one. And I never went back.

Until last night. I had some free time on my hands and my regular yoga studio wasn't having any good classes. I sat around my apartment feeling all restless and not unlike Indiana Jones during his last crusade, when he's reaching for that holy grail and just almost, almost getting it brushing it with his fingers so close only to realize he's got to let it go because it was all in his head. Yeah, that old feeling. So I thought, hot yoga! There's an idea! And from that point forward, each time I didn't just change my mind and turn around was a missed opportunity to do something that actually made me happy or was in any way pleasurable. Each of those times was another hash mark. As you read along, how many do you count? So I drove back to that I can't breathe in here studio and walked in.(hash mark. that was a freebie)

I was greeted by a young woman who was sweating. Next to her was a tall beardy blond tan guy who probably wants to bring the word tubular back into the popular lexicon. They asked me to fill out some liability form (probably because someone dies every five minutes in those classes) and while I was doing this, beardy blond tan guy (BBTG) starts packing a bowl. He stood at the front desk of this business and prepared his Mary Jane with the casual way one prepares a peanut butter sandwich. And ok, fine. I have no problem with weed. But then he lit it and started smoking it on his way back into the studio. And that just struck me as a bizarre thing to do before a yoga class, mostly because yoga IS the thing that is supposed to take you to "the next level". At least that was my school of thought. Again, I'm not judging. I just thought it was bizarre to prepare and smoke it in full view of a crowded office of a busy business. Immediate regret, a feeling I'm becoming intimately familiar with, poked me in the ribs. Again.

So, after signing in, I took off my shoes and stuffed my belongings into one of the cubby holes provided and entered the gates of hell the yoga room. It was hot. It was literally Africa hot. That's a funny phrase coined by Neil Simon but it was reality. Again, I wanted to leave. But I just...didn't. I was followed BBTG who, having smoked in some energy proceeded to stand at the front of the room and get all bendy and headstandy and it was annoying. I dislike people "warming up" for yoga and it is worse when they warm up for hot yoga. Gilding the lily, so to speak. Except the lily is wilted because nothing can survive in that room, not even humans. So you can do a headstand, congratulations, I don't care. I prefer to sit still and contemplate everything but my ego. BBTG was distracting me. As was the very attractive guy that set his mat down next to me. He was lithe and sinewy and sat still and had his eyes closed and allowed me a lovely view through the mirror. Oh yeah and also, this studio had a mirror that everyone faced. I dislike that as well. I don't like watching myself do yoga. I find it very distracting. My ego takes over and I start to criticize. BBTG was loving it though and you could tell. But here's what confused me. BBTG didn't even stay for the class! He came in to the room to do two headstands and preen a bit and then he left. Wth??

The instructor was 10 minutes late, giving me 10 extra minutes to change my mind and go suck in some cold air instead of sitting inside someone's mouth, waiting to die. Just as I was about to leave, she walked in. The class started and was fairly straightforward but the instructor didn't do any of the poses. I suppose it would be hard to talk and do poses in that setting. But there was no extra talk or introduction, another thing I need in my yoga practice. I would like a thought to hang on to while I'm struggling through poses. My erstwhile instructor used to have themes for each of her classes. One time we had class on Mick Jagger's birthday. He is a yogi and has been for many years and she arranged a Rolling Stones playlist and told us to let go like Mick Jagger onstage. It was a great class that put everyone in a good mood. This, on the other hand, was like being in school. Hot school. With lithe sweaty bodies everywhere. I could not let go in this class. I just kept trying to breathe, trying not to look in the mirror. It sucked.

The class lasted 90 minutes. The instructor left abruptly and as soon as she did I may or may not have pushed an old lady, a clown and few children to get out. I'm not going to do hot yoga again. For at least another two years when I forget how much I hate it and get bored and decide to take a class instead of, I don't know, clipping my toenails.

So how many hash marks did you count? I lost track.

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