The Five Stages of a Hot Yoga Class

I’ve started attending a yoga studio not too far from my house, and I kind of love it for several reasons. The first and biggest reason is the fact that all their classes are $5. All of them. Since it’s so cheap to take a class, the studio tends to draw a wide array of people from experienced yogis to newbies like me. That’s the second reason I love it. The studio has a greater diversity than most yoga studios I’ve gone to, and though the class types are limited, I have declared undying loyalty to this place.

It’s in this studio that I first decided to try hot yoga; that much hyped activity that involves voluntarily bending and stretching into various poses in a room that’s heated to the temperature of a Florida summer day in July. It can also be described as hot as hell. Despite the fact that attending classes in such an environment goes against my nature, running was getting too hard on my joints and it was too cold to swim (yes, even in Florida it sometimes gets too cold to jump in the pool.)

So I tried it and ended up loving it. Well, I should say I love it at the end of class after my muscles are stretched. I also feel that since I’ve sweated out every ounce of water in my body, I’ve accomplished something. During the average 75-minute class, however, I go through a variety of thoughts and feelings, most not very calm or peaceful.

Stage 1: This Isn’t So Bad. It’s Very Relaxing.

This is the warm up stage when we are getting into a breathing rhythm. Usually some cat and cow pose; maybe a couple sun salutations.

It’s the happiest stage, the stage at which I forget about the sweating and the holding of poses FOREVER! I fool myself into thinking the next 70 minutes won’t be so bad.

Stage 2: You Want Me to Hold Side Plank for FIVE Breaths?

This is where one begins to hate both the lovely lady who owns the yoga studio and the cute instructor to whom you can’t mumble more than a hello because you are awkward as fuck around attractive people. The hate comes from the pain of doing activities counterintuitive to comfort and serenity. It varies from person to person, but in my experience, the rage comes from holding side planks and doing various repetitions of dolphin push ups. This stage can also come back at any time during a class like the time yesterday when the whole class thought we were done with the worst and the instructor had us do 160 bicycle crunches.

Stage 3: Okay, So I Did Side Plank. Can We Do Balance Poses Now?

This is the point when I know the hardest part may be coming to an end and I’m praying that the next bit is easy. I’d say this varies for almost everyone, but for me, the standing balance poses are my break and with a few exceptions, are easy for me. Basically, I tell myself that if I can get through holding a plank pose one more time, my reward is a tree pose.

Stage 4: Just Get through It.

At this point, you’ve survived 45-50 minutes of a class, so there is no point in stopping now. Even if your legs are shaking and your shoulders are on fire, you’ve come this far. Might as well keep going. Also, don’t let moving to the floor at the end fool you, the instructor can throw some core exercises (see bicycle crunches) and bring your right back to Stage 2 real quick. This can also be the place where you give up and stay in child’s pose for several minutes; however, given that the emphasis in yoga is to listen to your body, this isn’t a shameful thing.

Stage 5: Thank God We’re Done, but that Wasn’t So Bad.

You’re in savasana at the end of class and you’ve survived. The sweat has cooled and your mind is quiet. (Snort. Yeah right. This brain is never quiet.) It’s also the time of contemplating how awesome the shower is going to feel when you get home and how well I’m going to sleep tonight (if I can stay off Tumblr). This is also the part where you forget Stages 2 and 3 and start thinking about the next class to attend. Those endorphins are tricky bastards, I tell you.

By Stephens

Florida girl, would-be world traveler and semi-permanent expat. Her main strategy of life is to throw out the nets and hope something useful comes back, but many times it's just an old shoe. She also really, really hates winter and people who are consistently late.

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