I got to the studio just as class was to begin, already sweating through my white t-shirt from the bike ride over.
At the reception desk, I ditched my shoes, grabbed a mat and headed into class. For some reason, I expected fans or AC or at least an open window in the classroom — maybe because every other form of indoor exercise I’ve undergone has had one of these luxuries — but this was not the case. Apparently, this was to be a level 2 hot yoga class, and my humiliation was to be assured.
I set my mat down beside a spandexed woman and watched her as she casually floated up into a handstand. I looked around for someone more on my level and found a guy off in the corner that had dragged-here-by-my-wife look written all over him. I nodded to him and he shrugged at me. It was cosmic.
By the time I’d lurched into my first position — downward dog, I think — the glaze of sweat I had come pre-soaked with from the ride over was a puddle on the floor. Clueless, I kept my shirt on, but any modesty it had provided me before was now gone; the soaked shirt looked more like wet plastic than white cotton. I swabbed my face with the towel I’d borrowed from the front desk and switched my attention to the poses with varying success. It felt like I was playing advanced Simon Says in a foreign language. Eventually, I learned to piece poses together by copying the intimidating woman beside me, who was seemingly able to put a pose to a name before it was said, and the yoga husband in the corner.
I began to get a hold of things as the class progressed and began to feel pretty confident until he called a pose that required a double-jointed spinal column, which I was confident didn’t exist up until a handful of the class not only successfully attempted the pose, but pulled it off. I toweled off and assumed giggling baby pose, which seemed a bit cruel. In math class, if a kid (me) was a little slower than everyone else, they didn’t make him count marbles out loud for the rest of class. I knew I sucked, and that was punishment enough. Yogis are gluttons for punishment, I guess. But hell, it was my first time. I couldn’t ride a bike the first day I tried and (probably) fell down a lot more at that. Like everything else in life, you gotta shake off the shame and get back into that figure four pose. And that’s exactly what I did.
Near the end of the class, the instructor had us lay on our backs, close our eyes and assume the corpse position. We were to be
completely limp. As I lay slack-jawed, I thought back to the meditations my high school soccer coach had us do as a team the day before a big game. Sport psychology, he called it. We’d lay with our eyes closed for a half-hour while he walked around the room and told us to visualize ourselves as trains bursting through walls or lions on the hunt in the Sahara. Hard to say if it worked or not, but considering how well we played, I wouldn’t doubt if it did.
But the instructor wasn’t telling us how to harness our killer instinct or visualize ourselves as agents of terror; if anything, it was the opposite. We were to go forth and let in the love, to be open to the world and understand that we all share the common thread of human experience. I’d have laughed at the cliche of it all if it hadn’t rung so true. It was obvious, I thought, but I’d never heard it said out loud before. Where I’m from, you’d get your ass kicked in for saying something like that. But in that moment, I’d completely forgotten the mere concept of ass kick. Home seemed a world away, and it was oddly reassuring.
As the meditation came to a close, everyone left the studio one by one. When I came to, I said a silent thank you to intimidating yoga woman and shrugging yoga husband and headed outside. I wasn’t worried if the meditation would “work.” I knew I wouldn’t wake up the next day with a newfound oneness with creation or even the faintest telekinetic ability. I felt good, and that’s all that mattered.
And besides: I heard they don’t teach you telekinesis until, like, your hundredth class or something.
Dylan Owens is currently a senior in the creative writing program at the University of Colorado. As an ex-baby model, he peaked early, but is mounting a comeback as a writer for elephant journal and the Boulder Today. You can learn about his exploits and interests via photo, blurb and hand-picked Youtube video on his facebook, or simply Google “pickle recipes,” “life-sized Jenga” and “PBR&B” for the same effect.