“Why do I do this to myself?” I ask, not for the first time, as I attempt to stand in tree pose. It’s not that I find hot yoga hard, but that I find it boring. Or rather, boring AND hard.
I haven’t done yoga for over a year. In that time, I got pregnant, had a baby, and learned about the joys of motherhood and back spasms. Pre-baby, I had no idea that nursing could cause back pain. Or that picking baby up and putting baby down 30 times a day could cause one’s back to clamp up. But the worst — the very worst — is carrying baby in carseat. Put baby in seat. Bend down to buckle baby in car. Drive to destination. Take baby out of car. Repeat.
Now that baby’s 4 months old, I’m back at yoga. Hot yoga, to be specific. After a year out of yoga, I find myself unable to do a forward fold. Prior to motherhood I could touch my fingertips to the ground. Now I’m lucky if I can touch my knees.
Hot yoga, I say to myself, will speed up my flexibility. The room is scorching; my muscles are loose. Yet even in the sauna that is hot yoga my flexibility is abysmal. My camel pose looks like I’m practising kneeling upright. Forget about happy baby pose. My baby does this pose at all hours of the day; it is his favourite way to have fun. However, even with straps, I cannot get into this position. The one time I attempted it, my hips literally locked up.
I had a caesarean birth, losing all of my abdominal muscles in the process. I have not yet recovered feeling in my abs; mostly they feel like dead nerves. So whilst yoga is usually about core strength, for me it is about back strength. My abs do not engage. I once made the mistake of looking at myself in the mirror during Warrior 2, and my ass was literally hanging over my mat. I tried to pull it in, but I just fell over.
What I like about hot yoga is that it is too scorching to engage in spiritual chit chat. I have long since stopped dropping in at random yoga studios. I simply had to stop risking ending up with an instructor who spent the first 10-15 minutes talking about being “centred” and “letting go.” I just paid $15 for the class, I think, let’s get to the damn stretching! (Clearly I’m not getting the “letting go” part.) Hot yoga, by contrast, starts at the appointed time and stops at the appointed time. Usually there is a Namaste at the end, but I can deal with that.
It is probably clear that I don’t go to Bikram. Rather I go to the bastardized hot yoga studios, the ones who offer the hot yoga part, but who skip Bikram. I tried Bikram twice, probably not enough, but I did not enjoy it. Well, that’s not entirely true. I liked the athleticism of it, the vigour, the strength, but I could not abide the militarism. No, for me (right now anyway) yoga is all about stretching. About unkinking my back. And about finding my abs.