Rolling into the swanky hot yoga studio on the Eastside of town, I didn’t know what I was getting myself into. My friend, Jaci, a six-foot-tall beautiful redhead with a long, lean body told me she was obsessed with this exercise and that I “had to try it.”
“It’ll change your life,” she told me.
Well, if it’ll change my life, OK … What did I have to lose? Work had me feeling like I wanted to say, “Fuck you,” punch my computer screen and walk the hell out, never to be seen or heard from again. I needed to unwind. Really, I needed something to turn my mind off of its frequent pessimistic thoughts. Also, Jaci had literally the best body I’ve ever seen, and if I could look like her, I would sell my soul to the vinyasa devil. She had, maybeeee ten percent body fat. I looked down at my skinny-fat body, and knew I wanted what she had.
Walking in the door, I spotted the strawberry blonde heads above everyone else.
“Oh my God, hi! I’m so glad you’re here,” she greeted me, waving enthusiastically. She was always the best at hellos. She’s the type that makes everyone feel like you’re her best friend.
But, Jaci didn’t just love the studio she went to, she was – quite frankly – obsessed. She went to classes four times a week, sometimes twice a day. How could someone want to work out that much? I didn’t understand. Myself, I walked, and if I was feeling really down – I ran a couple times a week, but it was more like a chore than something I looked forward to.
My flip flops click clacked to the middle of the lobby as I greeted her with a hug.
“Ma’am, you have to take your shoes off!” A toned, twenty-something brunette whisper-yelled behind the counter in the back of the room. She pointed to the sign that was, I thought, hidden by the front door.
I hustled back to the entrance and looked at the sign while slipping off my flip fops. Welcome to Bend and Zen, please take off your shoes at the door! OK, OK, whatever.
“Sorry!” I told the brunette, even though I was so not sorry. They should make that sign more visible.
After I was signed in, Jaci ushered me into the women’s changing room.
“Holy shit,” I said out loud. Even the bathroom was five-star hotel worthy. Smelling like
eucalyptus and lavender, it was blissful as fuck. Yep, I’ll be moving into this bathroom, I thought.
“I’m literally so glad you’re here,” she said to me again. She grabbed four body-sized towels and two facial towels. It seemed a little excessive, but, she was basically an expert, so I trusted her.
“Me too!” I told her. And I was, but I was kind of nervous, too. I had participated in many group fitness classes but none in a 100-degree heated room with dozens of strangers that A) were experienced yogis and B) attended many times a week and already knew each other.
Not only was Jaci a frequent at the studio, she was also going on a yoga trip to Costa Rica with her crew from Bend and Zen. Yep, Costa-freakin’-Rica. For yoga. At this point, I really didn’t understand the concept. Yes, for Costa Rica, but it’s a big fat “no” from me for exercise on a lavish vacation to South America. But, no judgment for her terrible life decisions.
The studio gave me a deal for the first 35 days as a member. 35 days for 35 dollars, was their gimmick, in hopes that you’ll fall in love with the studio and hot yoga and sign up for a membership for one-hundred-fifty-five dollars a month or one-thousand dollars for a full year. Basically, SUPER affordable. Full disclosure: I’ve always had rich friends, like Jaci, who is in the medical field and doesn’t bat an eyelash at the crazy prices of boutique workouts. Me, however, I overdraft as my twenty-dollar all-inclusive gym fee comes automatically out of my checking account. I’ll try it, I thought. If I don’t like it, I’ll be out thirty-five dollars and will at least be in some sort of shape before the bachelorette trip I was taking to Las Vegas and the wedding I would be a bridesmaid in a week later. One session was $20, so I would basically be paying for two sessions if I go twice. It’s logical, I convinced myself.
We grabbed what we needed out of the bathroom, while girls who were about as fresh-faced without makeup as model Gigi Hadid and about as young and fit as Kylie Jenner, shuffled out of the one room studio with glistening foreheads and rock-hard abs. Wearing head-to-toe Lululemon, the girls, all around my age, with face-framing baby-blonde highlights laughed to each other as they picked up their rose gold Birkenstocks and keys to their white-out Jeeps. These girls, I thought. What stereotypes! Rich and bound to be stay-at-home moms repeating the same lives their mothers did. Not a bad life, I thought. Honestly, though, if I could just afford not to bounce my checking account one month, I would be living my best life.
Jaci took two green Styrofoam blocks, two brightly colored mats and the six towels that could dry the whole class, and we headed inside the 24 x 30 window-lined room. It felt cool in there with the white oak hardwood floors and with the three ceiling fans, shaped like palm leaves, on full blast. And surprisingly it didn’t smell like two-hundred-twenty -five-pound NFL linebackers, but these were a one-hundred-and-ten-pound model-types that probably smell more like Living Proof Perfect Hair Day Dry Shampoo than a fish fry. I placed my mat first in the middle of the room, because placing it in the back of the class would show for sure that I was a newbie. I could tell Jaci was a front of the class-kind of girl, but thankfully, she placed her mat next to mine, at the right of the mirror in the middle of the floor – safe. As dozens of tiny blondes filed in, I started to get nervous. Looking around the room, these girls were definitely pros.
A lean limbed and hard abed, tan-skinned Asian twenty-something year old girl was in the top left of the room in front of the mirror that was doing standing splits while I was doing a resting pose. She had huge fake boobs and wore long, curled extensions that made her look camera-ready as she glistened in the scorching room. (I found out a couple classes in that she was a yoga model. YES, A YOGA MODEL. She goes to competitions and everything.) Behind me, was the male hobbit: He was about five-feet-three with a hairy, exposed chest and wore the shortest shorts I had ever seen. He was pretty gross, with the sweat dripping down his florescent body, but I admired his tenacity. He wasn’t at all flexible, so next time, I thought, I might just place my mat next to his, so I’m not the worst in the class. In front of me, the hottie flamboyant guy with a shaved head and just a tiny man fountain pony-tail. He was also the most flexible person I’ve ever seen. I couldn’t stop staring. He was so good. How was he more flexible than I was? He was best friends with all the instructors and also taught random Sunday classes, which I loved, because he fascinated me. To my right, there was a forty-five-year-old divorced mom of two who wore her gleaming engagement ring on her right hand. She wore a full face of makeup and her hair down in the heat. What the actual fuck? I would be drenched in sweat and she would be smiling through her porcelain veneers. The teacher looked almost exactly like fitness tycoon Tracy Anderson who was in her mid-thirties with tight abs. Natural blonde hair pulled back in pony and had arms that were muscular but small. She was super enthusiastic about the class and life.
“All right, everyone! It’s time for core class! How’s everyone feeling tonight?” the teacher asked the class.
“Great!” everyone said in unison. Um, I’m not ready for this, I thought.
“OK! So, it’s a mild 95 degrees in here, so if you feel like you’re going to pass out, just whip your index finger in the air and move it in a circular motion and I’ll turn on the fans,” she said.
I’m really not ready for this, I think as Jewel starts to play through the speakers.
The teacher told us to start in Downward Facing Dog and sweat begins to roll down my face, down my neck, down my back. My hairline began to glisten. In the 50-minute class, we completed Vriksasana, Bhujangasana, Trikonasana, Utkatasana and more “sanas” that I can’t possibly remember.
“So, what did you think?” Jaci asked me as we grabbed our things and walked out of the studio.
“It was … overwhelming,” I nervous laughed. Sweat literally soaks all of my clothes at this point. All I could really think is how much I want to shower right now.
Jaci laughed. “You have to get used to it. It’s really hard at the beginning, but you’ll get it.”
Easy for you to say, I thought. You were doing a headstand.
When I returned a couple days later – after I could walk up and down stairs again – I started to master the common moves like Downward Facing Dog, where your hands at shoulder width at the front of your mat, feet spread at shoulder width at the back of your mat, butt in the air, body is basically at a 45-degree angle. This is a position of “rest” said the teacher. Nope, it still hurt.
A week or so in, I attended yoga with Jaci, and a few friends I had recruited, three-ish times a week. I learned many new phrases that I would attempt to use in outside-of-yoga life, and that I also failed at using and ended up sounding like the girl that wears cutoff jean shorts and a flower crown to Coachella.
For example, Chauteranga: “Four limb staff pose/plank pose.” Oh my god, how many does she want us to do? I chose yoga specifically not to do cardio and this, my friend, is cardio.
Or Om: “The sounds of the universe.” Basically, me looking around the class while everyone else has their eyes closed.
A week and a half in, I was finally engaging my core, part of the ab class, which just had me saying “Fuuuuuuuuuuuuck.”
After a while, I mastered Savasana, or corpse pose. My favorite. Lying on the floor, limbs long. I’m dead. This is so great. Two weeks in, I was really feeling that the light within me bows to the light in you, which was said at the end of class before “Namaste.”
Soon I was reciting Namaste with the best of them “I bow to you.” Basically, I’m supposed to be at peace, and really, I was, because class was over, and I can peel myself off my mat and go home and eat half a roll of chocolate chip cookie dough.
After my 35 days, I was tired, but really happy. Yoga did make me look forward to something after work plus a chance to see all of my friends, which didn’t happen often in our busy lives. But I couldn’t find the means to pay one-hundred-fifty-five dollars a month for unlimited classes, I decided to call it quits on the yoga classes. It wasn’t an easy decision. I thought about maybe giving up groceries for the class, but I decided to be reasonable. I guess I’d have to live vicariously through the eighteen-year olds who attend every day in their designer yoga gear. Or through Jaci’s photos from Costa Rica. Or maybe I’ll crank the heat up in my apartment, throw on some Jewel and practice some moves myself.
Taylor Riley is a writer and journalist living in Louisville, Kentucky. She is currently a news producer and features writer at the Louisville Courier Journal and will receive her MFA from Spalding University in May 2019. Taylor is an award-winning journalist and
photographer whose work has been published by Refinery 29, USA TODAY, Associated Press, The Santa Fe Literary Review, Eckleburg Review, as well as other national publications.