Learning to be Flexible: A Hot Yoga Story

by - March 12, 2010 at 11:29 am -

katie yoga
Editor’s Note: Writer Katie Barry will write an occasional column on being young and single on the Upper West Side.

By Katie Barry
“You’re flexible for a fat girl,” my mom told me once, while I was standing on my hands against the kitchen wall while she cooked dinner. I called her cruel. She kept cutting onions. “No, I didn’t mean it like that. I mean, you’re just not lean. It’s just, you don’t have the body of a ballerina.”

I’ve long since known this. I dropped out of gymnastics partially because my polyester bike-shorts-wearing instructor Gary groped me and partially because I hit puberty. Bulky sports bras don’t look cute under pink leotards, and my blossomed bosoms felt funny on the vault and whipping around on the parallel bars.

Bikram Yoga is in the neighborhood (72nd Street between Columbus and Amsterdam Avenues), and parlays into a New Years’ Resolution: try new workouts. My sister joined a pole-dancing class at S Factor and my brother was starting rock-climbing. “C’mon Katie, you like saunas…you like challenges…” Kristy had tried it with a guy friend, and raved about it every time we passed by.

katie barryI don’t subsist on a raw foods diet, meditate to pass anger, or practice a religion unless football counts. I exercise by wrestling or playing airplane, sleep an average four hours a night, and deem gratuitous candy at my sister’s bar an acceptable dinner.

I’m friendly to everyone I meet, say “bless you” to strangers who sneeze, step aside for strollers, and give up my seat for the elderly. But no good deed goes unpunished. Isn’t that law of the land? I didn’t think I belonged in this zen establishment that required you to jettison your shoes before signing in; a place where people spoke in soft, happy hums and had Stretch Armstrong bodies.

We get our rental mats, towels, and Smart Water bottles. Heading to the studio, the last class is wrapping up. Red-faced and depleted, I want to be them. Decked out in Lululemon, Dri-Fit gear, and compression shorts, the limber-jacks of the class position their mats in the front row, getting an uninterrupted view of themselves. They stretch and exchange pleasantries. I take up residence under the clock so I could monitor it. Make sure the batteries didn’t die.

The balance poses come naturally, and the flexibility poses leave me conjuring up sex positions. I begin thinking this would be a great hobby. Pose after pose, I feel the burn and buckets of sweat draining from my pores.

But I start to taste other peoples’ misty sweat, lingering in the air. A Speedo-clad man in front of me lets out four long, wet farts before I bolt to the door with a mouth full of vomit. Perhaps he thinks they were related, but they weren’t. It is extreme nausea, and to the teacher, wouldn’t be the reason I quit. “Don’t give up!” she urges, as sounds of me hurling can be heard from the hallway. All I had eaten that day was corn, and nature returned it. The instructor fans the room with the door, despite my wishes that she’d let me puke in private. “If you want to come back, we’ll have you…with ooooopen arms…” she cooes.

I re-enter the room to 25 sweaty-faced souls sitting on their feet, golf-clapping. “You’re so courageous,” a woman whispers. “So brave,” another old man says. I’m not that courageous. I want to lie down and have icy cold water bottle, except an hour in, my drink tastes like pond water. My friend Ren slaps his stomach once, rolls his eyes twice, and mutters “Quitter.” I am miserable. There’s a scene from “Arrested Development” where Lucielle Blueth is in the conjugal trailer about to sleep with the prison warden when her son Michael lovingly urges her not to do it. She stares coldly and says, “I’d cry but I can’t afford to lose the moisture.” That is me. I couldn’t spare the tears.

Amidst my suffering, Ren flexes his muscles to show he’s better than me at something. I retaliate by puking in his washcloth. I need something to do it in. I didn’t want to leave the room and get the clapping again. I think about telling Ren, but wait and watch. It was similar to the time he tried to save my phone after it took a fatal fall from my cleavage to the toilet bowl. I neglected to tell him I peed before the phone fell in, and appreciated his eagerness.

Ren, my sister, and I finish, leaving with sweat-logged clothes and a headache the size of Wyoming. My pee is warm and my spirits are low. My friend used to call me a “dizzy broad” in mocking my dead-end waitressing job. I was that. A dizzy broad, in need of a shower. I also need to get my money’s worth. These do-gooder hippies weren’t running away with all my cash. I go back two days later. My hamstrings are tight and my Achilles tendons are tender. We go to Utopia Diner around the corner and drink a pitcher of water- about what we lost in the class.

By the third and last class, I don’t want the teacher’s feedback. When asked for my name, I say, “Lucy.” There happens to be a Katie in the class who is awesome and nationals-bound. I take her compliments and kick Lucy to the curb.

The trial period ends, and I have better posture, limber legs, and a respect for anyone who does it long-term. It’s not easy or cut out for me. I need competitive sports and not relaxing mental challenges on a mat. But if you’re curious about Bikram yoga, I would definitely experience it-especially if you can’t touch your toes or have a back like Quasimodo. A physical spring cleaning!

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  1. Sherry Diroll says...

    Katie…..my daughter Cheryl sent me this article, I can’t believe Kristi and you live in NY….far cry from Hiram….. What brother lives there to, is it Adam?? Hope all is well for all of you…..does Kristi own a resturant???

  2. steve (yoga dvd & video) says...

    Katie, love your blog and how open you are. I know many people who are gorgeous and a bit heavier like you and are amazing yogis.



  3. Yoga Guy says...

    Hot yoga was natural in India where it is always hot. Here we need to add that heat so the body can be more flexible in all the yoga poses.