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If there’s *one* positive thing I can say about the postgrad community, it’s that we are a crew hell-bent on physical fitness. I’m not sure if that has more to do with the desire to be physically healthy and attractive, or if it has more to do with the social benefits of group-exercise combined with the Instagram potential. I’d be more inclined to put money on the latter considering the damage I happily do to my own body every Friday through Sunday.
I’ve always been an active person. I played sports throughout high school, did a year-long tour playing junior college volleyball, and participated in various intramural activities and competitions over the years. My undergraduate experience frequently involved binge-drinking, and then meager attempts to offset my ever-slowing metabolism by showing up to Pure Barre, hungover, twice a week.
Since those dark days, I’ve tried my hand at almost every type of group-exercise and fitness class you can think of. Yoga. Barre. Spin. OrangeTheory. Pilates. Once upon a time, I even tried a pole-dancing class for a coworker’s bachelorette party, but that’s a story for another time.
Just like any other pseudo-bougie millennial, I love when a studio offers extremely unnecessary amenities. Lavender and eucalyptus-scented towels? Let me die here. Fresh fruit and chilled water in the locker room? Get me that six-month auto-draft contract, fam. If I’m not feeling like I’m visiting a five-star hotel with every cycle class, later, haters.
Despite the enjoyment I get out of participating in these type of activities, I have a hard time sticking with one type of exercise or class for an extended amount of time. I am easily bored and burned-out within a couple months of going to a particular gym or studio. That is, until I found my holy Mecca.
Years ago, after college, I spent a little bit of time working at a place I am sure many of you are familiar with: lululemon athletica. It is the place of worship for both fans of yoga pants, and fans of women wearing yoga pants, alike. During my stint as a fashion-and-fitness guru (a fancy phrase I prefer over “retail employee”), I had the distinct pleasure of trying a multitude of yoga studios on the company dime. That is where I found Big Yoga.
I first visited Big Yoga on a whim, with some of my coworkers. This place was beyond the most hippie, crunchy, granola, yoga joint I had ever been to. I’m talking burning incense. I’m talking instructors with “Namaste” tattooed on their forearms. Chakra alignment. Fresh-pressed juice and smoothie bar around the corner of the lobby. This place almost made me feel like I should never poison my body with alcohol, Adderall, or other questionable substances, again.
One class later, I was sold. I had finally found my favorite yoga spot. And then I moved away.
I moved out of state for law school, leaving my sweet Big Yoga behind. I missed it. Missed the chilled towels the instructors would lay on our faces as we finished class in Savasana (a cool word that also means “Corpse Pose” which also just means laying on your back). I missed those delicious smoothies. I missed the community. I missed the instructors who convinced me that I could take on the world, find internal peace, and save the planet from hunger and war all while rocking a Crow Pose.
A few weeks ago, I traveled back home to Texas for some family time. In a caffeine-fueled bout of insanity, I signed into my old Big Yoga account and booked the “Hot Jams” class for 5:45 a.m., the morning after my arrival. Because I no longer have an active class-package, this single drop-in class set me back an Andrew Jackson.
Anyone who knows me knows that I am not a morning person. I am incredibly ugly and mean when I wake up. My brain doesn’t even start processing information or functioning properly until after 9 a.m. Needless to say, reserving a spot in this class was simply one of the cruelest things I could have ever done to myself.
Not only did this class start at an ungodly hour that I didn’t even believe existed until I saw it for myself on this fateful morning, but I had already paid $20 for it. For one class. The same twenty bucks that I probably should have thrown at a credit card. Furthermore, I hadn’t exercised in an unacceptable amount of time. I had spent the better part of the past 5 months sitting in either the library or the bar. The extent of my physical exercise involved carrying law books up the stairs or doing 12-ounce curls on Saturday afternoons. I suddenly feared for my health and safety.
Despite these obstacles, I woke up at 4:30 on that Saturday morning, and put on my favorite lululemon-wear. If nothing else, I would at least look the part. I hopped in my car, and I drove my dumb ass all the way down into Houston. I fought morning traffic and tried to beat back the anxiety surrounding my decision to take this Level II-advanced hot yoga class. My body was not prepared to take on a full 75 minutes of active yoga in a 100-degree room.
But once I arrived at the studio, I felt a wave of relief. The fridge full of Topo Chico that greeted me in the lobby was a sign that I was in the right place. Suddenly, I felt confident. I loved this place! I was finally back after two years! I was about to nail all of these poses, and start my weekend off as the epitome of health. I threw my things into a locker, removed my shoes, and stepped into the studio with my mat and bottle of water.
As soon as I threw open the studio door, the heat hit me like a goddamn freight train. It was literally like stepping into an oven. My eyes watered, and the heat burned my nose. I was surprised the floor didn’t singe my bare feet. The confidence I had just found in the parking lot, ran out the door.
But, alas, I as already there. There was no backing out, now. I unrolled and arranged my mat towards the back corner of the room, away from the handful of professional yogis who were already holding it down at the front, and closest to the door. It was hot. My skin was glistening within 5 minutes. Why in the world had I done this to myself?
Soon, people started streaming into this tiny room. For a class as early as 5:45 a.m., it was packed. I had no idea that it was possible for this room to get any hotter, and yet, as the bodies poured in, the temperature climbed. My mat was way too close to other people on every side. I suddenly feared for any accidental flatulence, by either me or any of these other students. It would honestly have killed every single person in the room. I clenched my teeth as I tried to push that fear to the back of my mind, and find my “center.” I sat cross-legged with my eyes closed and hands placed softly on my knees, attempting to fight my way into mental stability and calmness with brute force.
The instructor entered the room like a whirlwind at 5:43 a.m. Immediately, I knew that I was in for a world of hurt. This woman was about 5’ 4”, and built like a Hetzer tank. I would soon come to refer to her, as “the dragon lady.” The entire class immediately stood up from their mats. The time of reckoning was here.
Ten minutes later, the sweat was dripping off of my forehead and rolling down my nose onto my mat in huge droplets. It was challenging, but the poses and flows were coming back to me. The Post Malone tracks pumping out of the speakers were keeping me alive. I could do this!
The instructor’s voice reverberated throughout the room. “Great warm-up, everyone. Now we’ll begin our flow; watch me and listen for cues.”
Oh, dear God. That was just the warm-up? I looked to the students on either side of me from beneath my armpit, as we “rested” in Downward-Facing Dog, looking for any other signs of distress from my cohorts. They were definitely not sweating as badly as I was. In fact, they looked comfortable. Fuck.
Suddenly, we launched into an incredibly difficult flow. To explain it in layman’s terms, we were essentially doing “up-downs” a la Remember the Titans, combined with various bodily contortions and balances. I tried to keep up, as the instructor added more and more steps to the process. I was getting left behind. The more times I jumped up from the floor and then slowly lowered my entire body weight back down on my two wimpy arms, the more I cursed the dragon lady under my breath.
I took a break and laid on my mat in “Child’s Pose” as the rest of the class kept grinding. This is just a fancy phrase for “fetal position on your hands and knees.” I stayed still for a couple minutes, and then quickly jumped up to get back into the flow. I was an athlete, dammit. I could do this. Momma didn’t raise no quitter.
As soon as I stood up, I knew something was wrong. There were tiny, glowing dots in the corners of my eyes. The heat was overwhelming. I could see myself in the mirror. I suddenly looked unnaturally pale. I started going weak in the knees, and I knew I had to get out.
I turned in the direction of the door, trying to remain calm, and took two steps past the rows of students absolutely kicking this class’s ass. As I grabbed the door handle, my vision disappeared. I couldn’t believe this. I was literally blacking out.
I stepped directly outside the door, now completely blind from overexertion and heat, and sat on the cold concrete floor. Was this how I was going to die? In front of all of these professional yogis? Before I even got to have my smoothie?
I star-fished on the floor, the cold concrete a welcome respite from the depths of Dante’s Inferno from which I had just escaped. The woman working the front desk called out to me, clearly sensing my distress.
“Are you okay?”
No, Megan. I’m not. My face is as white as a sheet of computer paper and if I breathe too hard, I will literally vomit the banana I ate for breakfast all over this place.
“Yes, I just got too hot. Can I get a Topo, please?”
Megan from the front desk, my guardian angel, brought an ice-cold bottle over to me. I sat up, praying that I wasn’t permanently blinded by yoga. It was a miracle. I could see.
I looked down at my Apple watch, which was keeping up with my workout. Holy shit. I had only made it 45 minutes. I started laughing uncontrollably, partly out of delusion and heat-stroke. To think, this fucking class went on for 30 more minutes! I decided right then and there that I was not going back in. Not only would I feel nothing but pure shame if I attempted to do so, but I would probably just die again, right there on my mat. I sipped my water and sat on the bench in the locker room, staring at my pathetic self in the mirror.
I peeled my completely soaked clothes off and changed into the clean, dry outfit I had brought with me. Why in the world did I think I would be okay to go balls-to-the-wall in a 75 minute, heated class? Oh, well. I tried. At least I could still get my smoothie.
Class soon ended, and I ashamedly waited for everyone to leave before I went back inside to gather my mat and water bottle, which sat, pitifully alone and abandoned. I avoided all eye contact with the other patrons and walked around the corner of the lobby to head to the smoothie bar.
It was gone. No smoothies. No fresh-pressed juice served in aesthetically-pleasing bottles. No shots of lemongrass. Gone. Apparently, it had closed over a year ago. All hope was officially gone. All of that pain and anguish I had just endured, was for naught. I had just paid $20 to suffer and die.
I threw my things into the back of my car and texted my group text. “Guess who just blacked out in hot yoga? LOL.” I slid my sunglasses onto my face and cranked the A/C, still chuckling about what had just happened. Big Yoga may have won this time, but I would be back.
The studio disappeared in my rearview mirror as I typed “Juiceland” into my Apple maps. I didn’t care if I had to drive 20 minutes to get it. I was getting that damn smoothie. .