Local Lifestyle

Saturday, Aug 09 2014 09:13 AM

HERB BENHAM: Running out of steam at steamy yoga

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    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    Herb Benham

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By HERB BENHAM, Californian columnist hbenham@bakersfield.com

"Are you nuts?" said my brother Derek, when I invited him to go with me to the hot yoga class at the Yoga Tropics studio in Encinitas over vacation.

I was as stiff as a blue serge suit. Perhaps a beginning yoga class in a 103-degree room would loosen my collar and allow me to move my neck side to side. I brought a yoga mat, $12 for the entry fee, a water bottle but forgot a towel.

"You don't have a towel?" said the woman behind the counter who was checking people in for the 4:30 p.m class.

No towel? I did my first yoga move of the day -- hang head in shame. Then I forked over $2 for the rental towel while keeping my eyes cast downward, given that I had become a yoga untouchable.

I stepped into the studio. Not only was it hot, but Mr. Yoga Pants on the mat next to me was already doing push-ups. In between poses, specifically Flank Plank and Upward-Facing Dog, he'd knock off five quick push-ups.

I could do that if I weren't blind with sweat and concerned that I might not make it through the remaining 58 minutes of class.

I looked at the floor-to-ceiling mirror to my left. Who was that guy in the mirror? I didn't know him nor did I want to, but he seemed to be standing on my yoga mat and wearing my black stretchy shorts.

Love handles, a roly-poly stomach, jowls and a turkey neck. Had small children been present they would have run from the room and jumped into their mother's arms.

"Mommy, somebody tell that man to go home and lay off the vodka tonics and the chocolate covered almonds sprinkled with sea salt."

How did I compare to the rest of the class? Was there anybody stiffer or who looked worse? Not the professional surfer to my right nor any of the women, but the women always look fantastic in their Lululemon outfits.

"Be mindful of your practice," said Brittanee. "Think about what you want to accomplish."

What I want to accomplish. I want to live, I want the ugly guy to get off my mat and I want it to start snowing.

Fifteen minutes into the class, Brittanee propped open the two glass doors to let in some air. I almost cried I was so grateful.

"The room seems hotter than normal," said Mr. Yoga Pants. "I think the thermostat might be stuck."

I nodded, but I acted as if I didn't care. I could sense a note of panic in his voice. The heat was starting to get to him. How do those push-ups feel now, big boy?

Fifteen minutes from the end of the class, he sat up and wrapped his arms around his knees. Then he rolled up his mat and left. I gave myself an inside high five.

A few minutes later, a woman in front of me who looked slightly hungover followed him out the door. She had an insulated water bottle that I hoped she would drop so its cool stream could run into my mouth.

Upward Facing Dog, Warrior Two, Child's Pose, I gritted my hot Bakersfield teeth. No way I was quitting. No way I was doing the walk of shame.

Finally, Brittanee called for Shavasana, or The Corpse pose, which signifies the class is almost over. I could lie on my back all day if I wasn't baking like an apple pie in a Brad Holland grill.

"You made it," said a tall friendly guy when we walked outside into the cool fresh air.

I dumped my towel into a bin. It weighed as much as a small service dog. Then I bought a bottle of cold water for a dollar from the woman who had rented me the towel.

I said goodbye to no one in particular and no one in particular said goodbye back. I unlocked the car and collapsed into the sheepskins.

Hot yoga, hot damn.

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