Yoga and surfing share a common bond—both are considered a spiritual pursuit, but without spiritualism being necessary. Both require balance, strength, and poise, but in the case of Bikram Yoga (or "Hot Yoga"), there is one significant difference: temperature. Recently Timmy Reyes has included Hot Yoga<sup1 into his training schedule and has recruited Jordy Smith as his sidekick. Despite being new to it, both credit Hot Yoga with helping their surfing in numerous ways. Naturally, their training—that of highly paid professional athletes, I feel compelled to remind you—became a perfect place for a poor, office-bound desk-jockey to dive into another surf-tip experiment in the service of you, dear reader. Past experiments have seen me do a lot of whining about sweat and tears and so on, but this time the whining felt legitimate. There was a lot of sweat, although I will deny the tears.2
"If you feel dizzy or nauseous," the instructor warned, "then please lie down. Don't try to compete with anyone else in the room. Respect your body's limitations." Thankfully, I have a healthy respect for my body's limitations, which are numerous3, especially in a room that is sailing toward the 110-degree mark. Furthermore—and I'm letting you in on a little secret here—I felt completely relaxed because my plan was to do 30 minutes of the class, have a few choice photos taken, politely excuse myself, and then run for my life. Plans change, however, and they did abruptly when the instructor informed the class that opening the door would let out the hot air so vital to the practice—and therefore there's a strict "once in, no-out" policy. I would be trapped in the sweat-infused sauna for the full 90 minutes4.
Previously, I understood yoga to be a calm, relaxing pursuit, but as we rushed through the warm-up segment it felt more like break dancing. Sun Salutations felt more like "the worm," and being new to the class, I found myself flapping my arms and gasping for breath. Although I was supposed to be focusing on my own forehead in the mirror, my ego insisted that I compare my constant wobbling and swaying with those around me. The mirror-lined room was perfect for such comparisons. Squinting through streams of perspiration, I noticed that the girl in front looked composed and focused, despite being bent like a pretzel. Her sweat-free complexion was in stark contrast to that of my own and those of Timmy and Jordy, who stood behind her. I was closer to vomiting than I was to Zen, but I managed to put those thoughts out of mind by watching Jordy wobble into an awkward one-legged pose.
Yoga Flatulence is Real
My attention quickly turned inward when suddenly and inexplicably I felt a strong urge to pass wind. Generally, farting in a room full of scantly-clad females does not appeal to my sensibilities, so my focus centered on avoiding doing so. Agonizing minutes went by as we progressed through numerous stretches aimed at "invigorating the lower colon." An added layer of sweat covered my body as I fought the now-inescapable urge. Thankfully, I was set free by the attractive brunette to my right, who had no qualms about squeaking one out. I was quick to follow suit. In the mirror, both of our faces were a glowing red— a product of the heat, no doubt.
The Most Useless Object in the Universe? I Found It.
As I lay on my back in the Shavasana pose I noted between thick, clammy breaths that there was a ceiling fan spinning ineffectually above my head. What, I wondered, could the purpose of that fan possibly be? It was clear that it ranked among the most useless object in the galaxy.
Shavasana is defined as the state of complete relaxation. The pose is supposed to bring peace and tranquility to my being. However, I felt far from peaceful. In fact, I wanted to tear the fan down and torture it the way it was torturing me. Call me a wimp, but I was hot, and in pain. However, before I had time to wallow in self-pity, the instructor—who might as well have been holding a pitchfork—called for the next pose. The suffering would continue.
According to Timmy: "Being in a yoga pose is the same as when you're in a heavy position in the surf, yoga teaches you to breathe. It's definitely helped me in contests to stay calm when I'm in a stressful situation."
Jordy, who has been doing yoga for considerably less time, can already feel a difference. "I've lost a lot of weight already," he says, "and I definitely feel more stable on my board."
But the benefits of Hot Yoga extend beyond performance in the water and your belt-line: "I really feel it about two days later," says Timmy. "On the second morning after working out, I spring out of bed. I don't just get out of bed, I literally pop up." I considered this a gross misuse of hyperbole; two days later, I could barely move. My joints creaked and my muscles ached. "Popping up" was not an option; instead, I popped painkillers. As I lay there assessing the fallout, I recalled Timmy quipping enthusiastically: "You don't even have to do it everyday. You can go once and feel it all through the week!"
This, I feared, would be the absolute truth.
1. A derivative of Bikram Yoga, but can't be called such because of a copyright imposed by Bikram Choudhury, the founder of Bikram Yoga.
2. I was sweating from my eyes.
3. And growing with the passing of every day.