There’s No Such Thing As Free Yoga

On Sunday, I dragged my husband to a free community class at the local hot yoga studio, which is still trying to ramp up its lukewarm class attendence. About 11 people attended — a record, from what I’ve seen. Before the class, the studio’s owner asked if she could take pictures of the class — “only flattering ones, of course.” No one objected. The class was very relaxing and afterward we enjoyed some refreshments as we chatted with our fellow class attendees. Altogether, it was a pleasant experience.

And then today I went to the hot yoga studio’s website to check out the schedule, only to find the following picture all splayed out on the studio’s home page:

Dear lord. Yes, that’s me, the woman smack in the center wearing all black with her blond hair in a clip, in the superlatively unflattering pose of upward-dog. On the Home Page! (I hesitate to include the studio’s URL, as I don’t want them to know I blog about them).

On the Schedule page, there’s:

Which is just horrifying, because you’ll notice the outside edge of my back foot is not pressed onto the mat as it should be, and my right leg barely looks like it’s bent at all, let along at a 90-degree angle. That is one pitiful Warrior I.

On the Events page, right next to the notice about the beginner’s series, there’s:

That’s my husband on the right, checking his balance. Though he was mortified to see this, he forgot all about it after he saw the Rates page:

That’s when we realized: there is no such thing as free yoga.

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Buy Local Hot Yoga

The good news: A yoga studio just opened about three blocks from my home. Joyous ommmms. No more hyper-stressful rush hour odysseys into Somerville or Cambridge, my eyes glued alternately to the unyielding bumper of the car in front of me and the clock. Ten minutes until yoga class… nine minutes… will the gridlock let up? Will I find parking? Will there be any space left in the class? Will the class afford enough relaxation to cancel out the damaging levels of stress necessitated by getting to the class? Wouldn’t it just be healthier to go home and watch Seinfeld re-runs?

The bad news: The yoga studio that just opened about three blocks from my home is a hot yoga studio that heats classes up to 100 degrees. Just in time for summer! I’ve taken enough Bikram yoga classes to know that vigorous yoga in a hot, humid room causes me to literally sweat rivers. Of course, that’s the point — the profuse sweating supposedly helps flush toxins out of the body (and if you believe that, I have some magic anti-cellulite cream I’d like to sell you).

This yoga studio seems a lot like Bikram Yoga, what with the heat and the same sequences of poses, but this isn’t a Bikram-certified studio. Rather, the owners seem to be renegade Bikram enthusiasts who saw a gaping hole in the hot yoga market and decided to open their own place… and make the wife the chief instructor. If opening a coffee shop is the secret ambition of every coffee shop denizen, then opening a yoga studio is the parallel dream of yoga junkies. “Imagine… I could just hang out and do yoga and sweat as much as I want, and make money for doing it!”

The pursuit of money is, of course, a secondary goal to the pursuit of enlightenment, but money is a necessity. The studio has only been open a week and I’m already worrying about its existence based on the two classes I’ve attended. The Saturday morning class consisted solely of me and a similarly-aged man who seemed to have traveled from a distance out of personal loyalty to the owners. The Monday night class consisted of me, a Bikram veteran, and an older woman who had trouble holding many of the poses and spent much of the 90-minute class cowering in child’s pose.

I can’t blame her, really. The co-owner was instructing on Monday night and I instantly disliked her for how she forcefully adjusted me into deeper poses (unlike the Saturday morning instructor, who would reassuring massage us with supportive hands). I mean, is it really healthy to goad people into intense exercise in 100-degree heat? Frequently she would instruct us to hold a pose “For five… four… keep your lower belly tucked in and the outer edge of your left foot grounded. Three… Make sure your hips are squared to the front of the room. Two…direct your gaze at the ceiling. Keep your shoulders down and your fingers spread open. Create space between your fingers. Every pose should create space…” And I’m there, sweating pouring down my face, my legs, my chest, willing her to say “One” so I can release the pose and mop myself up with my sodden towel. It was about as relaxing as jogging on an endless desert road.

“Take breathes without an agenda,” she instructed, causing my next breath to have a very distinct agenda: To stifle a giggle. At the end of the class, she beamed into our sweat-soaked faces and proclaimed, “It’s been very special practicing with you all today.” Special? Was it the way that sweat cascaded down my back as she made manual adjustments on my shoulder muscles? Or was it how I resisted her attempts to fiddle with my perfectly fine Warrior II?

I’ll support my local hot yoga studio, but in definite moderation, because sweating is overrated, and July and August are upon us.