Not a Dry Heat

San Francisco, 2001, on the road with Aida.

Back when CC is just my boss and #5 doesn’t even exist yet.

CC tells me about this great yoga studio he’s been to here. He says they’re running a special and I should check it out.

I should mention that at this time in my life, I live on Jamba Juice, Powerbars, coffee and chocolate, and smoke a pack of non-filtered cigarettes a day. I do no exercise beyond loading our thirteen-truck show in and out and walking to work. Though in San Francisco the walking to work part does include dodging the homeless guys trying to pee on me, which counts for something.

The thing CC never mentions is that this is hot yoga. Bikram, to be exact, though at the time that means nothing to me.

Balancing Stick image from blisstree.com

What it means is ninety minutes in one hundred and five degree heat.

I walk into the studio of Funky Door Yoga and it’s so hot the floor burns my feet through my socks. Socks that I am promptly chastised for wearing by another student. Whatever. I’m so completely overwhelmed by everything: by what the teacher is saying, by the heat, by trying to contort my body while just trying to not pass out or puke that the ninety minutes passes surprisingly quickly.

Within six hours though, roughly the time between the class and when I go to work, every single muscle in my body is screaming. My earlobes hurt. I’m convinced I cracked a rib. I cannot feel several of my toes nor turn my head to the left.

That’s when CC tells me if I don’t go back the next day, I’ll be screwed, and will hurt like this for at least a week, more likely ten days. He’s good the way he times his imparting of choice information. I tell him he’s mixing the show tonight because I am pretty sure I’m not strong enough to push the faders on the sound board.

So I go back. The second class is harder. I spend more time face down on the mat. The ninety minutes does not pass quickly. I survive, I hurt less, I don’t make it back to yoga the rest of this stop.

On this tour, part of my job on the load-in is climbing up the sixteen-foot straight ladder to the service truss, plugging some stuff in, and climbing back down, about a million times. Every trip to the top I go to my knees and wait for the blackness to pass and try to catch my breath, listening to my sad, crispy lungs wheezing. Something has to change.

Fast forward to Dallas, about ten weeks later. I have decided to quit smoking. My brain isn’t working because of this, even though I’m using the patch. I desperately need something to do while not at work besides sit around my hotel room and Not Smoke. Enter Bikram Yoga Dallas. This time CC goes with me.

You sweat your ass off in these classes and put a towel on your mat to soak it up. I have to take the patch off because it won’t stay on. Any time my face gets close to my towel, whether due to the pose or due to me passing out, it smells so heavily of cigarettes that I want to smoke it.

I mean, I really want to smoke my towel. I want to roll around naked on it and suck all the sweat out of it and slice it into little strips with my knife, strips which I will then smoke, smoke, smoke, one right after the other, possibly more than one at a time.

Quitting stuff makes you crazy.

The rest of the tour we seek out Bikram wherever we can. A bunch of the other company members are seeking it out too. In Tulsa, the only class we can take that isn’t during work hours is at 6:30am, which is really damn early when you work nights. Also, rental cars in Tulsa are stupidly expensive. Perhaps they have slightly less tourism than, say, Florida. But I’m desperate. I get up early. I rent a car. We go. This is also the city in which I start eating bacon.

Here’s why Bikram works for me: This isn’t peaceful, blissed out, Om-type yoga. This is hard. This is badass instructors walking around screaming at you, “Lock your leg! LOCK YOUR LEG!!!!” until you lock your goddamn leg.

Once I quit smoking, there wasn’t anything left to smooth over how angry I was. I had no idea why I was angry, but there it was, and because I can’t drink or do drugs anymore either the only thing I knew to do was go sweat my ass off and try to lock my goddamn leg.

Bikram is a real guy and a few years ago took what some may call a less-than-yogic path with his franchise. He may have gotten a little ego-maniacal. He may have alienated some of his teachers, including some of his very first and most loyal. He’s human, just like the rest of us. His yoga still works for me.

Happy, peaceful yoga just makes me want to start strangling kittens, but stick me in a room where I can barely keep it together, and I walk out of there a different woman. I walk out of there peaceful.

Back in February, I got a call from the high school that something was wrong with #1. They were calling an ambulance. They needed me to be there.

My roadie training kicked in, where you try to stave down the panic and methodically process the next very most important thing. But the yoga. All these years of sweating my rage onto the mat and chasing after my breath. Somehow it made space in my brain between the thoughts. Space that led coherent thought to coherent thought. I grabbed every document I needed. I made sure I was wearing pants. I found chocolate. I put the pups in their crate, called CC on the way and was at the high school within four minutes of receiving that phone call. I showed up for #1 and stayed calm. Me, not panicking. Who’d have guessed that.

That’s why I keep coming back. How about you? What do you do to keep your head?

If you’d like to support a fellow blogger in her trek to quit smoking, check out Momfog. She’s got five kids, is quitting smoking, and makes these really cool cakes that I kind of want to fondle.

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29 thoughts on “Not a Dry Heat

    1. Sounds exactly like that. I would choose the 116 degrees of AZ over the humidity of the east coast if I could. Kudos to you; if I could keep it to 14 cigs a day I’d probably still be smoking.

  1. Wow… that yoga doesn’t sound very peaceful and meditative… Congrats on the not smoking…. I haven’t smoked since last Tuesday and sometimes I think I might pull out each of my hairs individually.
    I enjoy your blog posts.

    Darlene

    1. If you’re going to pull out hairs, start with the arm hairs. That go-round in 2001 was attempt #3 for me, and the patch is what made it possible. I’m still shocked that I don’t smoke anymore. Best of luck to you- you can do it!

  2. i went to bikram yoga when i lived in civilization (houston) and loved it. i agree, regular yoga can be boring and annoying, but bikram really keeps you focused and you feel fully wrung out and at peace when it is over.

  3. How appropos- the timing of this piece. I just ran out of ciggarettes and money after a weekend getaway (and a property tax refund that our state sneakily withheld, without notification); the first day, life happened angrily. Dug tiny butts out of ashtray, smoked ’em. I mean, if it had 1/ 8 inch of little brown curly-cues of tobacco, I smoked it. Angry texts to innocent bystanders followed. Angry >:z facebook comments were next. Things said, which required me to wake up early the next day and, ya know, delete them.

    That said, I kinda feel wonderful, clear, and am outside in the sunshine weeding my gardens and repotting things and cooking healthy stuff again. Shrimp and scallop ceviche’ over a salad of spring greens with balsamic/honey-mustard viniagrette. Chocolate chip cookies. Brownies with maple-cream frosting. Peppermint sticks left over from Christmas. If my toenails were made out of chrystalized ginger, I would eat them.

  4. What a great day for me to find this post. My town has a groupon for Bikram and I was thinking about trying it, but I’m a little freaked out because it seems HARD. Anyway… I think I’m going to do it now.

  5. I have to tell I like your blog so much.
    I always find you funny, inspiriational and I always feel like your teaching me something.
    Please dont stop writing.
    I love this blog!!

  6. The one and only time I tried Yoga was Bikram. Afterwards, I could not move. I had a raging, splitting headache that started about 6 hours after the class ended. I think I was dehyrdated. I too, do not like the peaceful, meditative yoga thing. What is up with that? How is that a workout? Besides I cannot shut my brain off in class. I just like walking. In the morning. Before my kids are up and we are racing to get out of the house for work and school. Congrats to you on kicking the habit and keeping up with the yoga thing. Even if I think it’s crazy. 🙂
    BTW, next time I am in town let’s have a post rapture latte.

    1. You probably were dehydrated. I like that you walk. I fantasize about stealing minutes before the house is awake like that, but reality is that I work nights and the kids get up before me. I just realized you spent your Rapture in NY!

  7. I’ve never tried Bikrim, I don’t do well in heat at all. As a kid I frequently got heat stroke. I don’t think the yoga studio would welcome me back after puking on their floor class after class!

    1. They do prefer that you puke in the bathroom, and in midtown there conveniently are two bathrooms in the studio that you’re practicing in. It’s unlikely that more than two people puke at the same time. I found that since I started hitting that midtown studio regularly, the NYC grody-swamp summers are a little more bearable.

  8. Thanks for the mention. I was wondering why I was getting hits from here. I love yoga but I don’t ever go. I couldn’t do it in the heat, though. I hate heat.

    I’ve got a new cake post for Monday. It’s a classic. You need to come see it when it’s up. Keep in mind that I don’t choose the cakes. I have to do what I’m told. 🙂

    1. Oh boy, I can’t wait! I love your cakes. I told CC that I want a badass Día de los Muertos cake for my 40th birthday. And a Montblanc. I told him this two years in advance so he can plan on selling an organ, or one of the children. One of the mouthy ones.

  9. I’ve never tried yoga, and sadly I type this as I’m smoking. Well, not really sadly….I’m enjoying it quite a bit to be honest. But I congratulate anyone who can give it up.
    What do I do to keep my head? Draw.
    Good post, sister.

    1. If I could still control and enjoy my smoking, I’d soo be there. Except for that pesky breathing thing. I loved seeing your drawings on your blog (I totally just typed “drawrings”).

  10. I’m another one who can’t take the heat. When I first came to Australia, I passed out in the heat. I’m more acclimatised now, but it took a few years. I’m OK up to about 35C, after that I’m a wipe-out.

    I so envy you quitting smoking. That is the next thing on our list of objectives!

  11. You are a rock star! Yesterday I think it hit 90 degrees (and 1,000% humidity) in Jersey, and I could barely move, let alone think straight. The words, “I can’t live like this” passed my lips at least twice. And believe you me, I didn’t have the will power to deny my favorite vice (rhymes with schmodka). You (and your blog) are awesome!

    1. I’m pretty sure I said “I can’t live like this” yesterday too. I’m in Jersey as well; it appears we’ve skipped spring this year. The kids were asking if we could turn on the AC (no, because last night it was 55) and all of my Lindt truffles liquified. I had to freeze them in an attempt to save the shells. You are awesome!

  12. I mean, I really want to smoke my towel. I want to roll around naked on it and suck all the sweat out of it and slice it into little strips with my knife, strips which I will then smoke, smoke, smoke, one right after the other, possibly more than one at a time.

    O…M…G…I haven’t laughed this hard in a while. Thank you. And yep, momfog is a riot, too.

  13. Once upon a time I smoked. Quitting involved an interesting pact. First, I promised I would quit when I bought a home of my own. Yeah. I guess I thought it was OK to pollute my living space as long as I didn’t own it. Eventually, in 1986 we bought our “dream home” but I didn’t quit then either. Not that I smoked a lot … a cigarette or two a day. But still. A promise is a promise. I felt kinda bad about not quitting.

    We also owned four dogs. Yup, four BIG dogs. One day not long after we moved into our country home the dogs got loose and took off. Surrounded by acres and acres of state forest, I didn’t have a clue where to look for them. I was distraught. However, a few hours later all but one had returned. Yet I was inconsolable over the missing dog because naturally, she was mine. So I made another pact, this time with God. Now back then I certainly wasn’t a praying woman, but interestingly enough I didn’t think twice about calling on God when the shit hit the fan. So I said, “God, if you’ll kindly bring my girl back home I promise I’ll quit smoking.” Oh boy. What was I thinking? A few minutes later my boyfriend drove off in the truck to do another search for my dog. About an hour went by before he pulled up with my dog on the seat beside him. I’ve never smoked since. The moral of the story: You don’t back out of a pact you made with God!

    Today I do one of several things to keep my head together: Drink, swear, break things. Oh wait … you’re probably not talking about that kinda stuff. I lift weights, spar or ride my bike or horse. I do yoga too, but I’ll do anything to avoid heat. It’s a mid-life thing. 😉

  14. OMG! I laughed so hard.
    now I’m scared of this whole ‘yoga plan’ I have.
    Best line ever…because i feel EXACTLY the same way…”Happy, peaceful yoga just makes me want to start strangling kittens,”
    Awesome

  15. Pingback: Yogi Where? «

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