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

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.