I had heard many things about the sweaty sensation that is Bikram Yoga, but one thing stood out above the rest: satisfaction. Some of my friends, who were hot yoga regulars, likened it to warm apple pie, raising their eyebrows in jest, while others revered the grueling exercise for more enlightened reasons.
I was the only one who hadn't done it yet. As I strode to the front desk for my first hot yoga session, wearing my inexperience like a red letter "I" across my chest, I took a deep breath and handed over my $2 for a yoga mat rental.
Once I was in the room, sprawled out and awaiting instructions, I took notice of everyone else's posture and candor. The room was pushing 105 degrees and the space was silent yet balmy. Finding a sense of inner peace and tranquility is absolutely necessary if you're going to get through a workout in that kind of heat. I knew I needed help as soon as I rolled out my mat.
Fortunately, I was introduced to instructor Becca Tegen, who unlike my sweat-crazed friends, found an awakening much more spiritual than physical in yoga.
The Boise native tried hot yoga for the first time in 2005 while living in New York City. She considers the yoga room one of the safest places a person can be when dealing with strife or poor self esteem.
"I think a lot of people come here just trying to find peace and stillness," said Tegen.
Once the class started, as I began to bend and contort myself into the postures, I quickly realized I had no idea what I was doing. I grabbed at my slippery appendages, feigning some sort of adroitness, and looked to the front of the room for validation. To my surprise, I seemed to be pulling it off.
"My first time was incredible," said Tegen. "I thought I rocked it throughout the entire class, but I'm sure I looked like a total dork."
About halfway through the 90-minute class, I felt my body starting to fatigue. The postures were becoming more demanding and I wasn't lasting as long as I was in the beginning. My knees were locked and shaky, my shoulders were burning and my lips were wet with a taste of salt.
Luckily, participants spend the latter half of the session in a prone position. I felt a sense of relief as I laid there, staring at the ceiling and letting gravity do the work. But as the postures resumed, I faltered, unsure of whether I was flexible enough.
As my confidence dwindled, Tegen reassured me: "Going into hot yoga and saying you're not flexible is like saying, 'I'm not fat enough to go on a diet,'" she said.
The last five to six postures were some of the most challenging, and I was feeling increasingly light-headed. In spite of my exhaustion, I felt a peace fall over me.
The final posture was the second of two breathing exercises. At that point, I was ready to let go and expel all the stress and toxins from my body. I fell back onto my mat, legs extended and arms at my side. I looked to my side at those around me to see if it had been as good for them as it was for me, and as their chests heaved and sunk I knew it was.