I stretched, lapsing in and out of an overheated and stoned consciousness as more than 20 bodies packed around me in a Core Power hot yoga session.
Reace, our scantily dressed yoga instructor, glided among us, gently touching backs, gently extending arms, repeating mantras for us as we focused on the blood in our hearts.
He said things like:
“It can be scary when you realize how much strength you have.”
“Our bodies tell the stories of our lives.”
“There’s nothing wrong with slowing down and looking inside yourself.”
And surprisingly enough, these mantras that seemed to come from somewhere within the far reaches of Reace, meant something to me.
When he spoke, he placed his hands to his chest, praying, and for a moment there was nothing before me but Reace, and when he shook himself from the repetition of his mantras, the world came back. It was the same place where all my decisions — which have worked their way through my body — had been made long ago. These were how most of my thoughts went Friday afternoon.
Yoga is a mind game.
It’s not necessarily like chess or baseball, because in those games there isn’t enough physical torture.
Yoga is like trying to turn your body inside out.
For the first fifteen minutes of the yoga class, I was high and trying to turn my body inside out after tearing through a joint of Sour Diesel at my apartment with friends Sean (the New Age guy) and Aaron (an aspiring doctor and medical researcher).
We smoked in a hurry in order to get to class on time, and it put me in a funk.
When rushed, I am nervous by nature. I had entered Core Power avoiding eye contact and worked mechanically through the class opening movements as the room temperature hovered around 100 degrees. I was high, and for the first time in a very long time, paranoid.
I tried to calm myself by listening to the hushed speeches from Reace, and that helped me find a center. However, it didn’t relieve the anxious rock that had sunk to the bottom of my chest. I was surrounded by half-naked sweaty bodies and a yoga instructor who seemed determined to better our lives.
Sean, who lie to my right, made note of my nervous body language and turned to me during a downward dog pose. Beneath one of Reace’s speeches, he mouthed, “He is so right.” Aaron, who had been watching us, laughed.
The exchange reminded me of something Sean has repeated these past few months — a mantra of his own. Each time, it seems, that we are high and hiking, popping over ridges, coming through the bowels of a rural tunnel, Sean has looked to me and said exultantly: “Doesn’t all this make you feel so human?”
I hadn’t understood what he meant until that Friday evening.
In that class, sweating, vulnerable and in an altered state, I discovered that my anxiety and lack of athletic confidence (when it comes to yoga) was what made me human. It was like what my uncle once told my mother: If you can still blush at 50, you’re living.
After class, the high had completely left my body and on the walk home, Sean, Aaron and I agreed that there’s something metaphysical about hot yoga. It’s cleansing, really.
You can feel it in your legs, stomach and chest. There’s a healthy emptiness that fills you.
Rounding Logan onto Grant, we met a homeless man who asked for money. Sean gave him whatever quarters he had and instead of leaving him there, we talked and listened.