Hungry for hot yoga

Jan 272011
Authors: Nic Turciano and Kate Bennis

I walk in. The temperature is normal. Not cold. Not hot. Healthier people than I are walking in the front door and past me on their way to the studio. They’ve done this before. I, Nic Turiciano, haven’t. My co-columnist Kate Bennis tries to assure me that there’s nothing to worry about.

I’m feeling nervous for the first time since Bennis and I began the NHIE column. Yoga? This isn’t my thing. I drink beer. I sit on my couch. I take notes on a laptop because my wrist gets sore from writing. One look at me, and it’s obvious that I haven’t stretched in years.

Bridget Baxter, the co-owner of Bikram Yoga Fort Collins, is at the cashier desk saying hello to the incoming patrons. Bennis and I introduce ourselves. Pleasantries are exchanged. Baxter chides me for never having tried yoga before. I say I hope I make it the whole way through. I only half mean it.

Bennis and I proceed to the studio. I open the door into the large barren room and am immediately hit by the heat. I tried to mentally prepare myself, but it’s hot. It’s 105 degrees, to be exact , with 40 percent humidity.

Baxter reveals during the class that the environment is made to mimic the climate in India. I’m thankful for Colorado winters.
I follow Bennis’ lead (she has yoga experience) and lay out my mat appropriately. We lie down and start to prepare ourselves. “This isn’t so bad,” I think, “The heat is almost refreshing.”

The class begins. It starts with ‘breathing’ exercises, which I find to be more difficult than the name implies.
“Palms together. Hands over your head, and reach toward the ceiling. Breath in through the nose … out through the mouth,” Baxter instructs.

I listen. I abide. I drip with sweat.

We have our first moment of relaxation. I’m lying face up on my mat with my palms toward the ceiling, and I smell the class’ collective emissions. It’s salty and warm smelling and … and ….

We’re back to more breathing exercises. I’m not sure if it’s supposed to be this way, but more than my lungs are working. My lower back aches as I arch it toward the wall behind me. The balls of my feet are dying. They want to kick me in the groin. I can tell.

In through the nose, out through the mouth.

Why does breathing hurt my spine?

We rest again. I’m back on my mat. My mind is dulled, but my senses are heightened. I pace my breathing. I take deeper breaths. I smell the people around me. It’s still salty, but it’s more than that. The smell makes me … hungry. It reminds me of something.

We start the floor exercises.

“Knees together, heels 6 inches apart. Hips on your heels,” Baxter says.

There’s more to the pose, but I’m not able to go beyond the knees, heels and toes part. I try, though. I arch my neck and back toward the wall behind me. It feels good –– new. And then I lose my center. Sweat has made me slick. My body slips off of itself involuntarily.

I fall.

We relax again. My breathing doesn’t need adjusting this time; it’s already in control. I focus on the smell. Still salty. Still familiar. It’s food. It’s something I’ve eaten before.

We’re back on our feet.

“Right knee up to your chin. Fingers locked. Grab the ball of your foot, and extend to your forward facing wall,” Baxter says.

I can’t get into this pose. My body feels like a donor’s, rejecting my brain’s commands and pursuing its own agenda. Then again, my mind won’t do what I want it to either. It’s still thinking about the smell. I realize I’m hungry.

I’m back on my mat, face up. I know what the smell is, but I don’t know what it is. It’s all I can think about.

We are instructed into another pose. On our stomachs, we elevate our arms, legs and necks to the ceiling. I’m willing myself into it while realizing that it is the exact opposite of the hedgehog’s defensive maneuver.

We finish and relax again. This time the lights are switched off. The class is finished. I lay there smelling sweat, and I finally realize what it reminds me of: The pork chops that my grandmother cooked for me when I was a child.

My mind is finally free to relax.
Columnists Kate Bennis and Nic Turiciano can be reached at

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