Updated: May 14, 2020
Having done enough research about yoga beforehand, I was convinced that I could manage my first ever yoga class as I walked into the reception of Philly Yoga Factory. How difficult can a practice that uses breathing and postures be? Turns out, very!
The walls of the tiny reception were covered in Sanskrit quotes and paintings of Hindu gods. There was a miniature Shiva statue placed on the front desk. The woman behind the desk introduced herself as Marie Murphy, the instructor for the yoga session. She asked me and my friend, whom I had dragged along with me and forced to do yoga against her will (there was no way I could survive my first yoga class without any company), if we had any injuries.
After filling out some paperwork for first-timers, we were shown the way to the studio. I stepped into the dimly lit studio that was adorned with fairy lights and immediately felt beads of sweat roll down my face. The temperature inside the studio was more than a hundred degrees with heaters blasting hot air from all the corners. Stepping inside from a wintery condition to such a hot atmosphere was starting to make me feel dizzy. It wasn’t even below the freezing point outside for the heater to be blasting on a temperature this hot inside. That is when I realized that I had signed up for hot yoga. I had assumed that hot yoga referred to the profuse sweating after doing yoga. I did not think that hot yoga would literally be “hot.”
It was later when I googled that I realized that hot yoga referred to yoga exercises performed under hot conditions to replicate the heat and humidity of India where yoga originated.
I anxiously placed my mat in the corner of the room and sat down. Being the least flexible person on this planet, I was worried if I would be able to do all the poses. Braving a look around, I noticed that I was the youngest person in the room and everyone else was older than me and seemed more experienced. I was nervously tapping my foot when the lights of the studio turned on.
Murphy walked inside the studio and without saying a word kneeled on the mat in the middle of the room with knees separated and toes together with her arms laid out behind her. Everyone immediately imitated her pose and so did I. This seems easy— I thought to myself, but little did I know that a physically and emotionally demanding intense workout was waiting for me next.
I do not have any memory of how I went from the first yoga pose that we started with to doing a pose that required me to be standing on my feet, but it felt like I had lost half of my body weight in sweat.
I subtly moved my leg and turned on my phone that was lying on the floor next to me with my toe to check the time. To my surprise it had only been fifteen minutes and it already felt like forever. I wondered how I would survive forty-five more minutes of yoga.
We did everything, from jumping jacks to squats. It was a total work-out. I never thought yoga to be so demanding. My throat felt parched at this moment and my energy had drained entirely.
“You got this. Keep moving!” Murphy smiled at me as she reassured me.
I glanced at myself in the studio mirror that was in front of me. My hair was flying everywhere, my face had turned red and I panting like I had just run a marathon. Looking over at Murphy doing yoga so flawlessly made me wonder how long it must have taken her to be able to do the poses so gracefully.
Her constant encouragement gave me the strength to keep going. I glanced around the room and everyone else looked equally exhausted but still kept going. It had been thirty minutes now and we finally took a break. Sipping cold water felt like heaven at that moment, but it wasn’t too long before we went back to the grind.
More twenty minutes into the workout and I had given up this time. I was now lying down on my back, staring at the ceiling and breathing heavily.
“Yoga is as much about mental strength as physical,” Murphy said “Tell your mind you can do it, and you will be able to.”
I raised myself up from the mat using my elbows and kept telling myself that I could do it. Having made it this far, I didn’t want to give up now, specially with just ten minutes remaining for the class to end. We were now wrapping up by doing some cooling down poses. Murphy walked over to me and corrected my last pose.
“Namaste,” she said as she walked out of the studio and everyone said back namaste in unison.
I had done it. I survived my first ever yoga class. I had never felt so accomplished in my entire life.
“It was intense,” was all I said when I met Murphy outside the studio who asked me how my experience was.
Even though things didn’t go as I expected them to go and I showed up in a totally-inappropriate-for-hot-yoga outfit with no water and didn’t nail all the yoga poses, I still fell in love with the practice. I felt like I was in a new state of mind that I never wanted to leave. If you are someone who wants to do hot yoga, my advice would be to wear an outfit that allows you to move freely and keep in mind that physical limitations are created in the mind.
Although I walked down the stairs with jiggly legs and had to support myself by holding both the sides of the railing on either side of the staircase after the session, I had made up my mind to do more yoga.