Someone who shall remain nameless, and hence shall henceforth be named The Nameless One, convinced me to go with her to hot yoga. “In the middle of winter?” I guess, why not? Although I was a little confused upon learning that it was hot yoga.
When I was a kid, it only came in plain and vanilla.
Off we go in what was only a minor snowstorm. After a lovely drive, we arrived at what I thought was the yogateria. Little did I know. For some strange reason, I was bid to enter the men’s change room and don my black non-speedo swim trunks and a black tee shirt.
Black is slimming. This proved to be a good thing.
I was led to a room. It was no ordinary room. It was a sultry room, a dim room save for a few candles along a distant back wall, candles whose faint, flickering light cast haunting shadows across the bodies laying on the floor, so still in their repose that they seemed to await a quiet judgement that spoke of a pending agony, a deep agony, a complete agony.
And then a man entered. Not a large man, as the largeness of men is reckoned, nor a small man, as the smallness of men is reckoned, but a man in between a large man and a small man. He spoke. He spoke in a serene voice, a voice not lacking in confidence, a voice devoid of hubris or any other human failing, a voice that seduced me into yearning for the torture that was about to be inflicted upon my unsuspecting body, a body made not small by weeks of Christmas revelry and a lifetime of practice before, a body never intended by God or nature to bend at the joints, let alone anywhere else.
But it did. Oh, how it did.
As my eyes adjusted to the sultry gloom, a gloom better suited for a grim and swarthy tropical dockyard after sunset than a New Age nordic yoga torture chamber, I could make out the penitent bodies that surrounded me on the floor, bodies contorted in a macabre synchronized ballet of unnatural pose and pain so perversely profound that they formed, in unison, a dark angelic choir exalting in unholy silent scream.
I was surrounded by these dark spandex-clad and disturbingly lithe twenty year old Luly Lemon Amazon warrior princesses of unnatural flexibility. And as we contorted ourselves in a slow and silent tribute to self-flagellation, the air filled with a thousand musks in that dark and sultry room, a room closer to Hell than to Heaven, my very sinews crying in the agony of a thousand endless deaths, I came face to face with a realization that had only ever hovered at the recesses of my awareness, a realization that could only prove to be my complete and utter undoing.
Downward dog leading to the evil cobra reveals if the body in front of you is wearing a thong. Luckily for me, I wasn’t.
Then came other insights, in rapid succession, each one striking my mind as an innocent child striking its first match, awareness erupting from the dark into a brief consuming flame. There was a wall of mirrors in the front of the dark, sultry room, an unfeeling mockery of the torturous scene displayed before it, mirrors laughing silently at the writhing of the musky, sweat-drenched damned, mirrors that could betray the innocent eyes of one who, upon completing downward dog and then the evil cobra, that cold and heartless serpent whose venom coursed along my spine, through no volition of his own, beheld the wholly unsolicited yet inescapable display of the thong so cruelly thrust upon him.
It was a good thing that the dungeon of the distorted damned into which I had been deposited was dark, lest the mirrors betray the wanderings of my innocent eyes which were innocent no longer.
Then the man, who was neither a large man nor a small man, released us from our torment with but a single word, a simple word, a spiritual word. Namaste. There may be many responses to Namaste, or there may only be one. Whatever the response or responses to this word of subtle and sublime meaning may be, there is a response that is not that response or of those responses.
One is not to reply with “butter chicken,” however good an idea it may have seemed at the time.
Despite this and everything else, I survived Dante’s yogateria. I lived to tell the tale. I am older. I am wiser. And almost certainly more flexible.