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I am in a very hot room with sweat exploding from every cell of my body. Check that. “Very hot room”? That’s an understatement. Think high noon in the lava fields of the Kona coast and then add about 30 degrees. I am bent at the waist and attempting to connect my arms with toes that seem a dozen zip codes away. When did my arms get so damn short?
After only 45 minutes of my first hot yoga class, the area around me has become the second largest body of water in the state of California.
As we move into the tri off-season, I thought it would be a good time to expand my horizons and actually attempt to become a tad more flexible. I had heard that hot yoga was a great way to loosen up the joints and improve flexibility. I am here to tell you that it is also a great way to find out if it’s humanly possible to drown in your own sweat.
I have been running and doing triathlons since the late 1970s and have avoided stretching for the better part of 35 years. But during the past few triathlon seasons, I have been dealing with one unwanted “itis” family member after another: plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendonitis, bursitis and arthritis, to name just a few. They all suck, and, just like family from out of town, once they are settled in, they never, ever seem to leave.
I decided that if lying in a hot room and struggling to reach my toes or grab my ankles could somehow, someway make the “itis” family go away, I was all in.
On day one, I moved quickly from tabletop to child’s pose to happy baby to upward and downward dog. I felt like I could do yoga forever and finally connect with my inner Gumby. Then the instructor — let’s call her Morning Glory because she’s always too damn happy — had me move into a pose I affectionately call “bug on windshield.”
“Extend your left leg behind you and kept it straight while your right leg is in front of you and bent at the knee,” she whispered. “Then turn your left foot to 74 degrees” (how exciting that geometry decided to reenter my life after a 45-year hiatus). “Extend your right arm to the sky, fingers angled toward Guam, lower your right knee to 93 degrees, breathe through your eyelids, suck in your belly and think about extending both kidneys toward France and your liver toward Pluto.”
Before I knew it, Morning Glory had multiple straps connected to my arms and an orange foam block propping up each leg. I looked like a ’56 Chevy that had antifreeze hissing out of the radiator, was missing three tires and had been propped up with cement blocks on someone’s front lawn. And since I was leaning against a huge mirror while trying to blink the wet stuff out of my eyes, I was, quite literally, a bug splattered on the windshield of life.
Hot yoga class was an eye opener for me. But I have never been a quitter. This off-season I have committed to getting up early every morning and becoming best friends with Morning Glory, Sunshine and the rest of their Lululemon-wearing, no-“itis” flock. I will ignore the Rice Krispies sounds emanating from both knees and the salty sweat dripping constantly into my eyes as I attempt to leave this wasteland of stiffness behind. I will use straps, blocks and whatever other torture devices I have yet to be exposed to in order to achieve the true happiness that comes only with finding, and then actually touching, my toes.
Bob Babbitt (@bob_babbitt) is the co-founder of Competitor magazine, the co-founder of the Challenged Athletes Foundation, the host of Competitor Radio and an inductee into the Ironman Triathlon Hall of Fame and USA Triathlon Hall of Fame. To hear his interviews with more than 500 endurance legends, visitCompetitorradio.com.
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