Try New Things – Except Bikram
I’m on a mission to try new things. Not necessarily huge endeavours, just a little something I’ve never done before. I’ve always felt happiest when travelling and finding new experiences, and whenever I’m home for an extended period I find myself feeling a little down. I could blame the monotony and the routine, but there’s adventure to be found everywhere – you’ve just got to seek it out.
That’s why it’s a touch before 7:30pm and I’ve entered the Devil’s womb. I successfully navigated the River Styx, snuck past Cerberus, entered the seventh Circle of Hell and crawled between her bright red thighs to make my home in the hottest incubator known to humankind. I’m not the only one who has taken up residence here. Bodies lay scattered in the dark, contorted into unnatural shapes. A large man moans in the corner, an almost comforting vibration in this ungodly, heated room.
I’ve tried yoga before, but never hot yoga. Walking home one day, I saw this place had a killer beginner’s deal and thought fuck it – I’m feeling my 27(ish) years, have little-to-no spiritual meaning in my life and, more importantly, would give anything to stretch just two or three centimetres in height. What have I got to lose, apart from 10 litres of sweat?
A woman named Tina met me at the entrance to the womb. She provided me with a towel and reminded me that this may be a strenuous experience. Technically, I’m about to enter Tina’s womb – she’s the one running the show – but I’ll continue referring to the Devil for two reasons:
- Tina is lovely and does not deserve to have her womb neither commented on nor entered; and
- The logistics of entering an adult’s womb as a fully grown, albeit short, human are frighteningly complex.
I lay my towel on the pelvic floor and take a seat. Beads of sweat have already started running down my forehead, and it’s not because there is an abundance of women visiting Satan today. The temperature is 38 degrees and, contrary to my first impression, people seem to be not only enjoying themselves, but also thriving in these Sahara-like conditions.
Tina enters the womb through its side door and encourages us to listen to our natural rhythms.
“What is your body saying to you?” she asks.
“Get the fuck out of here,” my soul whispers back.
“Is there any chatter happening?” Tina continues.
“Why aren’t we leaving? I’m marinating in my own juices.” Hush, soul, people will hear.
Confident we’ve resolved our inner issues, Tina takes us through a range of “asanas” – unnatural positions designed to stretch the body to breaking point. I convulse like a rabid dog – I’m talking like the old, three-legged dog curled up in a Bangkok gutter, frothing at the mouth. Coincidentally, I’m told to move into “downward dog”, an asana designed to move blood to your already flushed face as efficiently as possible.
“Now hold your pose and raise the eyes. Look to the side and say hi to your neighbour. Go on, give them a wink.”
No worries Tina – I turn to the left and attempt to smile at the woman next door. It’s more of a twitch, but no harm done; she doesn’t acknowledge the heaving shape next to her. I turn to the right and am pleasantly surprised – this bloke looks worse off than me. I smile, as if I’m actually enjoying myself, and give him a knowing, comforting wink: we’ve all been there, mate… it’ll get easier. I lower my gaze and blink the salty concoction of sweat and tears from my eyes. My soul whimpers.
60 fiery minutes pass quicker than a Game of Thrones episode and I’m actually enjoying myself. Well, that may be a stretch (which is kinda the point) – let’s just say I no longer feel like I’m bathing in hot sauce. Tina invites us to stay as long as we need and I find myself unwilling to leave Lucifer’s safehouse, terrified as to what awaits me in the cold, Melbourne evening. Perhaps a turmeric latté. It’s probably the longest I’ve been sans phone in weeks and it’s abso-fucking-lutely refreshing, so much so that the persistent voice of social media has been drowned out by my innermost thoughts – different, certainly, but not necessarily any less vapid or disturbing.
I arrive home and, as I cook my post-yoga curry, two things come to mind:
- It’s a bit of an adventure, this whole trying new things idea; and
- Why the fuck am I cooking a stinking hot curry after hot yoga?
Though my culinary choices leave a lot to be desired, I could be onto a winner with this trying new things plan. There’s a weird little sensation you get when you rock up to something with no clue how it’s going to go down. It’s halfway between wanting to throw up and running straight home to your tear-stained pillow, but there’s an unmistakable excitement that comes with it too. That being said, hot yoga is going to stay in the fiery depths of hell where it belongs. Some things are meant to be paired: sustained eye contact and stammering, for example, or a shitty plane movie with outbursts of emotion. But physical exercise in the fiery pits of Satan’s womb? Not for me.
Cover by Michael Barth