It takes a special kind of person to go to a hot yoga class. First and foremost, you have to like heat, obviously. Specifically, the kind of heat that feels like you’re breathing steamed milk into your lungs. You have to like sweat — the taste of it, smell of it, the sort that soaks your shorts and stings your eyes. It would be good if you enjoyed pain as well, because that first back bend is going to hurt — as is the second, and the third, and man, when you come up from Camel Pose, you’ll feel like you’ve been smoking some wacky-tabacky laced with meth.
But if you’ve made it to the mat, congrats! You’re in for 60 to 90 minutes of intense stretching, dizzy reeling, and some of the most interesting people-watching you can find on this side of the Ganges. So many mirrors, so many angles! So many partially-nude and glistening bodies in compromising poses! It’s like you’re inside a periscope, within a special circle of hell. You’re not going to be able to meditate anyway, and you know you’re not finding nirvana today, but at least you can poke your head around a bit to get a gander at your eclectic classmates. “Eyes on your own eyes,” yeah, right.
Here are the nine types of people you're sure to see at any hot yoga class.
1. The Woman In The Full Body Suit
Dear woman in the full nude-colored body suit,
It’s pretty crazy watching you do all of these moves in that body suit. You’re like an all-tan Praying Mantis, balancing on one leg ready to snap at your own reflection. Where did you get your body suit? Do you have it in any other colors?
2. The Person With The Confusing Tattoo
I’m guessing that your compass rose refers to some sort of, I don’t know, your “inner compass” maybe? And what's up with that soft pretzel tattooed on the neck of the woman in the front row? (You can tell it’s a soft pretzel because of the coarse kosher salt detailed in the tattoo.)
3. The Guy With The Man Bun
Good thing you tied up those lusty locks, Man Bun. With your steely, penetrating eyes, you’re like a modern day Siddhartha. I can tell you have no attachment to earthly possessions (besides those that are fair-trade, organic, and on sale).
4. Incredibly Chiseled Abdominals Guy
Savasa-what? Check out that abdomen on the mat next to you. It’s like an anatomy class, as you stare at all those muscles you never knew existed. Like those little divots on top of the rib cage underneath the pectorals (there are six of them on each side, you are counting now). You’re so busy watching those obliques rotate in figure eights that you lose your balance in Standing Bow. Today won’t be a good day for balancing.
5. The Creepy Vocalist
He's that 40 year-old-guy who has to announce every single effort he makes with a wheeze or a groan. It's like listening to your dad have sex. His repertoire is expansive: grunts, verbalized exhales, lip trills. What is this, Pitch Perfect?
6. The New Girl
If you’ve ever been afraid of going to a yoga class because you think you’ll look ridiculous and make a fool of yourself, just know that there’s always someone watching you and taking satisfaction in your every mistake. Look at that New Girl, she’s doing the wrong pose, she doesn’t even know the order of the series yet! It’s hilarious, like she’s never done this before. Now she’s drinking water again. So weak.
7. The Yogi Master
You’re putting your mat down, and he’s already there, preparing for class with a headstand. Or maybe it’s that lithe woman in the corner who’s holding her weight on her forearms and separating her legs in a controlled split above her head. When there are no advanced classes, these gods are thrown in with the rest of us plebeian yogis. It’s like they were born with extra ligaments and extendable spines, living off green juice and flax seeds.
8. The Instructor Who Sees Into Your Soul
Your favorite instructor always knows exactly what you need to hear. “Your thoughts are fish swimming in the river of your breath. Observe, do not try to catch them.” The lilting words are as soothing as goodnight prayers, or Dove chocolate commercials. If you’re lucky, a gentle hand might guide you in a pose or gently massage your feet, and for once in your life, you’ll feel like someone has truly seen you, down deep. Is that sweat or tears that are running down your face now?
9. The Hungover Person
You can tell them by their eyelids: drooping, lolling with every turn of the head. It’s 5:00 p.m., and this is definitely the first thing they’ve done all day. They’re shaky in tree pose, and you’ve never seen a tree that close to vomiting before. Because what's better when you're already dehydrated than hot yoga?
You can also tell them by the fact that this person is me.