"this IS my downward dog, you morons" (photo by Sarah Sonsthagen)

Sweat raining monsoon-style down my forehead, I’m on my hands and knees, desperate for the mental clarity that will allow me to push forward. Humid claustrophobia slowly chokes me out as my vision blurs and I fear that at some point I may lose control of all muscle function, resulting in what may be me in a pile of my own piss. No house fire should have this kind of sway over me after nearly two decades in the fire service.

But this is no ordinary house fire; in fact it’s not a fire at all, except that my eyeballs are melting from the heat. This, as it turns out, is hot yoga, or as I’ve taken to calling it “hot yogurt”;  I don’t know, somehow that seems less ridiculous sounding. And it turns out that it’s just like exercising in a house fire, minus all the smoke and the random hoarders detritus.

I’ve been drug here by a friend who insists that it’s a nice balance to the workout regimen that is CrossFit. Just as intense as CrossFit, hot yoga encompasses everything I’m not good at: semi-nudity, excessive sweating, flexibility and dignity. I’m told that it’s good for purging all of the toxins that accumulate in your system, and I’m prone to believing it; I taste what I’m sure is a french fry from 1987 working its way through my system. I can’t keep up with all of these flexy, bendable people, and as a result, I look something like a dehydrated walrus on a beach, doing a complex mating dance, minus the seaweed. The friend who’s brought me here is chiseled like a damn Greek God, and by the hostile glares being shot my way from the lady next to me, she’s most agitated that she’s drawn the unenviable spot next to me, a heaving musk ox, as opposed to next to him, all sculpted and shit, cutting manly yoga moves with grace as I slip slide all over my leg hair.

This is supposed to be a spiritual experience, like sitting in the front row of a Shamu show at Sea World, except that instead of sea water, it’s sweat getting flung about, as we think about thrusting our hips out and letting go of all of our worries and having a heat stroke. At once, it’s liberating and emasculating. One moment, I’m folded over in half, attempting to twist my torso into a tourniquet, then next I’m down on my mat, imagining that this is how it feels to get slow roasted in a Crock-Pot, simmering in my own juices and hating myself at levels previously unimaginable. When the teacher, who looks like she bounces quarters off her abs as a sideshow act, opens up the door in a brief moment of mercy, I’m giddy with oxygen-deprived joy at the thought of a rush of air across my disgusting corpse. We’re nearing the end of this little hour and a half exile into slimy zen, and all the while I’m convincing myself that this is a good thing, this is going to help with hockey strength, with flexibility, with focus on the positive in my life.  I’m withering, praying for sweet release, my toes sweating in concert with the drool that is freely leaving my gaping mouth, my body in full revolt as if to say “what the HELL are you doing to us?”

I don’t know, body. I do know that in a half-hour you’re gonna feel a million times better. That long dormant french fry will be purged, our thoughts will focus less on the haters in this life, and we’ll find ourselves at the front desk, willingly signing up for another round of purification at 10,000 degrees.