Jim Austin's Vermonter at Large
Jim Austin
Jim Austin
is a freelance writer from Putney, Vermont.

His previous columns are archived HERE.

Posted 05.26.05


"Hot" Yoga

When I first heard "Hot Yoga" mentioned I thought it was something you might see on the Spice Channel starring that Star Wars character.

It isn't.

Hot Yoga is Bikram Yoga in a room heated to a hundred degrees. For those of us who are as flexible as frozen rebar, the heat serves to relax the muscles and allow them to stretch.

Ellen Abraham is a hot yoga guru currently holding classes in Putney, Vermont. Now why would I, a former weekend warrior, boxing coach, and baseball god ever consider something as wussy as yoga?

Well, let's say I have issues. I have to lie down to put my socks on for a start. But no one ever said that we Austin's aren't prepared to make sacrifices.

When Ruth (the Kama in my Sutra) said it would be good for me to get locked up in a hot room with a gorgeous young woman to do barely legal poses, I didn't say why, I said why not?

In yoga, you focus on the pose -- you don't think about the dentist or the garden or how your retirement fund is tanking because of those greedy Republican bastards…but I digress.

"Concentrate only on what you are doing, think only about the pose or the book you are reading or that putt on the eighteenth green." The other day I was thinking about the only good thing ever to come out of Texas (Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders), when I almost ran over the glassblower who lives down the street from me. I wasn't concentrating on my driving and the neighborhood was almost minus one glassblower as a result.

There was an unexpected benefit to hot yoga that I did not anticipate.

One Thursday morning I staggered in with a raging hangover. Why, I queried of myself for the 500th time, does a $35 bottle single malt that tastes like a mist over the green braes of a Scottish down feel like you've been drinking roadkill renderings the next morning?

Certain people don't ever get hangovers, I think they're called "alcoholics." Very mysterious booze is.

Anyway, after my hot yoga session, listening and concentrating on the lovely Ellen's dulcet tones, I felt much better. I even did a credible box turtle pose.

The poses as far as I can discern are named after the natural world, mostly animals -- the lower the animal on the evolutionary scale the less taxing the pose. The only one I have perfected so far is "The Mountain."

Basically you just stand there like a big pile of dirt. Still, Ellen says that my mountain pose is textbook. I aspire to the "limp leopard" before the end of the yoga season.

Ellen's biggest asset apart from being an exceptional teacher is her motivational qualities.

"OK," she says while I'm teetering on one leg with arm and other leg extended in a single plane, "now snap that belly in…that's excellent."

The key here is that while I tried snapping my belly in nothing really happened. The size 40 waist did not "snap" to a 38 or even a 39.95. But when Ellen said "excellent" I felt proud.

You know by now that recruiting for our military is down. I contend that were we to use Ellen and Bikram instead of drill sergeants and pushups we would have a major surge in enlistments. Imagine hearing "lift up, stand up, feel the joy" instead of "drop and gimme 50, you filthy maggot." Think that over Rummy.

I am the only man in her Saturday morning class that includes five women. The experience is humbling. I feel like the warthog at the garden party, to be sure.

I sweat like a Republican at an ethics committee meeting and I can't really turn myself into a human ampersand like the rest of the class. The payoff is that yoga seems to be relieving the joint pain that was becoming systemic and I feel generally much better overall. Finally, I'd like to give a shout out to my homegirl Mia. Keep your eye on the Driste, girlfriend.