It's amazing how many irritants you can find even in such a controlled environment. If I weren't so desperate to change my life, the sweat alone would keep me far, far away from this room. Other people's sweat freaks me out, as does any breach of my personal space. I need a two-foot circumference in all situations, especially those involving the potential slinging and mingling of human effluvia. The sweat dripping on towels and mats looks to me like biotoxic rain. Day after day, I try distancing my mat from others or holing up in a back corner, until Lori sighs and diagnoses me with control issues. "This is something we'll need to work on," she says.
One day Gregg is leading us through the standing series—the first 50 minutes of class, where the heart rate rises—when all of a sudden I'm pretty sure I'm going to projectile-vomit my lunch onto the bare heels of the woman in front of me. This is not unusual—the heat and exertion can come down on you quickly, especially if you're new or not drinking enough water. The feeling is so overpowering, I attempt to flee the room.
Fleeing the room, like talking or whispering in class, is not allowed.
"Sit back down! Sit back down!" Gregg says.
"You'd rather I throw up on the carpet?" I say.
"You're not going to throw up," he says. "Lie down. Just breathe."
This panicked feeling is what they call the "yoga truck." When the yoga truck hits, all you want to do is get out, or lie in savasana and count ceiling tiles. After 15 days, I am sore and discouraged and sick of being wringing wet, and I feel utterly overwhelmed by everything I'm supposed to remember, sometimes all of it at once: Lock your knee, contract your abdominal muscles, chin down, chest up, focus only on yourself in the mirror, quiet your breath, pulling is the object of stretching, if you're falling out of the posture you're not kicking hard enough, chin up, eyes open, let it go, just be here, have compassion for yourself, kick harder—kick, kick, kick, kick, kick, kick, kick! I can't even get through the full 90 minutes without standing or sitting out certain postures.
Flat on my back, I silently rant at myself. "I hate you. I hate this class. I hate this stupid stomach and these enormous boobs. I hate Ben and Jerry and KFC and the Lay's potato chip company. My car smells like a yoga studio, and for what? After nearly three weeks, my clothes aren't any looser. I may as well go on a cupcake crime spree for all the good this is doing...."
"Get out of your head," the teachers say.
This, for me, is becoming the most important instruction of all, far more important than "Suck in your stomach." I'm stuck in self-flagellating old thought patterns and focusing on what's not happening rather than on what is. All I can think—and talk—about is my weight, which is a little like worrying about a leaky roof when the foundation is cracked.
Perfectionism gets no points, either. Just having expectations is a mistake. Though every posture of every class is the same, I realize over time that it's also potentially different, a hard concept to grasp for someone who tends to see the world as either yin or yang, who has always measured success in terms of ground gained. To execute a decent balancing stick on Monday and completely flub it on Tuesday unsettles me, and my classroom emotions start to veer like mountain switchbacks: confidence panic euphoria despair.
"How long did it take you to get yourself into this mess?" Gregg asks me one day.
"Years," I say.
"Well, Then," He Says, "It'll Take a While to Fix It"
Next: Is it all worth it?