I know perfectly well that Bikram yoga is weird because I heard its Rolex n’ G string-clad founder say on Youtube that one drop of his sperm is worth a million dollars. Plus I’ve spoken to a lady in my gym whose nose was broken by a foot being thrust in her face to ‘What a Feeling’. But that didn’t stop me (having just that morning studied my body from all angles in the strip-lit hell of an M&S changing room designed to shame you into buying DISGUSTING tropical themed bikinis without trying them on) from going to a class.
Maybe, I thought, if I jump up and down in a room as hot as Islamabad for long enough, the cellulite will just melt off to reveal Rosie Huntington-Whatserface’s perfect arse.
So I went to Reading, signed the disclaimer and wandered into a gigantic yoga studio populated by tense people in their 20s and 30s. I was puzzled. What were they so scared abou…
WOAH!!!!!! A tsunami of heat engulfed me and I ran for the door… seconds too late.
“OK people!” trilled Africa, a white-skinned Barbie doll in cherry hot pants as she barged past me, sashayed to the front and leapt onto the podium. “Two rules!” (strrrrung Saath Afrric’n ac-sent) “You don’t stop and you do. NUT. leave. ”
Sweat poured from my nose, ears & eyes and all I’d done was roll out my mat.
“Hey! You! Get away from the door!” I looked around.
“You! In the yellow! Whats your name?”
“Um…” Suddenly I was 5. “Rosie?”
Africa’s smile was so tight I imagined she got through a hell of a lot of Preparation H.
“First time’s tough Josie. So do what you can and if you get lost, copy your neighbour.”
And then it started. Vangelis on the PA and mad body thrusting that bore no resemblance to anything I would remotely call yoga, with torsos twisting this way and that until my peripheral vision started to go and I found myself tunneling towards a white light.
“BREATHE!” screeched Africa as she sashayed in a figure of eight around me and poor metrosexual Aiden to my left, whose hairless chicken thighs had gone into spasmodic shock.
Then we had to raise our arms over our heads and stare at the floor behind us. Twiglet girl in the front row was incandescent with joy and did a little flick-flack at the end just to show us that she could. “Nass werk Julia,” said Africa. “But hey! No one is SMILING? WHAT GIVES?” Angry flecks of spit shot from her lips as her broiled captives grinned meekly like failed game show contestants.
“CLOSE YOUR MOUTH, JOSIE!!!!” bellowed Africa, “and stop doing that weird thing with your hands!”
Then she blew a whistle (yes, a whistle) and everyone shouted in unison: “Mind over Matter! Mind over Matter!” like they’d all been seized by the spirit of Pol Pot.
I started to giggle because I couldn’t believe that no one else was. As the class contorted their way into further oblivion I dissolved into helpless squawking that sent my dopamine levels through the roof. Snot poured out of my nose and I grunted like a warthog while trying not to do that weird thing with my hands. Africa leapt to my side. “This is BIKRAM!” she menaced. “So stop it NOW or you will not make it through!”
After 90 minutes of pain, shame and traumatised connective tissue, I looked like Jodie Foster in Silence Of The Lambs – all popping eyes and fear-soaked breath. The stench of feet was making me retch and with no end in sight, I prayed – and God answered with three more back bends. Todd, a steaming pork bun of a man and fellow Bikram virgin, gazed up at Africa like a Chihuahua who’d been locked in a shipping container for a week.
“OK people, rest up,” said Africa as she strutted towards the door, pony tail swinging, hot pants all but baked into the cleft of her Titanium arse. “Nice class. Strong resolve. Electrolytes in the foyer.”
And with that, she was gone.
Afterwards I heard a pregnant lady gush: “It’s awesome to be back, Africa. I tried hatha yoga but it just felt so lame. Here I feel like I’m creating a fit baby!”
So thank the LORD people. In downtown Reading you’re never too young to get a decent workout.