Sunday, March 10, 2013

We’ve Gone Too Far: Diary of a Tortured Yogi




Yesterday, my friend La and I decided to take a hot yoga class on the Upper East Side together and then have dinner at a lovely vegan restaurant. We’re not actually vegan, but we’ve considered it. Granted, while our people were out consuming an abundance of liquid calories, we struggled to make difficult decisions: Curried Unchicken Salad or Pine Nut Crusted Seitan. La had already done spinning at Fly Wheel earlier in the day and I had already skated, but working out again seemed like the appropriate life decision. As we walked around in Lululemon debating the merits of $180 yoga pants and taking yoga teacher training, it came to my attention that we’ve become those people: We’ve gone too far.

Millions of people around the world do yoga every day, but they simply aren’t on our level. While yogis all around the world are intense, OCD and bonding over ‘good energy’ with fellow anxious, body-dysmorphic -over-achievers, the ones who gravitate to hot yoga are simply on another level. Paying extra to do yoga in 105 degrees and 40 percent humidity is a life choice and there is no going back.

Yoga is addictive and a lifestyle, but hot yoga is simply a cult. You can fight it or you can embrace it, but you will be sucked in. I regularly pay too much money to do yoga all over NJ. I continually debate whether I should do yoga near work or at home and regularly purchase packages at a number of studios. I naturally feel guilty for not going every day to all of them, because the fit, Zen teachers always appreciate my energy and my downward dog---or at least that’s what they tell me.


As Bikram says, “You can mess with the Gods but don’t mess with the knees.”


For those who stalk me sufficiently, it is no secret that I have descended into a level of insanity known as Bikram yoga. Bikram yoga is like hot yoga, except that it is so not the same thing. Bikram is a series of 26 poses and 2 breathing exercises designed by Bikram Choudhury. He is a discussed in ‘Bikram yoga’ classes (oh, he trademarked the series of 26 poses and will sue anyone who tries to copy it without paying royalties), as somewhere between an inspirational leader and God himself. He has written books about his postures that are overpriced and purchased by all of the practitioners who do Bikram. “  The teachers of his classes all attended his teacher training in Los Angeles, where they spent thousands of dollars to become teachers and eventually own their own Bikram studios, where they will overcharge students who will eventually aspire to do the same. These teachers will forever discuss their time with Bikram and convince you that each pose in Bikram yoga has mystical benefits that may boggle your mind after class, yet sound ultra convincing in the 105-degree heat. This sounds like a religious experience needed to be had by all until you’re a cynical gay bitch who googles him and watches youtube clips where he is accused of being everything from a money-grubbing misogynist to a rapist to just plain fucking crazy. Bikram himself claims to sleep just under 30 hours a month. And for all of that yoga, he is beginning to develop a bit of a gunt.

I continually debate the merits of doing hot vinyasa vs. Bikram. If I go to either studio, I will inevitably purchase a package and be addicted to that for months until I make a rash decision and switch hot yoga studios, only to feel that I’ve fallen behind in either my Bikram or my vinyasa practice. Bikram yoga feels so good during the first few hours after class (until you come down with intense soreness of which the only cure is taking another class—Aleve does not alleviate those sore hamstrings or back muscles), but not all of the practitioners are at ‘normal skater weight.’ The workout is difficult, but it does lack the cardiovascular aspects of vinyasa. Difficult doesn’t cut it: some of the poses are painful, unpleasant, and downright annoying. Because every class is the same, one begins to dread the Bikram versions of Triangle, Camel, Standing-head-to-knee, Half Moon (which is nothing like normal half moon), and standing backward bend. Unlike vinyasa classes that feature ipods playing music performed by potheads, Bikram is done to the soundtrack of teachers with microphones bitching at you for drinking water, threatening you not to leave the room and guilting you into participating in 30-day challenges. Doing one class is never enough either. If you aren't doing two classes or pondering it, you aren't committed enough. Four hours in a sauna may not be recommended by doctors, but it is perfectly fine for most yogis. While my recent Sinus infection has me doubting that choking my throat and cutting off my airway during certain poses is really boosting my immune system and I don’t have enough free time to measure whether Eagle pose is really improving my orgasms, my body does feel better and my hips do feel more open. It does seem to help my skating.

Vinyasa is almost like candy. This is where the crazy yogis are doing headstands, inversions and Cirque du Soleil contortions. This is where the overly-buff-former- softball players teach you to activate your core and reach your full potential. This would be my yoga of choice, but it involves planks and downward dog which aggrevate my wrist that is permanently fucked up from falling on too many axel jumps at twenty six to function properly. I sometimes wear a wrist brace to do push ups. My friend La actually wears one to class like middle-aged woman, but she too is in her mid twenties and damaged from chaturanga and far too many years spent in an ice rink. La doesn’t actually consume calories and has pondered befriending Lululemon ambassadors for the perks of free shit: she is a gem.

La also lives on the Upper East Side. While I do Bikram on a carpet in Jersey, La is doing Fly Wheel and Hot Yoga at the uptown versions of places Nastia and Tara would frequent if they ever left their respective neigborhoods. (We’ve actually discussed going to Fly Wheel with Tara, but she doesn’t leave her neighborhood and we really don’t want to go to a place with her that records your time. Tara will go apeshit before she is second best in class.) I also don’t know if instagram works uptown, which would simply not give them a reason to breathe.


Every hot yogi knows the benefit of the guest pass. Trying out a new yoga studio is expensive. Walk-in classes can cost anywhere from $20-$30. If you come from Jersey like myself, you will lug around a mat and towels (and a terrycloth towel for your mat so you don’t slip in the heat) because you’re used to renting such things in Jersey. Yet, La took me to yoga nirvana and it is called Pure. This studio is so fancy that you have to call a Yogi ambassador to get a free class and they have waiting lists, but I managed a guest pass and all that shit I lugged from Jersey was for nought. Pura Yoga is a place that even Tara and Nastia would approve of (they should look into endorsing their workout places.) There are four floors of hot yoga and figure 4 (if you haven’t done fly barre, you haven’t worked out) goodness. The bathrooms have every complimentary amenity known to man and the body wash smells so good. The studios have refrigerated Eucalyptus towels outside for your dabbing pleasure. Not only will you zen-out to Marvin Gaye while you flip your downward dog (on their yoga mats), they will have an assistant come around and gently push you into a deeper stretch. That assistant will then facebook message you that she ‘didn’t want to interrupt your practice’ but believes you are the host of The Skating Lesson. (Yes, the yoga and skating worlds do overlap over body dymsporhia.)  She gently pressed down on my glutes, but she felt that asking about the Skating Lesson might’ve simply been too intimate. The class was so much fun that an hour in the heat felt far too short after being used to 90 minutes of Bikram torture. Somehow, a month of hot yoga at Pure is cheaper than Bikram in Jersey. For $150 a month, you can never leave their studio. And with their amazing bathooms and lounge chairs, why would you?  For $250, you get unlimited figure 4 and yoga. Working out is far better than eating or paying rent anyway.



After class, La and I did the only natural thing and went to Juice Generation. I’ve long had a love affair with juicing ever since my love interest in Seattle tried to convince me that carrot juice did everything from regulating my bowel movements to curing cancer. (He failed to mention that following Dr. Lorraine Day’s instructions would turn my heel orange, but that was really a minor detail.) Juicing is the only natural way of replenishing your body after dehydrating it while working out. Normal people may juice once in a while for taste, hot-yogi-natural foodies know that drinking something that tastes like feet is worth it if it includes carrots, spinach, beets and wheat grass.

Yes, the bone growth is the "second ankle bone" caused by too much skating.


After yoga, we walked around the Upper East Side, looking at overpriced colored T-shirts at American Apparel and soon wondered into Lululemon. For those of you out of the loop, Lululemon is the only place to by yoga clothes. The clothing is so expensive that they hold free yoga classes in the studio to reel you in. Of course, the classes aren’t hot yoga, so it isn’t even like working out. These pants may cost $180 and may need to be your entire wardrobe, but they seem reasonable when you’re like me and bought a $52 pair of new yoga shorts because you forgot yours and were having a fat day and needed to go after work. (And like, I had a $10 studio credit, that shit was practically on sale.) The real gem of Lululemon is the employee and ambassador program, where you write goals and visions that are posted in stores. “I will be married with 3 kids in January 2018 and be a certified Fly Wheel instructor, travel to India with my husband, visit my parents at least three times a year and teach Hot Yoga and Fly Bar in the mornings. I will take five fitness classes a week.” You will read and scoff at these because you take five fitness classes in four days. (La actually did.)

As we wandered around to kill time before our Vegan restaurant reservation, we wound up in a Natural Foods Supermarket. Hot yogis and natural foodies LOVE supermarkets, even if they don’t look like they actually consume calories. They also love taking pictures of their food. An entire blog revolution occurs every Wednesday where true vegans take pictures of everything they eat during the day and post them online. We admire their efforts, but we don’t make enough money to afford plates that make our food look that nice. (Our lettuce would never glisten like that either.) La pondered buying a powder that becomes ‘like peanut butter’ when you add water to it. I checked our ‘Fire Cider,’ which everyone in Bikram class is doing. It is supposed to be good for your immune system and many yogis take apple cider vinegar mixed with jalapenos several times a day even though WebMD is pretty sure that that shit is seriously bad for you. I don’t know why regular Peanut Butter won’t suffice in smoothies, but I’m considering trying it. I’ve already done spirulina pills and juiced beets; eliminating the calories and supposed ‘good fat’ doesn’t seem that serious.

Walking to the restaurant, we discussed where we want to go on our yoga retreats. They may be about as expensive as going to Dorothy Hamill’s Fantasy Skating Camp, but when you’re intense enough to be an adult figure skater or hot yogi, spending $3,500 to do yoga in Hawaii instead of lounge on the beach in Hawaii seems like a good life decisions. (And if you’re gay, there is always fine print that mentions these retreats are clothing optional.)



Eating with hot yogis is very telling. The stories you tell may be normal to you, yet shocking for your friends who join you and aren’t eating to avoid the calories of actual food. You may be like me and have recently gone on a date with someone from Bikram class who told you that you aren’t getting your money’s worth on your cruise if you don’t gain ten pounds (he clearly doesn’t know who he is talking to), he doesn’t do yoga to work out be fit---he does it for inner peace (red flag #2), and that he and his boss often split a bucket of fried chicken for lunch (my inner figure skater was pushed over the edge and know sees fried chicken in his problem areas while he is doing yoga for inner peace and sometimes sitting during poses.)

As I sit here drinking green tea (Nastia once told me it would boost my metabolism), I am pondering the end goal of it all. Yoga is about the journey to which there is no end goal. But one day, when we all work at Lululemon and have completed our fifth teacher training and co-own a Juice Generation, we will reach those many goals we write on the wall, even if we don’t have the money or free time to do them.  Though we may never know if a smile is truly the window to your soul being happy and at home, it sounds really nice in the moment. And we may be too intense for many who date us, but for those just like us, we’re normal.

Dave: I just skated before work and did my program four times. Bam!
Jenny Kirk: I’m sideway running on the treadmill and thinking of how to edit Elaine Zayak.

31 comments:

  1. Yes The labels "Fucking Crazy, Intensity," are very apt descriptions here. How will you manage to work out this much and watch Worlds????

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  2. I seriously need a chilled eucalyptus towel now. Very hilarious and insightful look into this odd world, yet somehow I think I would feel right at home, lol.

    - Romanza

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  3. This is the kind of post I love.

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  4. Wow, I feel like a total slacker now... and I work out every day. Hahaha.

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  5. -Tara will go apeshit before she is second best in class.-

    Is that why she never went to college?

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  6. This is the most awesome post ever. (Says a girl who has similar Food Issues - no wonder my dates can't handle me - and shops at Lululemon whenever they have a sale.)

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  7. I think I just found a new outlet for my OCD...

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  8. AJ, I adore you like a FlyBarrista loves her size 0 Lulu Wunder Unders.

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  9. Great post, AJ! We need more of this!

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  10. OH MY!

    Gotta love that 'wolf pack' mentality! Too individualistic/perfectionist to dare even jumping into this kind of tank without dropping major attitude! Is the masochistic pleasure worth anyone outside this world thinking me a crazy bitch? BTW, I adore Jenny's constant one-up! Three words, FAB-U-LOUS! I'm through.

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  11. Ok this makes me want to do yoga. I just think that if I go, someone would say look at that fat fuck in the corner. Anyway I think you should do more yoga and less skating by the looks of that foot of yours!

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  12. In hot yoga, is it done nude?

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    Replies
    1. It is done in yoga shorts (you can wear a shirt if you want) and women wear a sports bra. There are sects in big cities who do do hot nude yoga.

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  13. Did you buy Lulumon clothes? I know that they are not just for yoga. Very overpriced though. You are right on with that!

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    Replies
    1. I did not buy anything from Lululemon, though I wanted to. I couldn't excuse buying it given the amount of money I spend skating.

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    2. I always wanted to know, how much do skating lessons for beginners usually run?

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  14. "Working out is far betting (sic) than eating or paying rent anyway."

    So speaks the person who lives at home with his parents.

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  15. Be glad that life has clearly not demanded much of you at this point (as spending time in this way is luxuriant & rare as life progresses.)
    Enjoy it while it lasts - the arrival will be sadly be abrupt when you land.

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    Replies
    1. This was an ignorant comment. You have no idea what adversity Dave has faced throughout his life and what life has demanded of him. Do not judge.

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    2. Spare us all the defense, Mom- Dave is a big boy and can defend himself as needed.
      Moreover- you tell others not to judge, yet you judge the comment! You wouldn't even enjoy the breeze if you realized it was flying over your head!
      Spare us all the 'Dave had had a tough time in life' dreck- he certainly doesn't take that into account when judging the participants (most far younger than he) in skatenastics, so fair is fair.
      Many people go through what Dave's experienced and have more substance on the other side. Some have less.

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    3. You're an expert at projection.

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    4. Save you're drivel for those that care! You do not know Dave from a hole in the ground! Yet, you see fit to come to his blog and tear at him? For what? He comments on spectator sports and the things he enjoys. If you don't like it go elsewhere! No one is holding a gun to your head and forcing you to be here! Go do something useful with your time!

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  16. AUNT JOYCE: You disappoint, I have been reading your blog for months now and love nearly every word you say. But you are better than this: YOGA is lame. Do NOT get me started on another one of my "I HATE YOGA" rants because this is one subject I can go on forever on. Yoga in five years will be like Jane Fonda and aerobics in the late 80's--a thing of the past, a bizarre trend that most people who got involved in it were embarrassed to admit. People will laugh at their Lulumon, the way we laugh at legwarmers and headbands. Next time in NYC, try Ailey for Modern, B & P (my favorite) for aerial, or Chelsea for adult gymnastics. But stay away from these lame yoga studios. You can do more with your life than waste your money/ time learning how to "flip your dog".

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  17. After watching that video with Bikram, I would never waste my money on his "system." Yoga will never go out of style with some people, but Bikram and "hot" yoga probably will. And AJ, why torture yourself into having what you call a "figure skater's body." You aren't aiming for the Olympics or a pro career. Don't overdo it, but don't go on the Evan and Vera "going out not to eat" diet either.

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  18. Whenever I come across the name "Lululemon", what immediately springs to mind is that horrific murder committed by that psycho klepto employee a few years ago (in tony Bethesda, MD). I guess I'm too poor and unsophisticated to think of much else in regards to that name.

    "Bikram yoga feels so good during the first few hours after class (until you come down with intense soreness of which the only cure is taking another class—......)"

    Yeah, and I can't help but to think that the people who stand to profit from Bikram are aware of that. But you're talking to someone who cannot support her weight in a shoulderstand - so what do I know?

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