My spirit animal is a boiled frog in the wrong tonic. Tapas me a towel, because I’m drowning in my own sweat in this hot yoga studio. And the lesson hasn’t even started. Or maybe it has.
Does heat make us more virtuous? Ignite discipline? Seal some blood oath to my yogi path (which feels especially burn-y when I rest skin on a fresh part of mat by non-happy accident)? Heat = more calories burned? Sweat = effort? Pain = weakness leaving the body? Do I need to stop merging Instagram quotes with math? Yes, probably.
But first, science: Sweat has been described as our body’s own air conditioning system. The release of water on your skin evaporates in order to cool down to the normal temperature. Sweat is 99% water combined with a small amount of salt, proteins, carbohydrates and urea. Whatever you’ve heard about sweating out toxins? Scientifically entirely false, and so is the belief that sweating cleanses or detoxes the body – because toxins are eliminated by your liver, intestines or kidneys. In fact, experts have said that forcing your body to perspire through heat exposure or heavy exercise can actually cause your kidneys to save water and hang on to toxins.
Sort of like the way I clung to the heat to make me feel at least I’d tried my best at something.
While I encourage my toxins to practice non-attachment, it seems you can haz too much of a ‘good’ thing. Oh well. At one point, I really loved hot yoga too – the exertion was blissful, the spreading puddle beneath me felt like every bad feeling draining away, the quiet in my head a hermetic seal against the world. Back to the frog metaphor though – I would sometimes get so comfortable being uncomfortable, that I’d end up tuning out and overstretching everything during hot yoga. Now that’s the real burn. But is that hot yoga’s fault? Not really. It was my mind I was letting flop, and I’m really glad that something dawned on me while I was being boiled. I might not have expelled toxins (which I imagine would look like glitter falling from your body in slow motion) but I at least sort of managed to cleanse myself of my lazy thinking. Shower, rinse, ribbit.
For me, what seems to be the crux of austerity is constancy. You can’t binge on yoga, or double-boiled tonics, or enlightenment and expect instant results. Yoga isn’t something you wear when you’re on the mat – be it a fancy outfit or a sweat halo. It’s how you approach the practice that makes it hot.
– Jennifer Lew