Photo by Karen Novak


I’ve done yoga on and off since college. I consider myself an expert novice.  I know the names and can perform most of the basic and intermediate moves.  I can’t perform them perfectly, or even touch my toes, and I’m not ready to teach a class or anything, but I thought I was doing pretty well.

Until last Saturday morning.

When I said I’ve done yoga on and off, I have to admit that it’s been mostly “off” for the last five years. But when a yoga studio opened up less than ten minutes from my house, I signed up and decided to get back into it.

So on Saturday at 6:45 am, I walked into the studio. I picked my spot, unfurled my pink yoga mat, and sat down cross-legged on the floor.  I meant business.

The instructor, a lovely young woman, walked quietly by and set two folded towels on the floor next to me. I looked around and noticed that everyone else had one or two sweat towels already.  They also had water, which I’d forgotten to bring.  But no matter—I was ready.

Then the instructor went over to two little boxes hanging on the walls and turned some knobs on them. Bars of orange began glowing from the boxes, and I realized with growing horror they were some sort of space heater.

“Just a reminder,” the instructor said with a calming voice, “that this is a heated class.”

Heated? I obviously hadn’t read the website closely enough.  Did she mean that she wanted heat in addition to that provided by the scorching July sun?

She did.

The class started, and as our bodies warmed up the room warmed up to over a hundred degrees. The sweat started pouring off me, dripping onto my mat.  The silent sweat towel handoff was starting to make sense.

I gamely twisted myself into the poses. The sweat poured.  The other students reached for sips of water, but of course I had none.  My arms started to tremble from holding myself up.  This was not how I remembered yoga.

Still, I thought I was holding my own. We did a three-legged downward dog.  For those of you unfamiliar, a downward dog is when you stand with your palms and feet on your mat, your butt in the air.  A three-legged dog simply means you lift one of your legs into the air.

I had this, I thought. The instructor walked over to me.  I was figuring she was going to point me out to the class of a shining example of perfect downward dog posture.

Instead, she took my leg in her hands and lifted it higher and out to the side, forcing my hips to square. A groan came from my lips, a sound that I had never made before and that, judging by her reaction, she had never heard before.

“Oh!” she said. “Did I hurt you?”

“No,” I told her. She hadn’t hurt me.  The groan was the sound of my dignity leaving as I realized I’d never come close to having true perfect posture on three-legged downward dog.  If she let go of my leg, there was no way I was going to be able to hold it in that position.

Expert novice?

More like delusional downward facing dog.