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.
Cindy said “You’ve been gloomy lately, come to Ecstatic Dance in Bristol”. “OK” I said. But when Cat Weazel opened the door of the venue with “Welcome pilgrims! Check your boundaries at the door,” I wish I’d done what I’d set out to do – suck Laughing Cow cheese squares through my teeth whilst watching ’10 Most Mysterious Sea Monster Carcasses Ever Found’ on YouTube.
I grumpily handed over a tenner to an earnest homunculus in furry shorts and in return he gave me a flyer and several kisses on my cheeks, forehead and chin. I nearly fainted from his ganja breath but Cindy gripped my hand so tight that wimping out was not an option.
The opening bars of Neil Diamond’s ‘Holly Holy’ inspired a colourful clump of dancers to start rolling towards each other on the floor. Oh God! Oh God! I thought and baulked like a cat on an ice rink.
“Relax Rose” said Cindy. “This is the sort of thing you love.”
When? When have I ever expressed a love of lava lamps and goat-men in their sixties who come up to my shin?
“Look! There’s Johnny!” Cindy shrieked.
A seemingly disembodied bald head emerged from the side of a laptop screen and grinned at us. “Hey girl,” said the head in a joke South African accent. “Great that you came back!” Yeah right, I mused. You just want to fuck her. I can tell from the way your head is bobbing. Frantically. Up and down, side to side, goose necking. Oblivious to the rhythm of the music.
“What’s his problem?” I asked. “Is he deaf?” “Of course not, he’s just free. It’s not a night club, nobody comes to pose.” We’ll see about that, I said to myself and offered my super sexiest dance moves before grinding to a halt. Not one person looked at me and for a part-time narcissist this is very, very scary.
So I stood on the side and studied the flyer. A night of Ecstatic Dance promises the following:
Relief from mental stress
A letting go of Emotional Baggage by releasing trapped energy
Transcendence from ‘ego mind’ into ‘Universal Mind’
An awakened heart to Self-Acceptance and Self-Love
A deeper connection with the Divine and All There Is.
So far all I felt was sick.
The clump had now swollen to a hive as dancers attracted more dancers and the rented classroom began to resemble the canteen out of Fame with everyone pretending not to notice that each one of them looked like a Giant Tit.
Baldy yelled out the rules from a squatting position, the openness of his hips advertising his status as an ELB (Extremely Liberated Being). Furthermore, his packet was so well packed that I guessed he had at least two vegetables down there, maybe even three.
“OK people! Anything goes here except talking, judging and hugging the wall.”
Next song was from the most boring singer of all time (Van Morrison) and I felt my uterus contract as we were all encouraged to ‘leave ourselves alone and merge’. I noticed a curly haired Jewish guy sporting a T-shirt saying ‘Fuck Israel’. He beckoned me to dance so I swirled around him like a Walnut Whip whilst inwardly dying of embarrassment. I couldn’t see Cindy anywhere. Then there she was – my 48 year old fairy friend – borne aloft the hairy shoulders of a man who came the closest to Satan I ever wished to be. I SWEAR he had his entire face ensconced in her crotch and it was only 8:15.
Where oh where, could we POSSIBLY go from here?!
A garden gnome of a man with no part of his face un-pierced sidled up to me and started doing jazz hands around my body whilst hissing out the word “yesssss,” but because he wasn’t actually touching me, I couldn’t thump him. Now he was Marcel Marceau in a wind tunnel. Now a libidinous Cossack. Now Dick Van Dyke at his chimney sweeping craziest. I was compelled by how revolting he was and I stopped dancing to observe him. “Hey girl, keep movin’!” shouted Baldy from the sidelines. With two more hours to go I seriously considered hiding in the stationary cupboard until Cindy whirled me into the middle of the circle as Donna Summers’ “I Feel Love” blasted around us.
Someone dimmed the lava lamps and the room came alive with whooping and schvooping and shape throwing. I noted the demographic: lithe female students of contemporary dance in their early 20’s, the inevitable bald alternative energy magnate, menopausal Corbynistas in ethnic print dresses, recently liberated bankers and one very self conscious newcomer.
God I wish I wasn’t so English. I wish I could loosen up and whirl like a dervish. But I can’t. Why? Because I’m COOL that’s why.
Oh come on Rose, you’re a performer for Chrissakes. You can do better than this. So I let myself go just a little. Let my inner chicken strut its stuff, all the while zooming in and out of self-consciousness. One minute I was right there with it, elbow dancing to hits from The Old Grey Whistle Test, the next I was cowering behind the aspidistra, throwing medi-evils at Cindy, Baldy and the whole festering, B.O. ridden tribe.
Suddenly a Steve McQueen mountain of a man in a kilt slithered past me like an electric eel. The sexiest motherfucker I’d seen in years. The scent of putrified Eau Sauvage went straight to my head as I watched him throw himself into a burgeoning heap of men. So I jumped in too. Dove right in there, ‘It’s Raining Men’ blasting out at full volume.
“Tall, blonde, dark and lean, rough and tough and strong and mean!” OMG! Look at me! I thought. I am literally drowning in men!
Powerful limbs wove together to pin me to the bottom of the pile. My lungs were weighted down with the writhing bulk of bloke flesh and though I could barely breathe, it didn’t stop me from laughing till I cried. And for a moment there I lost myself and fell in love. With testosterone and hairy backs and ridiculously extravagant Samurai tattoos and the sheer anthropology of it all – this drugless ecstasy of absolute powerlessness under a heap of sticky, stinky geezers whose names I’d never know.
“OK guys,” tendered Baldy. “Break it up. Come back to your centre.” Baldy couldn’t afford to let this man pile swell. He wasn’t insured. So the man pile pulled apart and my moment of merging was over.
To cover the slap of separation I jumped back to the edge and turned my back on an Iggy Pop twiglet of a man in tight white trousers and a gold scarf who sensed my aversion and jiggled his nipples elsewhere. I was once more bored by the sight of politically correct people respectfully negotiating each other’s energy fields. Without my thrilling blanket of man flesh it was just another dance class. And Baldy’s stupid gnomisms just made me want to punch him: “Spin out your life force.” “Breathe your story.”
Kiss my arse.
A teenage girl with a doll’s face and flaming locks tried to dance with my hands but my heart wasn’t in it. Everywhere were windmill arms, clasping fingers, tight self-hugs, and the post-euphoric balm of gratitude. I glanced over at Cindy who was rocking an invisible baby in her slender arms.
And there was Baldy with his trousers around his hips, grinding his vegetables into the floor.
Definitely time to leave.
As I watched the pretty girl’s butterfly hands caress her hips and belly, I paused at the door and wished I could foster the faith to experience true love for myself alone. To inhabit my body and worship the Goddess within. But without a luxury weight of men on top of me, I couldn’t reach anything close to this. Shoving the door open, I blushed with shame at the visceral teenager I remain. Grasping at sensation and mistaking it for love.
I looked down at my dirty feet. Still a long, long way to go.