Hot Pretzel

Some swear by sweat; me, not so much
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A few years ago, I injured my back, and it resulted in some nerve damage. My enlightened neurologist recommended hot yoga to help stimulate regeneration and increase flexibility. It’s funny, because during our time together, I genuinely had thought that my doctor liked me.

It was disturbing to open my eyes only to see a big, sweaty foot right in front of my face. It took a moment for me to realize that it was mine.

I’ve started taking yoga. Not just any yoga, but hot yoga. It’s where they turn up the heat, and the humidity is enough to cook shrimp. You start sweating when you walk through the door, so not only does yoga posing make you a pinch of salt away from being a pretzel, now you’re a beer.

People who take hot yoga swear by it. They’ll tell you that you’ll be more flexible than you’ve ever been. If you try and tell them that you already think you’re pretty flexible, they’ll have none of it. On the flexibility of yoga issue, they are completely inflexible.

I went in with an open mind and really tight pants. Initially, I was concerned that I would look like an idiot. I didn’t know poses, and I was much older than the other folks, who looked much better than me in really tight pants.

The instructor told me I only needed to “find my own shape.” (Octagonal came to mind.) She said I didn’t need to know all the traditional yoga poses. Figuring them out would come in time, so for now all I needed to do was to come close and not fall over.

If you want to get a feel for all the possible yoga poses, throw yourself down a flight of stairs. By the time you hit bottom, you probably will have experienced 12 of them.

For the uninitiated, here are three of my favorites …

The Eagle: You stand up straight on one leg. Your other leg wraps around your standing leg with your foot locking to the back of your calf. Meanwhile, your arms are locked in front of you like two snakes intertwined. You’re coiled up so tight that there’s a 50-50 chance they’ll have to unwind you with a spatula. People trying to get out of this pose is the third-leading cause of death in America, slightly behind cancer and heart disease.

The Standing Bow: Yeah, you guessed it. Stand on one leg and pull the other leg straight up, holding your ankle with one hand while your other arm points straight out. You’re supposed to look just like a bow and arrow. My body settled into more of a slingshot.

The Cat: This one is actually my favorite, mostly because I can actually do it. You get down on all fours with your head up and back arched. It’s a breathing pose and, unless you are right behind someone doing the Downward Dog, it’s a great way to loosen up.

Despite leaving class looking like I spent a week working in a prison laundry, I really am more flexible. I’ve gotten over not being able to pose like the other yogites in the class. When I see them, I offer a confident “Namaste” instead of “Howdy.” But mostly I’ve embraced a place where I can experience flop sweat, fall flat on my face, and have both be a sign that I am making progress. That hasn’t happened for me since I left public office.

Gary Yordon is president of the Zachary Group in Tallahassee, hosts a political television show, “The Usual Suspects,” and contributes columns to the city’s daily newspaper, the Tallahassee Democrat. He may be reached at

Categories: Opinion