Lulu-Lemoned limbs

Lithe Lulu-Lemoned limbs warp, contort and twist in the heat; faces are pained, collapsing in on themselves like black holes. Rivulets of sweat avalanche from noses, forming minute individual Rorschach tests – there a butterfly, there a supernova – on the jet-black corrugated mats.

Backs and knees bend in mock-genuflection, bowing before the demi-god atop the mirrored pedestal. Her dark hair is pulled back tight, revealing a strong, tanned and angular face. She looks down at her peons and barks out commands. None question her authority; all obey, tendon and sinew ululating in pain.

Small mechanized beasts at the rear of the arena relentlessly belch out thick plumes of ashen-coloured smoke, forcing the peons to clutch for their beading bottles of water, teasingly out of reach. She castigates those that weaken, that stop to slake their maddening thirst, and commends those that bow their heads and carry on.

There is no stopping; there is no rest. Touch your toes, stand on one leg, arch your back. Now do it again. Tattooed torsos quiver; arms are raised in pained semaphore. Were limbs ever meant to bend this far, we wonder? Hair, matted and frayed, sticks to forehead and neck alike. Now do it again, our demi-god cries.

We – the masses – will occasionally gaze forlornly through the window that looks out onto the grey pallor of a city in hibernation. We wish that, for just the sweetest nanosecond, we could bare our fevered bodies to that concrete-cracking cold. We start to daydream of orangeade popsicles, a Jacuzzi-sized bowl of citron sorbet, a clinking glass of iced lemonade.

These are some of the longest ninety minutes of our lives, and yet we signed up for this. Some of us are here because we’ve succumbed to the pressures of tabloid body-shaming; others are here looking for respite from ring tones, nagging spouses, telemarketers, subliminal advertising, spam mail, bus stop announcements, construction. We pay to forget, we pay for calm. We cram into this oubliette and for an hour and a half our attentions turn away from the mediocrity of the modern world.

Finally our lycra-clad leader takes pity on us, allowing us to collapse onto our slippery mats. She turns off the lights. Her voice, soft now, tells us to close our eyes and to lie very still for a few minutes. Her bare feet pad lightly around the room. A sibilant sigh still thrums from the beasts at the back. Every now and then she bends down to whisper a word of encouragement to one of us.

I lie in the dark, my mind is a dead calm, but my body continues to complain.

Welcome to hot yoga. Namaste.