Hotbox, by AK Small

Inside a lemon-yellow room, I twist, bend, and chaturanga in search of inner peace. And, not alone. With me, thirty yogis on colorful mats sweat so profusely that the bay window onto Main Street fogs up.

“Use your ujjayi breath,” the hot—as in electric blue eyes—teacher says. “Synch your rhythm with your neighbor. Feel blessed by your community.”

Seriously? Breathe in tandem with the girl on my left in an apple green Lululemon tank and boogie shorts?Maybe I’m the oldest gal here, maybe I’m slightly self-conscious, but the truth is I’m not here to commune. I’m here to sculpt my forty-something-year-old rear and my heart with its teeny Atrial Septal Defect. Yet, I’m a pleaser by nature: I do as Hot-Boy says. I listen for my neighbor, deeply inhale, then sigh it out.

We continue a series of movements until the room has grown so hot that novices lower themselves into child’s pose. I sustain the heat. I flip my dog, do an extra vinyasa.

“Keep your elbows close to your chest,” Hot-Boy steps barefoot between damp mats.

Everyone rises up, hands to heart center.

“Let’s tackle something a little different for tree pose,” he says. “Pick a partner.”

A partner? I wish I were in shavasana, corpse pose, finished with all the standing positions and inversions, lying with a towel over my eyes, solo. Everyone glances around and reluctantly picks a perspiring peer. Since I’m closest to the wall, my only partner option is Boogie-Shorts.

Hot-Boy belly laughs. “Hard to look a stranger in the eyes? Or, are you afraid of sweat?”

Yes and yes.

He walks over to me, hair slicked back. I think he might use me to demonstrate. I lean against the sunny wall, dying for a glass of water, or better my friend Ashani’s famous Margaritas.

“Sophie,” he says to my neighbor. “Shall we?”

Sophie glows, the sweat on her shoulders a golden sheen, and smiles the cutest snaggletooth smile. Hot-Boy steps onto her clementine mat. They press palms and lift right legs above left kneecaps, two sleeping flamingos.

“The key,” our teacher says, “is to balance in this position for ten breaths. Yoga is a connecting practice.”

People chug oversized bottles of coconut water with electrolytes. Hot-Boy thanks Sophie with a hip squeeze, and I realize that they may not be strangers.

“Your turn,” he says.  Sigh.

Sophie spins toward me, but when she sees the wet pool on my extra grip towel, she waves me over. I could decline. I like doing tree pose on a block near the wall. I prefer that kind of adversity to the connecting kind, but I am a pleaser.

“Thanks,” I mumble, wondering why I’m thanking her.

We touch palms, her fingers longer than mine. No laugh or furtive glance around. Sophie’s all in. Her hazel eyes focus on mine, so I return the favor. Our chests rise and fall in tandem. Her irises become Champagne glasses. The wisps of hair around her temples settle. Time and sound stills. When she gives me that snaggletooth victorious grin, it feels like the biggest spirited hug. I smile back.

“Cool,” I say, stepping onto my mat.

Sophie nods, adjusting her boogie shorts. We finish class. In shavasana, I don’t make my grocery list. I rest, a wave of wellbeing filling me up like helium. When Hot-Boy tells us to place our hands above our third eye and take our oms, I don’t sigh. I close my eyes, listen to the vibrations, and sing.

The End