What To Do When You Pass Out In Hot Yoga

by Matthew J.X. Malady

People drop things on the Internet and run all the time. So we have to ask. In this edition, writer and graduate student Jane Hu tells us more about an especially destructive session of hot yoga she recently experienced.

How Fainting At Hot Yoga Made Me Reevaluate My Life

— Jane Hu (@hujane) February 14, 2014

Jane! So what happened here?

A little over two years ago, I bought a yoga mat. Sort of as a New Year’s resolution thing: “This year I’m really going to discover yoga!” My friend had taken me along to some of her hot yoga classes, and unlike ordinary yoga, it at least felt like something was happening to my body. (This is almost 100 percent because I don’t know how to do yoga, overheated room or not.) Well, I’ve used the yoga mat exactly two times. Once was just at the end of 2011; the other was Valentine’s Day.

Five minutes into the hour-long session, and I was close to blacking out. I did what they tell you to do: Get into child’s pose until you’re ready to join the group again. I got into child’s pose and, almost seamlessly, transitioned into lying on my back. While my instructor’s soothing voice took everyone else through the motions, I was lying on my back FREAKING OUT. Am I blacking out? No, no, I don’t think I’m going to black out. Wow, I don’t remember hot yoga being this hard? But maybe this is why I only do yoga once every other year? If I leave now, would it be super disruptive? Everyone seems so calm. Though I did manage to fumble my way through the hour (with lots of child’s pose!), the physiological consequences were pretty extreme.

I got what was the equivalent of heat stroke — feeling faint and jittery for days afterward, and couldn’t really digest things for the next week. At first I thought it was just the regular Friday night treat-binge (TGIF! on top of Valentine’s Day!), but I was almost entirely confined to my bed until Monday, and even then, walking around was sort of a problem. Light-headedness would strike on the walk from the bathroom to my bedroom. I made a trip to the pharmacy and marveled at all the chewable tablets flanking Tums. But it was all sort of a haze. Really, I just felt weak all the time, even though I was doing nothing but excessive napping and eating. I was completely useless, too — even in bed, I felt nauseous and read maybe a total of 10 pages of my 24623452362453 pages of reading that entire weekend. It took just over an entire week for everything to stabilize physiologically. (Though apparently heat stroke has some potential for brain damage? Hello, readings!)

Wow. That sounds pretty scary and awful. So how *did* this debacle make you reevaluate your life? And, after all that, do you think you’ll ever go back?

It was traumatizing! Who says yoga isn’t stressful? At one point the instructor actually said to us/me, “Don’t worry if you slip; it’s just yoga.” I mean, nothing is just that thing, especially if one has to point it out. And yoga definitely isn’t just yoga.

I sort of WANT to go back, but only because I’m sort of still in disbelief about how very bad the whole experience was. To be fair, it was hard before, but it had never been quite that bad. I also turned 25 the next day. Is 25 when your body starts breaking down? Please advise.

Lesson learned (if any)?

I’m not sure what the takeaway is here. Probably that I personally shouldn’t do yoga. Um, definitely don’t try hot yoga if you haven’t done any yoga for years! Remember to stay hydrated beforehand? Push yourself, as they tell you in hot yoga, but like don’t push yourself too hard. Accept your limits! My limit is hot yoga! So I guess there are some real general life lessons to be gleaned from the whole process.

Just one more thing.

It was Valentine’s Day, and the instructor kept asking us to dedicate our practice to someone we really loved. I still can’t get over that. Is hot yoga about dedication? I mean, I still haven’t thrown away my mat.

Matthew J.X. Malady is a writer and editor in New York.