One who has control over the mind is tranquil in heat and cold, in pleasure and pain, and in honor and dishonor, and is ever steadfast with the Supreme Self.” -Bhagavad Gita

 

It is Monday morning and I am pulling on the smooth wooden handle of the sauna door at the North Boulder Rec Center. My eyes adjust to the dim light and I step inside under the watchful gaze of two men sitting at opposite sides of the bench facing the door. I smile without meeting either of their eyes and take a seat at the small bench next to the stove on the right. The bench burns the undersides of my thighs and I fidget under the sting of heat and male eyes above me. In a rush, I make for the empty, high bench opposite me, turn backwards and boost myself up with my palms so that I can sit with my back to the men and my eyes to the door as if we are in an elevator conceived in the mind of a man named Bikram.

I breathe in slowly.

I am out of practice with saunas, having spent the last few years of my life with a baby on one hip. Even so, I like to think of myself as one who enjoys the all-encompassing heat. I like the mental exercise—the progression of thoughts that branch in my mind.

My first thoughts, of course, spider toward Hell. But despite my evangelical roots, it’s not a particularly biblical image of Hell, favoring instead the imagination of Dante or Bosch. Demons goad. Bare breasted women with rotted out mouths taunt. Unshaven men limp from chamber to chamber with various impalements. All pathways are circular.

My next thought is that I don’t believe in Hell anymore.

After this, I remind myself that I enjoy heat. That I was born in the middle of a Sacramento summer. That I was born for this.

I remind myself that heat is a test of endurance. That surviving it—choosing to stay in it when easier air is only four feet away—is a matter of resolve.

My next thought is of a story Scott once told me about a massage parlor he visited in Hong Kong. There was a stretch of hot pebbles on which people were meant to walk in order to increase their sex life. Every minute on the rocks was an equivalent increase to one’s sex life. He said he watched one little, old man walk back and forth on the rocks the entire time he was there. Back and forth. Back and forth.

I remind myself that I can and must handle anything.

I remind myself that I am as strong as I will allow myself to be.

I breathe slowly, savoring the sensation that my nostril hairs are being singed.

I think of ovens. Crispy Peking duck. The witch in Hansel and Gretel. Jeffrey Dahmer.

I have had enough.

In spite of the fact that I have already traveled from Sacramento to Hong Kong with a stopover in Hell, in human terms I have only been in the sauna of the North Boulder Rec Center for about 45 seconds. I am just out of practice, I excuse myself weakly. I have had babies. Babies do not mix well with extreme heat. It says so quite clearly in the Operating Instructions. I can’t remember the exact wording but it was something like: “Saunas: No babies.” Behind me, the older man shifts his weight and lets out a deep sigh.

I study my legs pulled up in front of me to an upside down V. Since it’s dark, I don’t notice all of the imperfections I normally obsess over. Uneven color. Nicks from the razor. Little blue veins. I am wearing a steel gray swimsuit. It is a two-piece that covers my tummy and has halter straps that tie around the back of my neck. It says to anybody who is looking too hard or thoughtfully at it: I have had babies. Babies who don’t belong in the sauna.

And please stop looking at my tummy.

The bench behind me crackles and groans and the older man appears in my peripheral vision. He exits the sauna in a rush of air. The air feels like life.

When the door closes, I sit as still as the wooden planks surrounding me. I am aware that the water from the pool has evaporated from my body and I have commenced a slow bake. I wonder when I will begin to sweat. I long for this release.

Behind me, the young man pushes off the bench. I expect him to leave like the older man, but instead he stops, facing the door. I wait. From his lithe back, I surmise he is in his late twenties. His skin is tanned the color of the wood door and he has long Jesus hair, which tickles his back as his shoulders rise and fall once. He turns abruptly and hangs a light blue towel on the rail in front of the stove as if he intends to dry it out faster. I wonder if he is stupid.

He stands with his sweat drenched back to me and fills his lungs with air. From my place on the scorching planks I watch as his chiseled back expands with his breath. He stares at the door, blocking my entrance to it.

Sauna etiquette is not much different than elevator etiquette. No talking. No eye contact. Face the door. If you cough, you say, excuse me. If someone else coughs, you wait a full minute before bailing so it doesn’t appear you are leaving on account of them and their diseased lungs. Having never met this person before, I am fully prepared to play by the rules. I sit perched on the high bench, flanking him at 3 o’clock. When he turns around, I drop my eyes as if I don’t see him. As if I am so consumed with my own world of razor burn and the sex drive of little, old men that I don’t even register that he is there.

To our left, the stones hiss as he empties a ladleful of water over them. He turns toward 9 o’clock and stretches his back left and right. He exhales the slow leak of a loud, aspirated ‘h’.

Not stupid, I realize then. Enlightened.

Watching him over my shoulder, I realize I have made a mistake entering the sauna. The truth is, I don’t really enjoy the heat. That was something I just told myself when I was fresh out of the water and the thought of detoxing my pores appealed to me. I may have mentioned this before, but I am a lightweight. Babies and all.

Just then he drops his torso forward and reaches down for his toes, releasing as he does this a yogic groan that not only aligns his chakras, but mine as well.

I want to leave but also fully realize that my departure at this point might be considered rude. We’re in Boulder, after all. What he is doing isn’t that strange. Everyone does yoga here. The organic produce section of Whole Foods alone is practically filled with people doing yoga. Mountain pose to reach the salad sprinkles. Warrior pose to reach the kiwi and mango simultaneously. Triangle to procure cucumber. Would I make him feel uncomfortable if I left? Would he feel bad knowing he drove a fellow sauna sitter away? Would it set back his progress toward enlightenment?

I consider my possible responses and their effect on his dying ego. And if I leave now, what does that say about me? That I’m squeamish? Insecure? A Republican? He rights himself and turns back in my direction. My eyes snap to the door. Certainly I can handle a minor chakrasm alone in a sauna with a hippy version of Adonis himself.

When I lived in Hong Kong, there was a small English style pub I used to visit. There was only one bathroom in the pub, inside which was a toilet and a urinal separated by a curtain. There was no lock on the main bathroom door. Once I had just ducked into the toilet when the door swung wide and some guy walked in to use the urinal on the other side of the curtain beside me. I couldn’t do it. I stood up, zipped up, and left. Behind me, the man apologized profusely through the door insisting that we could somehow work it out between us. I don’t mind, he kept repeating. Come back!

He is now facing the back of the sauna. With arms raised, he bends his torso right then left. If I raised my left arm, my fingers would leave a trail through the sweat up his side. The closed door beckons me. He is slowly rolling his shoulders now and commencing pranayama. In my peripheral vision I watch as he fills his abdomen, then lungs; then he empties his lungs, then abdomen. He does this eleven times.

I am confused. I want to leave, but I no longer know how to do so gracefully. Clearly he has a regimen. From the looks of his slick and hollowed-out face, I estimate he has been in the sauna for at least three hours. If I leave now, he will understand. He will know it is not simply because I was made to feel uncomfortable or because he has detracted from my own karma with his practice. I may not have ridden it out to the lengths of, say, a Libertarian, but maybe at least to that of a Democrat. It would be all right. We have an African American president. I have simply had enough of the sauna. I will leave at the final emptying of his abdomen so as not to interrupt his Nirvana.

Without warning, he begins to make sharp, even bursts with his nose. I turn to look and see that his forehead is slightly bent forward and his eyes are closed. He increases in tempo until he is performing nearly three breaths per second. I have missed my opportunity. I wait for him to finish this respiratory miracle in the midst of the oppressive heat. My head is swirling now, having mastered nearly four whole minutes in the sauna of the North Boulder Rec Center. I wait for a pause in which to make my exit. But the pause doesn’t come. When he finishes his Breath of Fire, he pitches forward and umbrellas his Jesus hair over his toes. He groans with pleasure.

Not enlightened, I realize then. Asshole.

The thought alights on my shoulders like a lotus petal caught and fallen in the morning breeze. I can not believe I did not see it earlier. He wants me to leave. The entire time he has been trying to make me uncomfortable so that he can be alone. So that he can have the sauna of the North Boulder Rec Center all to himself. Right on cue, he begins gyrating his hips in slow, large circles with his head now thrown back to get a better look at eternity through the planks in the ceiling.

I hold my eyelids open with effort and watch him as he stirs the heat slowly with his kundalini. Suddenly he stops and looks my way. I look back at the door.

All this time I have been secretly admiring his lack of ego—his ability to break the social mores of the sauna-elevator classification—when in reality he is trying to drive me out of the sauna. His sauna.

I continue to stare at the door as his egoless ego bores a prana-shaped hole into my psyche. He has declared war.

It is enough. All at once, I give in to the heat and let my eyelids fall like a tankini over a stretched out stomach. I lean my head back against the wall for support—for when the unconsciousness will soon overtake me—and smile, just as somewhere in the background, the elevator musak switches tunes to that of a desperate om.

TAGS: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

ERIKA RAE is the author of Devangelical, a humor memoir about growing up Evangelical (Emergency Press, December, 2012). She is editor-in-chief at Scree Magazine and nonfiction editor at The Nervous Breakdown. Erika earned her MA in Lit­er­a­ture and Lin­guis­tics from the Uni­ver­sity of Hong Kong and to this day can ask where the bath­room is in Can­tonese, although it is likely that she will not under­stand the answer. In her dream world, she fan­cies her­self a kung fu mas­ter clev­erly dis­guised as a gen­tle moun­tain dweller, eagerly antic­i­pat­ing dan­ger at the bot­tom of every latte. When she is not whipping one of her 3 children and denying them bread with their broth, she runs an ISP with her husband from their home in the Colorado Rockies.

103 responses to “Prana in the Sauna”

  1. Becky Palapala says:

    Dude. Yoga guy was totally trying to impress you. It’s lucky you were in there alone; if you had a friend to look at, you might not have kept a straight face. I wouldn’t have, for sure.

    He sort of reminds me of Ian “Ray” Raymond from High Fidelity, but maybe better looking.

    Did he have rings on his fingers?

    I wonder if he listened to world music.

    • Erika Rae says:

      Hm. I hadn’t considered that. Strange way to strut one’s plumage, but you could be right. He had been in there an awfully long time and it is possible that in his world this made sense. And he WAS good-looking, only with sort of an angry edge to him.

      I wonder what he was hoping would happen. “Hey. It’s hotter than hell in here, but like, wanna make out?”

      He *was* world music.

  2. Don Mitchell says:

    So good, so good. Chakrasm?

    “Mountain pose to reach the salad sprinkles. Warrior pose to reach the kiwi and mango simultaneously. Triangle to procure cucumber.”

    And of course your eventual understanding. I love it.

  3. Matt says:

    I agree with Becky, this guy was totally strutting his stuff. There are plenty of places to do yoga for the sake of doing yoga, but if you’re doing it in a sauna–where everyone is already steamy & sweaty & mostly naked to begin with–you’re just doing it to show off.

    If you’d stayed long enough, maybe he would have busted out into his Tibetan throat-singing demonstration.

    • Erika Rae says:

      You know what’s just occurred to me? This guy was strangely reminiscent of the role Tom Cruise played in Magnolia. Only, less motivational.

      I would have so loved if he had done the throat singing demo. That would have made my year.

    • Stefan Kiesbye says:

      It was just Bikram yoga outside a Bikram studio…but that sauna etiquette? Are you really not allowed to talk? As though you were standing at a urinal? Isn’t sauna about relaxation? I mean, as long as you’re somewhat covered, why the awkward silence? Do people secretly feel bad for enjoying the sauna?

      • Erika Rae says:

        I’m not sure if it’s shame, awkwardness, politeness or snootiness. Someone should do a study on this. Jackass. The people at Jackass should study this. Oh wait…

  4. Richard Cox says:

    Ten paragraphs of varied thoughts, including Peking duck and Jeffrey Dahmer, in forty-five seconds.

    And I thought my mind had a tendency to wander.

  5. Gloria says:

    You know, Portland and Boulder are not so unlike each other. I know the desperation to prove your liberal mettle in situations where you need/desire to upset the social order. The term “his egoless ego” is actually really perfect – because it describes the people that you’re trying to prove yourself to who are, themselves, just trying to prove themselves. It’s fucking high school, man. A Nirvana seeking, peace declaring clique, complete with the requisite uniform. Blech. The ones who sincerely believe what they preach are the ones who subscribe to my one and only rule for people I want to be around: Don’t be a douchebag.

    Anyway.

    This is funny, Erika. Like always. I can not wait to read your book. 🙂

    I hate saunas. I didn’t know there was a point to them, actually. See? You taught me something.

  6. As Iggy Pop would say, Hippie Adonis clearly wanted to be your Downward Facing Dog.

  7. James D. Irwin says:

    I read about the World Sauna Championships yesterday. Of the two finalists one suffered horrific burns whilst the other one actually bloody died!

    • Gloria says:

      He didn’t die, Irwin; he ascended to Nirvana.

      • Erika Rae says:

        Bwahahaha!

        And now I feel horrible for laughing at somebody’s death.

        • Gloria says:

          I think I just violated my own anti-douchebag clause. Do you get a pass when it’s funny?

        • James D. Irwin says:

          It’s funny. Nobody should feel bad about laughing at a guy who died trying to be the best at sitting in a sauna.

          It’s not even a funny thing like the cheese rolling contests we have in Britain. There are rules and everything. You’re only allowed to wipe sweat from your eyes, your trunks can be no bigger than X inches, and you can only lean so far forward.

          Even more embarassing for the dead guy, it wasn’t even close to the World Record temperature in there when he died.

        • Matt says:

          I have seen footage of those cheese-rolling contests! What the fuck is up with that?! I like cheese as much as the next guy, but I am NOT going to chase a wheel of it all around a craggy, rocky terrain.

        • Erika Rae says:

          This stream of comments is making me suspect I may still be in the sauna after all – like this is all one bizarre dream.

    • Don Mitchell says:

      Yeah, I saw that too. What a thing. I suppose it’s the money (and of course world-wide fame).

      Remember that contest some radio station in California had when the Nintendo Wii came out? The person who drank the most water in some time period won a Wii. Ha ha, get it? Wii Wii?

      Except a woman died. Evidently no one at all wondered what might happen apart from copious weeing.

      Sauna competition, at least there you know you’re doing something that might be hard on you.

    • Erika Rae says:

      What? No that came out wrong. WHAAAT? There are world championships for…staying in the sauna? I feel like you must be making this up. But no – why would you do that? I’m going to google this immediately. Ridiculous! Died?

      • Richard Cox says:

        One of these days someone is going to die in those hot dog eating contests. Mark my words.

        I’m a competitive person, no doubt, but even I draw the line at putting myself at risk of death for something that isn’t even fun. I jumped out of an airplane, sure, but if I had died, at least I’d have experienced the ecstasy of 120mph free fall just before.

        WTF do I get out of the sauna thing? Misery and then death. On purpose? Really?

  8. Dana says:

    Great piece of writing Erika! I love that you were so concerned with his comfort that you tortured yourself. 🙂 Also I liked imagining the produce section of your Whole Foods breaking out into a yogic flash mob.

    I saw a guy once do tree pose in a busy airport. I understand the need to stretch and all, but come on, you’re wearing a suit, douchebag!

    I haven’t been in a sauna in so long, I have no idea what temp and level of humidity would be normal, but I had a feeling he was going to stretch. It’s been a few months since I’ve been to hot yoga (105 degree heat and humidifiers going too) and while reading the first few paragraphs I wanted him to forward fold and downward dog and release his (my) lower back. Plus, he sounded pretty hot (from the back).

    Say what you will – I feel GREAT after yoga.

    • Erika Rae says:

      Yeah, I actually like hot yoga, too. I’ve done it a few times, but as I have already pointed out, I’m a bit out of practice. Babies. Nothing better than Bikram’s in the dead of winter, though.

      I am loving the dude doing the tree pose in the middle of the airport. I would have been so tempted to go stand next to him and bust out a warrior pose. I couldn’t have kept a straight face, though. Good thing most of us humans have filters on our actions.

      • Dana says:

        Oooh – I’m SOO going to do that the next time I see someone doing yoga in a public place. Or, more likely I’ll just think about it and laugh to myself.

  9. Cynthia Hawkins says:

    “I may not have ridden it out to the lengths of, say, a Libertarian, but maybe at least to that of a Democrat.” Hilarious. Also loved the description of Whole Foods shopping via yoga. True of Whole Foods everywhere — even Texas.

    • Erika Rae says:

      Whole Foods is a force. I used to visit one in Memphis when my mom was living there just for some sanity. (“Sanity” in the previous sentence ought to be loosely be interpreted.) It’s interesting, isn’t it? Just a visit to Whole Foods makes me feel like a more centered person. It’s spa-like. Perhaps it’s the opium they pipe into the ventilation system…?

  10. Simon Smithson says:

    “Hey. It’s hotter than hell in here, but like, wanna make out?”

    According to my Finnish sister-in-law-by-proxy-or-default-or-something, that’s a really bad idea. People being lewd piss off the sauna gnome, and then he comes looking for you with a bad luck baseball bat.

    I love the sauna. I hit it three times a week, and it is not a place for exercising. That guy was hoping you’d either leave or say ‘Hey… the way you breathe… it’s like you’re a Buddha… who’s made of sex.’

    (I do miss yoga though).

    • Simon Smithson says:

      “He turns abruptly and hangs a light blue towel on the rail in front of the stove as if he intends to dry it out faster. I wonder if he is stupid.”

      Aha ha ha ha ha ha…

      I thought it was only the old Chinese guys at my sauna who did this.

    • Erika Rae says:

      “According to my Finnish sister-in-law-by-proxy-or-default-or-something” – there’s a story there.

      Yeah, so saunas in Boulder are nothing to shake a stick at. Naughty things happen in saunas. There’s one place with a reputation for it. The sauna gnome is even involved. (I hope Megan is reading this…heh heh) Not that I know anything *personally* about this. Ahem.

  11. Ronlyn Domingue says:

    Oh, the line: “I consider my possible responses and their effect on his dying ego.” HA!

    I live in a city where yoga centers are popping up everywhere. Here, it’s probaby more of a trend than a transition to a more enlightened community. But whatever gets people moving in a positive way, you know… I’ve been practicing–albeit inconsistently–for nine years. It got me through graduate school, writing a novel, and restoring a house.

    Namaste.

  12. Erika:

    As you may or may not know, I love yoga. So I’m definitely not gonna diss it. It’s brought me a lot of joy. A lot of health. And I’ve met some amazing people through the practice.

    But let’s face it, this guy you were dealing with seems like a complete tool. You know what yoga move you should’ve done on him? Yep, I know you know it. You can sense it coming…

    You should’ve done Bruce Lee-asana; given that guy a firm roundhouse kick to the gut.

    Score 1 for Erika. 0 for bullshit yoga douchebag dude.

    • Erika Rae says:

      Douchebag dude was so well-aligned that roundhouse kick may have gone straight through him. It was like he was on The Matrix, Jackass edition.

      I love yoga, too. Truth be told, I even love hot yoga. But this guy…ooo. But on the bright side, at least I got a free chakra alignment.

  13. Zara Potts says:

    Erika,
    You are brilliant.
    Honestly, I love the way you wrote this – every thought, every pathway to every thought, is brilliant.
    The yoga in Wholefoods is such a fantastic image. It will stay with me for always.
    This is just such a great, well-written, well-thought out piece.
    Just what my chakras needed this morning!

  14. Slade Ham says:

    Wait the asshole out, hahaha. A battle of wills. Erika wins. Fatality.

    Fuck that dude.

    I glanced at the home page briefly and made mental note that there was a new piece up by you, and Zara as well, and a couple of others that I must read. A mental note to get to them tomorrow… yet somehow I felt compelled to read this because of the teaser: “In which Erika Rae encounters a hot, enlightened asshole.”

    And I had to see which way you meant that.

    🙂

    • Erika Rae says:

      No, man. You don’t even understand. They pulled me out of there barely alive. The heat turned me into a pitbull. I am such a child.

      And yes, that would have been a very different post, wouldn’t it. Hm?

  15. dwoz says:

    dying of laughter here. Almost made my kundalini overt.

  16. Tom Hansen says:

    Erika you should have just left when you felt like it and farted on the way out. Did you see this?

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/08/07/world-sauna-championships_n_674582.html

    Bizarre

  17. zoe zolbrod says:

    I thought the “asshole” in your lede was literal, as it was during my recent visit to the Olympic Spa in LA, when a comically beautiful amazon did a full-on naked yoga/ballet routine in the steam room while my friend and I were in there. My friend tried to be polite and not look, while I tried to be polite and look, figuring that’s what she wanted.

    • Erika Rae says:

      Wow! Other people do this, too? Is this recent spate of performance art in the sauna a movement of sorts? And yes, I think I would have watched that, too. How could you not?

  18. Alison Aucoin says:

    I find that assholery is often carefully disguised in enlightenment. Phenomenon most common in men.

    And now for another vast generalization: Living in the Pacific Northwest, my experience of sauna etiquette was similar to yours. Not so here in Durham, NC when sauna is populated by African American women. I stand out at our local Y because I am white and I have an African child. Women young and old offer me hair & skin care advice, ask quite directly why I adopted a black child, and otherwise whoop it up like a house party. The lack of zen pretense is more refreshing than even the sauna. I freakin’ love it!

    • Erika Rae says:

      Oh man – I am so glad to know that there are people on this good earth who don’t pretend other people don’t exist in the sauna. I mean, I’ve watched Seinfeld. I know SOME people talk in the sauna, but it must be a prereq that they are already good friends.

  19. Irene Zion says:

    Good for you for not being intimidated to leave the sauna!
    I’m proud of you.
    (I personally truly hate the sauna. I’m a steam-bath kind of person.)

    • Erika Rae says:

      Actually, funny story: my husband went in there later (Much later – after the paramedics revived me – haha) and hippy Adonis was STILL in there. He was so rude in there with all of his enlightenment training so-called that one older guy got up in a huff, swearing loudly on the way out.

      The steam bath is nice.

  20. dwoz says:

    In my younger days I spent a period of time in an ashram.

    Enlightenment-ground-zero.

    One of the most amazing aspects of the whole experience, was watching the high-level acolytes. They developed a hierarchy, no, scratch that, pecking order, that was brutal. Like watching a rerun of “Survivor-outback” or something. Sometimes there would be actual thrown elbows and shoving when it came to determining the proximal seating to the guru’s chair.

    And, this was not some minor little hole-in-the-wall ashram, either.

  21. D.R. Haney says:

    Leaving matters of the sauna aside, I was struck by the idea that all the pathways in Hell are circular. Of course! Enlightenment, thy name is Erika, especially when followed by Rae.

  22. Joe Daly says:

    >>I think of ovens. Crispy Peking duck. The witch in Hansel and Gretel. Jeffrey Dahmer.<<

    The fact that ovens brought this trio to mind is one of the many reasons I love your writing so much. You have again taken a simple act and brought forth all the thinking that goes into the experience- after all, it’s the emotions that make the experience worth having and I related deeply to so many of the emotions you expressed here.

    Yeah, I’d be conflicted like you too- offended by yoga guy’s presumption and pretense, but secretly wondering how great it must be to just not give a shit what people think of you. Unless, of course, his ego is so fragile that it is only through extravagant gestures like this that he can derive any self-esteem. Either way, what a great story to tell.

    Also, I think there are two tenets of sauna etiquette that need to be addressed. First, in a relatively empty sauna, don’t sit next to or even near anyone already there. It is your duty as a new sauna entrant to not disturb the toasty zen of the occupants within, and to sit as far away as the room will allow.

    Secondly, as I have found out firsthand, when entering a sauna that you presume to be restricted to your gender, double check this assumption before walking in buck naked.

    Great stuff, Erika!

    • Erika Rae says:

      It’s a fine line, isn’t it? On the one hand, I assume he is *trying* to lose his ego. Therefore, what’s a little properly placed snark? On the other hand, what if it causes a backlash and makes it even more difficult. In the case of this lovely young man, he clearly has some work to do. I’m just not sure I want to be responsible for that.

      On the naked thing. You are absolutely right. It should also not be overlooked that nakedness in a sauna can even be awkward in same sex saunas. For example, I once entered a sauna in a high end spa. Not being a regular in the “high end spa scene”, I hung out by my locker for quite some time trying to work out the dress code. Swim suit required? Towel only? No towel except on which to sit? So confused.

  23. Judy Prince says:

    You soooo rock, Erika Rae! You out-battled him! Great piece of writing, my dear. Those political references had me snorting out loud. And, natch, as others have said, those yoga positions in the veg section—-HOOT!!!

    What next, oh sister girl champion—a battle of wits and stamina in the local branch of your public library?! Sauna schmauna!

    • Erika Rae says:

      Alas, I have no tale of a battle of wits or stamina from my public library. I do, however, have a little game I like to play there. It’s best described along the lines of, “What Renaissance Fair character does that librarian best fit?” Try it. Very entertaining.

      • Judy Prince says:

        Erika, that’s weird. But ’tis true that I often wonder why my local librarian wears chain mail tube tops. Might be a bit conflicted, that one.

  24. Jorge says:

    And this, my dear Erika, is why I love you!

    😀

  25. Mindy Mcready says:

    I think at this guys funeral he really will be buried in a pine box…no chrome or stainless steel no siree..give me sweet sauna pine for my eternity.

    personally I would have killed the guy he qualifies as a bad guy, time for pine you mofo

    • Erika Rae says:

      He will be buried with only his towel and a ladle in his simple, pine box. Five hundred years in the future, someone will exhume him and build a whole theory about our culture based on it. They cooked themselves as a religious rite, they will explain. The ladle is symbolic of eternal feasting…on their own egos.

      (Leggo my ego)

  26. Lorna says:

    The only thing that would have possibly made me giggle more while reading this at my daughters eye doctor appointment would have been if Mr. Enlighted Guy with the Jesus hair would have broke wind during his sun salutaion. 😉

    I was once one who loved the heat, but after 20 years of living in this God awful desert, I’m not loving it so much any more.

    • Erika Rae says:

      Amen, sister. Speaking for myself, the heat in a sauna is much more appreciated during the winter.

      But if he HAD broken wind, then what? Do I get up immediately and exit? How could I? I mean, I suppose in theory it’s the appropriate response, but in practice isn’t there some kind of unspoken clause which mandates that two people who don’t know each other should keep up some kind of pretense that the fart hanging in the air isn’t noticeable. It would fall under the “wait X seconds until exiting so as not to make the person think they drove you away by an embarrassing slip” clause. Oh! The mental anguish that would have brought.

  27. Uche Ogbuji says:

    I concur with consensus. “Chakrasm” is an inspired coinage. Well fit to be used upon many Boulder occasions.

    In Boulder where the asana
    Is as chic as Dolce Gabbana
    You must beware the pirhana
    Who stalks his prey in the sauna.

    He’s like Rico in coca cabana
    Like the coach of Bafana Bafana
    Like a drunkard on tropic guarana
    Is the sauna asana pirhana.

  28. Kris Saknussemm says:

    I was reminded of a traumatic sauna episode where I confronted that etiquette question of being all the way through the door (why do they always have such small windows?) when I spotted a gentleman I would’ve preferred not to be with in a confined stifling hot space with. Courtesy got the better of my bad feelings. I had that sinking feeling, but I thought eh–can’t expect to have the deal all to myself. He was one of those guys without age, tanned to such a leather texture it makes you want to suggest some Timberland product. He also had one of the most remarkable watermelon distended bellies I’ve ever seen, so taut he could’ve worked out on a nice West Africa rhythm if he knew how. No, that wasn’t his gig. After a couple of appreciated moments of silence, he launched into the topic of circumcision (as of course you do with total strangers). His “mutilation,” he informed me, had gone tragically wrong and had altered the course of his life. I inched nearer the door with a mind to lunge for the handle…when he said in such a pleading tone…”Could I get your opinion?” Those are disarming words, and I recommend them, because they worked on me. I hesitated just long enough for him stand and yank down his skimpy swim suit thing (which was sort of harrowing in itself). “Is it as bad as I think?” he asked. I confess I’ve never once been asked before or since such a question–and few questions (none I can think of) in that beseeching tone. I can’t comment with authority on whether what I saw was an example of inept or brutal foreskin removal. There was so little to see it was tragic–and with that belly of his I realized he may not have seen it himself without the aid of a mirror for many years. I went for the door like a mongoose at a cobra then. But I tried to leave the cheering but completely dishonest remark, “You’re OK, man,” behind me. It lingered in the air like the woody steam smell. My last sauna.

  29. Megan says:

    I was right with you the whole way. Not really sure why the guy would take over like that, but his motivation was less interesting than your amusing train(s) of thought.

    Saunas should not be communal. Quiet semi-nude relaxation has nothing to do with other people. Grab a little survey off the Rec Center counter & tell them they should put up some walls & make individual boxes. For everyone’s comfort.

    • Erika Rae says:

      You know what? You are right. Why don’t they have a frickin’ sign-up sheet for time slots in there? So mentally distracting to be dealing with social issues when you’re trying to relax. I’m going to drop this suggestion in the comment box next time I’m there.

  30. dwoz says:

    Around here, there are public tennis courts. There is an inviolate unspoken rule that if you’ve been playing for more than an hour, and someone shows up, you finish your set and relinquish the court.

    Nobody has to get official about it.

    I think about 90% of our social/cultural written regulations arise from one asshole out of a thousand people.

  31. I can’t stop reading this. Magnificent!! I just got out of a sauna and now I feel like a fraud or something. Awesome work, as per usual.

    • Erika Rae says:

      Thanks so much, Tyler – that means a lot coming from you. But why do you feel like a fraud? Were you enhancing your kundalini in front of an audience in there?

  32. Ruth Thompson says:

    Hi Erika —

    This is Ruth, Don’s partner. As I am on here commenting on Don’s piece, I wanted to comment on yours too. It’s brilliant. I’m a yoga teacher and studied Shambhala Buddhism a bit, and wow, do I recognize this guy.

    Chogyam Trungpa, who loved to shake people up, wrote a whole book about “Spiritual Materialism” — loosely, spiritual competitiveness (as in “nah nah nah, I’m more spiritually advanced than you are, loser.”) Also the competitive acquisition of spiritual knowledge (not to apply to changing oneself but to have in one’s closet, kinda like having a lot of shoes), and competitive consumption of guru-experiences (“Have YOU studied with X? I have. It was in India, of course.”) I believe you get points for showing off with studied obliviousness in inappropriate places.

    It was hilarious. Thank you!

    • Erika Rae says:

      I’m so excited to see you weighing in here, Ruth. (You didn’t know you were famous, did you?) First, thanks so much for the nice words. And I imagine you have run into “this guy” a few times. Ha! Anyhow, I don’t hear too many people discussing Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche (affectionately referred to as “The Rinp” in these parts) on these boards, so it’s kind of fun to hear you talk about him. I have been to the great stupa here near Red Feather in CO where his remains are kept, but not being in the “inner circle” I wasn’t allowed upstairs in the inner sanctum. (I used to know a former student of his – does this get me any points? Heehee) At any rate, I know exactly what you mean with this competitiveness. So interesting. I am, however, happy to report that this former student of his was one of the most humble people I have ever met. I knew her for years before understanding that he was her teacher (this despite a small shrine in her home, etc.). She is an amazing woman – and by this I hope to convey that she is amazing partly because I don’t know how amazing she really is. Ha!

  33. Tawni says:

    Good lord, you are such a smart, funny writer, Erika. I loved every second of this piece. (:

  34. Greg Olear says:

    At least he didn’t fart. Those show-off yoga types, in my experience, are quite gassy, because of all the beans and sprouts they consume.

    Annoying yoga guy + bad gas + sauna = hell (in a handbasket?).

    I never understood the appeal of the sauna, other than to dry off quickly after doing laps. Always makes me feel like I’m about to suffocate.

    • Erika Rae says:

      Had he farted, it would have put me in a pickle. Do I stay? Do I go? Did he do it on purpose and therefore I HAVE to stay so as not to lose the war? Incidentally, Greg, how long is considered polite to wait out a fart in an enclosed space between strangers? Am I ridiculous for even thinking there is a polite period of time that must be adhered to for moments such as this?

  35. Marni Grossman says:

    Anyone who uses the word “enlightened” to describe herself is, undoubtedly, an asshole. Nine times out of ten.

    As always, hilarious.

  36. You go, Erika Rae! I love that you waited him out. Like you, it only takes the mere hint of a challenge and, even though I hate yoga – I know, sue me – I’d have been stretching on my bench making groans of my own. LOVE that you stayed. So good to read you again!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *