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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Off the Grid: Your life will be a hot yoga studio soon enough

By Ammi Midstokke For The Spokesman-Review

From time to time, it is necessary to have a conscious separation from one activity in an attempt to heal the damages of another.

The latest wound is a mystery, or I am too proud to tell the orthopedic surgeon I think it was a tennis match during which I may or may have not tried to threaten the safety of my husband with a serve.

Several months and one minor procedure later, I’m on a no-crash diet and avoiding the gym where my self-control plays second fiddle to my belief that Viking blood is invincible.

Despite a visceral resistance to slow-dancing in a mirrored room of folks in hot pants, I find myself at the yoga studio almost daily.

I call it rehab, but I’m more inclined to think it’s an indoctrination, as my joints now seem dependent on this form of lubrication.

In another 40 years, maybe I’ll be able to do the splits like the octogenarian ballerina who maintains poise from start to finish each day.

Her chin is raised high, head balanced, movement slow and flowing. And every so often, I’ll glimpse the little curve of a toe or flick of a dancer’s wrist as she moves through the neurological memories of her past.

Meanwhile, I move like an armored Norse warrior stepping off a boat after a month of rowing and eating whale blubber.

Also, it’s hot yoga, so the sense of standing on one foot while stirring a rendering cauldron of grease is likely transporting me to some deja-vu of a past life.

The instructor is challenging us to be our highest selves in a rapid-fire insistence that rising, climbing, ascending through our fingertips, toes, hold-it-a-little-longer-here is going to bring about world peace. Or at least inner peace.

He turns the heat back on because he’s a sadist, and I cannot help but think he’s wrong.

If everyone went to hot yoga, we’d stop climate change.

The headlines today said it would be a life-threatening 152 degrees Fahrenheit in the Middle East this week.

For relevance: The raw food movement does not heat anything beyond 118 degrees. The World Health Organization advises against drinking a beverage hotter than 149 degrees.

The average hot yoga studio tops out at around 108 degrees and we come dizzily, drizzly, dazed out of that room with a unified sigh of relief about how we’ve survived another day of stretching toward enlightenment of sorts while Stevie Nicks promised rain with thunder. (She’s wrong, says my friend, and I’m inclined to agree.)

Then we all peel off our salted and soaked lycra and brag about how we’ll best enjoy the crisp, cool lake on this blue-skied day: by kayak, paddle board, plunge or shoreline.

Ignorant of our privilege, blind to our contributions to calamity, we hop into our SUVs and fire up our jet boats and remind ourselves to write gratitude lists.

Riding my bike home, three small airplanes take off above me in the span of mere minutes. A firefighting helicopter follows them, bucket swinging languidly below its belly. Do we not see the irony?

Are we merely impervious to our greed and destruction or unaware of how we might affect positive change?

Is the problem so complex and broad that we are paralyzed by the possibilities?

I don’t have the answers.

I hope it’s in my reluctance to drive my car, in my haphazard recycling efforts, my avoidance of industrial meat.

It’s not enough, this much I know. New iPhone, appliances, shampoo bottles, international travel, the data centers that store my Amazon purchase history: I am as much a part of the problem as anyone else.

Addicted to convenience, capitalism and the collection of stuff, who will stage our intervention?

The gods, no doubt.

In cultures of the past, the chaos and mayhem, the heat and floods, the famine and disease are all the clear and concise messages of gods angered by greed, lust and arrogance.

We are deaf to them now as we stroll out of our climate-controlled shopping centers and into our climate-controlled cars with Costco boxes of individually packaged guacamole.

In other parts of the world, such brazen disregard is not possible because their houses have been swept away, their environment is the equivalent of a Boston Market pressure cooker. They are hungry, sick, hot, homeless and without the means to tell us, “For the love of God, please, please just stop.”

Or we just can’t hear the noise because we’re finding our Zen in a hot yoga studio and emerging full of self-compassion and all that Namaste energy we’ll carry into our day and post on our social media.

The gods are right to be angered.

How long it will take us to find humility, I cannot say.

But one day one of us will breathe the last human breath and have the last human thought. Why we are racing toward that with such ferocious intention, I also cannot imagine.

Are we dissatisfied with all that nature has provided us?

That’s OK. Nature is pretty dissatisfied with us, too. And she’s letting us know.

Ammi Midstokke can be contacted at