Thoughts On The Body

Today I went to my first ever yoga class.

In spite of everything I wrote here about being a pandemic gym go-er , I’m not an exercise person. That habit was short-lived. There are select few forms of exercise that I actually like – dancing, activities highly similar to dancing like Zumba, cardio kickboxing, kayaking – but the list is short and I don’t actually make time to do any of these things. Most other forms of exercise I hate. Sports, running…especially running. This poem is based on a true story, but really, I hate running, regardless of attire.

This yoga instructor was very into encouraging mindfulness and paying attention to how the moves and stretches felt. Essentially being very mindful of the body.

Image by Irina L from Pixabay

In general, I don’t think of myself as being much for meditation or mindfulness generally. But I am especially not mindful when it comes to my body.

A Body Healthy Enough That I Could Ignore It…

Pretty much my entire life, I had a body I could pretty well ignore. Could eat whatever I wanted and exercise little and not gain weight. Sleep 4 hours and function normally. No life-impacting health issues.

And anything I ought not to have been ignoring, I basically ignored anyway. Cavities, years of debilitating headaches and at least a decade, perhaps two, of depression. Because I was functioning and it didn’t really seem bad enough, and life, by any reasonable definition, was good. Sure, I got stitches when I had gushing, gaping wounds, and sure, I got a cast when I fractured my arm. But if it wasn’t urgent, unbearable pain (and it usually wasn’t), it was pretty easy to ignore.

That’s not to say my body is perfect. Aesthetically, it is not. I’m not athletic. I am not good looking – never have been and never will be. But I accepted that, which also meant I didn’t devote much energy to the usual brand of body-hating angst. Overall, I was grateful to have a body healthy enough that I could ignore it. And I definitely ignored it.

…Until I Couldn’t

Husband’s Employer’s Health Insurance Plan offers money to covered employees and spouses who complete a biometric screening at a doctor’s office or lab. So I went, as I have gone for previous years, because who doesn’t want free money. The screening is relatively quick – height, weight, waist circumference, blood pressure, and then a blood draw. Then they send you your blood test results. My numbers were always good.

Then this year, I got a number that was, well, not good. I knew the weight/waist circumference numbers weren’t going to be great; COVID weight gain is a bitch, but even though I got fatter, the weight gain in itself wasn’t outside the range of healthy. But I wasn’t prepared for the blood test results.

I didn’t tell anyone yet (except the entire internet – anonymous blogging is strange in that way). Certainly not Husband. I wasn’t sure if he’d be the supportive sort who’d make diet and lifestyle changes together without shaming, or the sort of asshole who’d police everything I ate, and I strongly suspected he’d be the latter. It could be worse though. Lord help me if I lived with and told my sister – that would be truly awful. Anyway, I’m smart enough not to tell her and I digress.

For the first time in my life, I’m trying to be mindful about my diet. A weird and depressing experience. Eating healthier foods is fine. I like vegetables a lot, actually. But giving up the unhealthy foods – that’s the depressing part. I did ok for two days and then stress-ate Häagen-Dazs the next few days. Between the new eating plan, finding my first gray hair (which I am very much not happy about…), and the fact that I’ve crossed into my late thirties, it was starting to feel like the dawn of aging-related problems.

This would be occasion to drink if drinking didn’t give me such an awful migraine these days. Image by Social Butterfly from Pixabay

Identity

There was also the weird mental shift around identity. I was almost stupidly proud of not caring about my body, and yes, that is extremely stupid. I wasn’t one of those yoga-SoulCycle clones like my coworkers. I hate the athleisure fashion that’s trending now. I don’t do mindfulness and meditation – I do caffeine, procrastination, junk food, alcohol, karaoke, and puking in public after too much karaoke and alcohol. I don’t stretch my body – I stretch my schedule (and then do everything badly, and then go on vacation to escape). I don’t do wellness – I do self-destructive habits. I don’t sleep because life is more interesting when I am awake and also because I don’t need that much sleep. My own horrible habits are so much a part of my identity that I almost look down on the idea of 8+ hours of sleep with a sense of disdain; except in cases of jetlag or illness, 8 hours of sleep seems totally unnecessary. (Yes, this is ridiculously stupid, and by the way, I do not accomplish anything except more procrastination with the extra time I don’t spend sleeping.)

“Free” by Rudimental ft. Emeli Sandé isn’t my favorite karaoke song because the end of the song is too repetitive for karaoke, but Emeli Sandé’s voice is so good, and the bolded lyrics suit me all too well (bolding is me):

I don’t do yoga, never tried Pilates

Not many people want me at their parties

Tryna find my place, some place, oh I, oh I, oh I

And I drink a little more than recommended

This world ain’t exactly what my heart expected…

from “Free” Rudimental ft. Emeli Sandé

Like that’s me. It’s not a good thing but that’s who I am. Not only do I have to change my mindset/identity that I’m a young healthy person, because I’m really not one anymore. But I also have to get over the fact that I managed a whole identity for myself on a bunch of unsustainably bad habits. I guess that’s consistent because my largely non-existent self-esteem is also based on unsustainable comparisons to other people. But there is no great prize for being consistently stupid.

Yoga

I expected to hate yoga. It was just not going to be for me.

As if reading my mind, the yoga instructor said “Keep an open mind”.

I did. And I wouldn’t say that I loved it, or that I would do it regularly, but I did enjoy the physical sensations of the different poses and the way my body felt more limber afterwards.

So can a not-so-young dog learn new tricks? Maybe I don’t have much choice.

69 comments

      • Oh no, that’s too bad!! Maybe you need tighter skates? Like, the more “advanced” your skates are (for how advanced you get on the rink), the ankles tighten for added support! Mine are beginner skates but they’re not broken in (very firm leather), so they offer enough support. I’m wondering if you’re wearing skates that aren’t hugging your ankles.

        My problem is that my arches get sore. I typically get off the ice after I’ve been on five minutes to rest my arches, and then I can skate longer after resting. However, the last time I went, I toughed it out and didn’t get off the ice, and my left arch is still sore half a year later. Ugh. Growing old is such a bummer!! Which I now recall is what your post was about! Amen, I can relate.

        Liked by 1 person

        • I did get better skates. I am probably also skating wrong.
          I’ll say this though – ice-skating these days is way more comfortable than roller blading. Last time I roller bladed, I fell and fractured my wrist. It’s fully healed now, but I haven’t managed to get over the fear hump and go roller blading again. I think that’s the other thing about aging – the fears feel more real. Ugh, I hate it and I am already coping badly and I’m still in my 30s. I’m going to be awful decades from now

          Liked by 1 person

      • Oh my! You’re being too hard on yourself! I’ve NEVER been able to rollerblade! And I tried when I was much younger! No balance! Scary! I injured my wrist, too, but while ice skating several years ago. Maybe three or four years? Yeah, it took a year to heal. But I still can’t give a proper thumbs-up with my right hand. Sadness. But yeah, lessons could help because they teach you how to fall! (I fell all wrong.) But I don’t think you’re coping badly at all!! The fear is real!! I’m a bit intimidated of falling when I ice skate, like you are with rollerblading. I’m so tall at 5’8″ and the ice is so far away!! AAUGH!! (More often than not, I’ve been sticking to the treadmill.)

        Liked by 1 person

  1. I hope you can get something out of yoga. Our office manager became a yoga instructor. Funny thing is she hates yoga. But she got a scholarship to be certified. Yoga is a religion and a lot of her studies reminded me of theology studies. She got certified, and I don’t think she has don’t a lick of yoga since. She did manage to break her ankle doing Zumba.

    Welcome to the age of aging, and having to try and make up for all your not doing yoga or eating healthy sins of the past. Personally, I think you can eat healthy and still enjoy all those comfort foods that make you feel so good. You just had to be moderate about comfort and take your tolerance for masochism up a notch or two. But how much difference does it all make?

    I used to race bicycles (rode 300 to 400 miles a week for years), did weightlifting, karate and kickboxing (the full contact competitive type of kickboxing). I ate right, I was super fit, and super strong. Then the cancers cut me down to size. Probably being so fit and strong helped me survive, but now I’m a pathetic weakling. Life sure has a way of putting you in your place.

    Liked by 2 people

      • I don’t think the more exercisey yoga teachers are as into proselytizing the religiosity of yoga. Do they offer goat yoga? It’s all the rage out here.

        Liked by 1 person

        • It is bizarre. The goats walk around on you while you are in your yoga poses. It’s a gimmick, and like all gimmicks it shall pass. I thought about introducing snake yoga. You would have a large boa constrictor or python crawl around on you and help squeeze negative energy and toxins out of you.

          Liked by 1 person

        • I feel like cat yoga would be a bigger seller. People are far more likely to pay to roll around on the floor with some cute kitties, even if there are no purported health benefits. I’m allergic to cats and I would totally sign up for a kitten yoga class.

          Liked by 1 person

        • I don’t think cats are exotic enough. I do my share of cat yoga daily and get cat scans nightly. I actually got to see a real GP today (not a PA or CNP). He asked if I have to get up to go pee in the night. I told him “No!” because I can’t get out from under the pile of cats that’s on me.

          If you are not allergic, cats are beneficial. Petting a cat calms you down, lowers your blood pressure and they are good companions and entertainment.

          Liked by 1 person

        • Fair point, but I couldn’t imagine anyone going for boa constrictor yoga. I certainly wouldn’t! Then again, there are skincare products featuring bee venom and snail mucus as anti-aging ingredients and people buy it. I suppose you really can sell people anything.

          Liked by 1 person

        • I would guess that the pole dancer who fell on her head and gave her heart to the rabi would have gone for snake yoga. I don’t think I told you this story, but I had a ruby-tree boa that had been confiscated in a drug raid several years ago. It was beautiful, but the meanest snake I ever dealt with. One day when I wrestled it out of its cage so I could clean its cage, besides trying to bite me, it peed on me. After I got the cage cleaned and the snake put back, I took off my shirt, wiped off, and put on a new shirt. Then I went to Home Base (pre-Home Depot) to get supplies for a project I was working on. While I was walking around getting stuff, and couple of women started following me around and finally stopped me and asked what cologne I was wearing. I wasn’t wearing any cologne, so I looked confused. They said it smelled really good. Then I remember the boa had peed on me and I merely wiped it off. Apparently the boa pee and my BO made a good combo that the women liked. I told them it was ode to Boa.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. I relate to so much of this. I too have had a very forgiving body and have enjoyed very good health .. until this year. I am not beautiful and I dislike participating in sport but everyone always says “you should play basketball” like being tall gives you good hand-eye coordination. I am a dunce at ball games. Anyway, I empathize with the … I would almost call it disillusionment. You sail along thinking “I am fine!” and then some slap! Everything has to be reassessed. Good luck with the Yoga. I tried Yoga when I was just out of school and couldn’t stop giggling. It was all so new age. I remember the instructor saying “feel the space inside your mind” and me imagining this hole in my brain. But I have since done Body Balance which had elements of yoga and Tai chi. And like you, I loved the stretch of the poses and how my body felt afterwards. I hope it goes well for you!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, as slaps go, this is a pretty mild one, but it was still jarring to realize I’m not as invincible as I thought before.
      This yoga was more focused on the physical/physiology of the movements, but I could see where an instructor more focused on the new age/”woo woo” aspects might have been a bit much.
      Wishing you good health and full recovery!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Uggghhh I hate exercise. I like walking but I have almost no opportunities right now. I used to feel invincible about my health until a scare and then I turned into a total hypochondriac to the point that it’s ruined my life a little bit. And yet I still refuse to eat healthy and exercise. And what makes it even harder is that my fiance follows whatever I do, not the other way around. So if I want junk, he is more than happy for his chance to eat junk. Everything is an occasion for us to “celebrate.” There’s no way in hell I could go to a yoga class so I mentally tip my hat to you for trying. If I were intelligent I would try something new too.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Small, sustainable changes are key imo. I can walk a little bit, then a little more. I can give up some sugar, etc. But when I pick a day to start being “perfect,” I totally fail. PS: enjoy your 30s/40s… it only gets worse 😂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. After a certain age, we all know our bodies and the way they act and react. But age can throw a curveball and misplace all notions.
    Yoga is beneficial. Exercise is never easy. Hope you can find the willpower to continue. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I’m going on 42… older than you. I have more difficulty staying up late, although I still do it and suffer the consequences; and I’m definitely getting fatter… and lots of white hairs in my beard…

    Liked by 1 person

    • I still can and do sleep ~4 hours [except in cases of jetlag, illness, or heavy drugs (by which I mean Benadryl,-not other drugs – there is a limit to my self-destructive tendencies!)] without immediate consequences, but I’ve suspected this would hurt me in the long-run and the “long-run” appears to be approaching sooner than I would have liked. I’m 36 – I thought I had more time. *sigh*
      I can’t tell if it makes me feel better to know others are going through this, because solidarity, or worse, because it’s inevitable.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I’ve never tried yoga. I walked past a yoga class on campus once and the instructor yelled at me and told me to walk further away. Which would have meant through the garden I was already skirting. So I’m not having anything to do with yoga – it makes people too angry. 😀

    Liked by 2 people

  8. I’ve always been a huge fan of sleep, and have never been able to understand why society places so much value on people being productive all the time and doing things other than sleep. Who knows, maybe having to rejig the identity could end up being a good thing for self-esteem.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. My gym routine, mostly aerobic, is all centered on the ending point: stretching. I get on the elliptical for 30 minutes for the sole purpose of getting my body hot, so that I can later stretch and work on my core. But the stretching I do is only 15 minutes b/c by the time I finish, my wife is ready to leave. I’ve been told I should do Yoga, which would probably fulfill the stretching I’m not getting. Thanks for the inspiration to maybe check it out. And good luck if you decide to pursue it. – Marty

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks – it’s interesting to hear others’ experiences. I’ve tried machines like the elliptical or bike, but I just find them so boring. Zumba feels like a distraction from exercise, so that why I like it. Yoga didn’t feel like exercise in the way I traditionally think of it, but it also didn’t feel like distraction. Honestly, not sure how I would characterize it.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks – I’m ok. It’s a number that wasn’t in the range it ought to be, not a diagnosis. My angsty/depression reaction over it is more significant than the actual “health scare” which might also be the wrong word. (“Angst/depression” also feels like the wrong word – I feel like I don’t know how to characterize any of this). Anyway, this is common, manageable, probably reversible with diet and exercise, and totally not a big deal as health stuff goes. I’m just having an oversized emotional reaction.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. As a yoga lover, I always tell people to try different ones. They’re not all the same. For example, restorative is different than say Bhakti.

    I was going to ask you if you realize you’re very self-deprecating, but then you mentioned low self-esteem, so yeah.

    Oh, and ironically, I have a post coming out about ignoring things. It’s a problem I definitely have/had.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Sometimes I don’t eat as healthy as I should. When I get upset, food becomes a comfort thing. There’s a kabbalistic angle to food in that that the taste we get has a spiritual component. This spiritual component syncs with our individual spiritual makeup. That’s why we like certain foods and dislike others. I just wish my spiritual side would be more in sync with the healthy stuff. It’s tough staying healthy. Wishing you lots of success.

    Liked by 1 person

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