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.
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.
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.
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.