You know the scenario: you tell yourself today is the day you are going to try that new yoga, cycling or group fitness class. You pick your outfit and tell yourself you are going.
Then your mind starts racing: What if I am the worst one? The fattest? Everyone will stare at me because I am terrible. What if I fart in downward dog? Actually, that is a valid fear.
You promise yourself that you will work on your yoga or fitness on your own until you’re ‘good enough’ to go to class.
Time passes and passes and passes. You are never good enough for the group class so you never go.
It is no secret I, along with many of you reading, struggled with exercise in the past. I would run and run and run or I would do nothing. The pendulum was either at one extreme or another.
It wasn’t until long after treatment that I found the balance with exercise. My philosophy (stolen from an ever wise therapist) is that exercise should be play. It should be fun! And after years of trial and error, I am fully connected to my mind, body and spirit. Which led me to develop a very scientific exercise equation:
If I feel like running, I run. If I feel like walking, I walk. I hate elliptical machines, so I do not step on them. I hate gyms, so I don’t join. If I feel like staying in my jammies, I stay in my jammies. I listen to my body and what it needs.
I was not allowed to exercise upon first entering the Carolina House. After the first week, I was allowed to do yoga. And I hated it. The stillness, the slowness. I needed to run out my anxiety – read: my eating disorder needed to run to numb out the feelings. Yoga brought it all up and forced me to be in my body. But as life and recovery would have it, years later, I fell head first (yogi pun intended) in love with yoga. (You can read more about my love affair with yoga in my blog: Discovering the Yogi Within).
One of the first things I did when I moved to St. Simon’s was look up a yoga studio. A real yoga studio, one that focuses on meditation, loving your body and connecting with it emotionally, spiritually and physically.
You can find me at Omcore two or three times a week. Connecting with my inner yogi and working on MY practice, which includes challenging myself with new classes that I am not the best at. Oh wait, I’m not the ‘best’ at yoga either.
I always had the mentality I should not go places until I looked my best or I was the best at something. Well, why would I need to go to the class if I was ‘the best’? Here is the really incredible thing about yoga: no one is the best. Everyone is on his or her mat doing his or her own yoga practice.
A few months ago when life started to finally settle down, I found my way back to Omcore. Trish, the yogi teacher/owner extraordinaire, instructed the class into dolphin pose or you could opt to meet in downward dog.
At the time, my body and spirit was still healing from the emotional storm that was cancer. I refuse to say my body was weak because it was not. It was just in a different place. My body carried me through my daughter’s cancer treatments and hospital stay, there is nothing weak about that. My body was tired. It needed rest and kindness.
So there I was, unable to put much weight into a dolphin pose so I opted for good old downward dog. I glanced to see my friend essentially balancing her whole body on her forearms, legs bend backwards with her feet practically touching her nose. Enter the wide eyed emoji here. In that moment, that cruel voice in my head began criticizing me for not being stronger, better.
The gremlins of comparison started stirring in my head. I looked down, feeling defeated. Tears started to fill my eyes and then I looked at my hands gripping my yoga mat below. I decided to reflect back to the intention I set at the start of class: gratitude and peace.
I was there. I was in yoga. I was not in a hospital or a treatment center. I was honoring my body and being gentle. Rather than continue the critical parade, I found gratitude. I chose gratitude. Gratitude for being healthy enough to be there, for my daughter being healthy enough to be home with a sitter so her momma could take care of herself too. There is so much to be thankful for if we can quiet that cruel inner voice in our heads.
Since that day, I have discovered a new outlook on group fitness. I no longer see it as group exercise. I see it as hanging and playing with friends. We challenging each other and support each other. I love to play and I love yoga. I love being on my mat in a room full of fellow yogi friends, feeling grateful and supported in my practice – not theirs. But yoga might not be your thing. Find your play, whatever it may be.
When we see group fitness as exercise and competition, no wonder we hate it. Who wants to put on spandex and be compared for an hour? Not me. What if we stopped comparing and wishing for a body other than our own? What if we focused all of the energy on the one amazing body we were given and start treating it right? Find the awesome in your body and do something good for it today. And every day.
Rest it. Move it. Nourish it. Listen to it. Love it.