My first yoga class was in the year 2000. The year wasn’t how Pulp said it would be by the way... I was on the tail end of wearing second hand bootcut jeans with chainmail tie tops a la Ricky Martin's Livin' La Vida Loca video - but in my mind, channeling my fave style era (1970s fyi).... I´m not sure why i shared that but it felt relevant.
Silver, gold and metallics and hope for this futuristic new decade was lived out through my (questionable) style choices (yep i wore jewels in my hair and glitter *everywhere* - although not much has changed to be fair!).
The Millennium Bug hadn't hit us, our computers - cumbersome Windows 98 (not sponsored) contraptions- seemed to function ok, which was a shame cause I was working in an office at the time and it might have made for some exciting stuff. I was in that office because two years earlier i´d decided to take 3 years out before university, which is another story.
Y2K aesthetic was real! Kookai. Dane Bowers. Diamanté chains as belts around your jeans. Friends episodes that were “events”. My first mobile phone (Nokia 3310). Friday nights hanging out at Blockbuster video….it was special.
Hope this is in some way setting the scene.
I lived in a place where 80% of the population went to the gym. I made that percentage up but you get the gist. It was a new city, all shiny and soulless, and very much focussed on the outer layers. How you looked.
What labels you wore.
And what car you drove.
I didn’t meet any of the quotas (nor did i want to fyi) until my boyfriend at the time told me my “tummy was a bit paunchy” and bought me a gym membership for my birthday. Yeah i know. I mentioned he was my ex, right?
Well, i suppose some would call it a blessing in disguise, cause i sure as hell found gym culture in that shiny place boring as hell. The grunting and stunting wasn’t for me.
Also, i´d revived a dormant eating disorder which wasn’t excellent as i wasn’t eating very much at all, then caning it upon some strange ski-action cardiovascular machine to “burn my fat” which, fyi, is never a good idea.
After my second episode passing out at the gym, i sought out more fun things to do with my body. Of course, i went to your "Bums and Tums" (obvs as that was a hangup for me at the time) and Step classes (Zumba wasn’t a thing back then, we were still coming out of the 80s aerobic legacy), and they were fine. I preferred classes to the apparatus and feeling self conscious in a room of people pulverising machines.
I must say, at this point, that of course, my body was giving me signs all the time that it was unhappy. By then, i had been experiencing panic attacks and anxiety for two years, and was very well acquainted with insomnia. And if you’ve ever experienced any of those things, you’ll know how much you yearn for a good night’s sleep.
I was getting desperate. Being in an environment that at the time only seemed to deem someone healthy if they had a 6 pack (hangover from the mid-1990s) or very specific and particular body proportions was uninspiring and boring.
I was very lucky at the time to have a patient and kind doctor. He was the one who gave my panic attacks a name. It was a “very new” thing apparently, but there was one book i managed to get from the states about them (fyi Amazon and online delivery didn’t exist so this was quite a feat - shoutout to libraries and library staff). The book recommended trying yoga to help with symptoms. (I know! All that reminiscing of 90s and 00s paraphernalia to get to that!)
I had an idea about what i thought yoga was (people often do of course!), om-ing and cross leg stuff, perhaps some weird culty business and possibly wearing purple, but i was always a curious child, and when i saw my gym had classes at 8.30pm on a Wednesday evening, i had to try it.
Is this where i start to sing shoutout to my ex?
But there was surely some resistance. I would peer into the class, trying to understand what was going on. I was intimidated that i didn’t know what might happen, or if it would be really cliquey or weird. No one in that room looked like me. In fact, in all the research about this yoga thing, i only saw very particular types of people with very particular types of bodies.
Long story short - it wasn’t what i expected. And at the end of class i was out cold. Proper snooze-fest. Couldn’t believe it. And so, the seed was planted.
What’s the point of this strange story, you might wonder?
Well my friend, i guess it´s about exploring the stuff that holds us back and instead embracing what flows.
It’s of course about a few things.
Here, I’ll make a list:
1. If anyone tells you that you’re “paunchy” in any way, ditch them. Srslsly.
2. Love your belly. In every way. Whatever shape it is. It houses your guts. Your guts are everything. Trust them.
3. Don´t be afraid of your questionable style choices.
4. Do your own research on things. Make your own decisions based on that research (sidenote: FEELINGS count as research!)
5. Look for the signs, always all ways.
6. If you are dealing with an eating disorder, panic attacks, anxiety or other, please seek help because you deserve to feel better and you really can, i promise. If you suspect someone you care about is struggling with the above, talk to them, even if you simply let them know you’re there.
7. Can i say do your own research on things again? I mean, especially with regards to health stuff. Especially when someone tells you what’s “healthy”. Cause what’s healthy for them might not be for you. And yeah, i’m referencing food, exercise, hobbies and yoga in that :) :) :)
8. Be open to your own explorations. (That will probably come from your research in point 3)
9. Fitting in is boring. Do you.
10. Appreciate your body right now and everything it can do. Talk to yourself nicely. It’s cliche but for good reason. Your body is your friend.
I hope there is something here of value, even if it is to reminisce about the music video to Livin´ la vida loca. You’re welcome!