Bear with me here.
I’ve always been mildly active, meaning I’ve always had some sort of hobby that involved mild physical activity but it wasn’t ever something I was really great at or anything particularly strenuous. I took dance (and performed poorly but enthusiastically!) for 10+ years, I was on the track and field team in high school (emphasis on “field”), I worked out during college and had a decent gym routine during my first job and during grad school. I’ve tried pretty much every kind of workout class: pilates, yoga (many styles), piyo, barre, Zumba, Les Mills, kickboxing, boot camp. Aside from a fairly long stint with Body Pump I’ve never been really loyal to one kind of exercise, and I’ve certainly never in my entire life actively looked forward to any of it. My physical activity has traditionally been motivated by vanity and a general commitment to not dying at age 30. I kind of vaguely knew and accepted that there were people who enjoyed working out, but just pretty much assumed that it was because they were “Active People” and I was a “Slug Person” and that even though I’m in generally decent shape (decent shape = I can dance in heels and a corset down a 7 mile parade route twice a season without throwing up) I’d probably never be passionate about exercise because that just wasn’t me.
It’s interesting the boxes we choose for ourselves.
I’m a week in to Bikram. I’ve eagerly looked forward to each class I’ve attended, enjoyed myself during the class, and felt wholly better afterwards. I smile when I arrive at the studio and I’m greeted by name by all of the staff and instructors and encouraged in small, kind ways by my classmates. I smile while I reach for positions I can’t even come close to completing properly, muscles burning and face red as a raspberry in the many mirrors. I smile when I catch a glimpse of myself in the elevator doors in my office building after class because I’m standing up noticeably straighter and I look more relaxed– my shoulders are down where they belong instead of tensed up by my ears, where they have been for 3+ years (YEARS!). I (voluntarily, successfully) got up at 6:15 this morning to get to work for 7:00 so I could leave to take a mid-morning class. I feel buoyant and peaceful and positively fucking incandescent and I can’t wait to go back on Saturday morning.
So I share this not to say “well you should try Bikram because obviously it’s THE BEST” but instead to tell you that, if you are like me and have tried almost everything and still aren’t passionate about an exercise hobby, don’t write yourself off as someone who just “isn’t into exercise”. There is still hope. And maybe it’s not some shortcoming on your part, maybe it’s that yes, you’ve tried a million things, but your thing is thing number one million and one. And we should be more kind to ourselves– in all ways, but particularly in how we approach exercise, because maybe not thriving when practicing a certain kind of exercise isn’t an indictment of our bodies, but just a sign that it’s not the exercise that’s optimal for us.
And I’m sorry to my body for lamenting over the years the many ways in which it has “failed” me, because it has impressed me and moved me this week, and I am grateful and proud. Every single person in these classes is in better shape than I am, without fail. They have beautiful bodies and their practice is breathtaking and the ways they can balance and stretch and turn are incredible! But in class today there was a point where three of the class veterans had to stop during a pose and sit down and take a break, and I kept holding the pose. Every class is different, because your body is different every day, and there were plenty of times they executed a pose that I couldn’t even come near, but in that moment I was so damn proud of my blotchy little potato body. I felt powerful. I feel powerful. I am happy.