One thing I know for sure every single new year is that my gym increases in the number of people, stress, determination, and perspiration to skim the fat and shed the pounds that were packed on during the holidays. The parking lot gets jammed. Cars circle like sharks trying to find and devour whatever spot can be found. There are barely any lockers left. Needless to say, the new year is the time I actually dread going to the gym. Luckily, by the time February rolls around for St. Valentine’s Day and diapered cupid, there are less people and stress at the gym that comes from heart-shaped boxes housing an array of melt in your mouth chocolates.
For this year, one of my new year’s resolutions is to try to get out of my comfort zone. Try to be cautiously open to “NEW” and “NEWNESS” and poke at or tickle my ‘creature of habit’ Type A self. I decided to start the poking and tickling with my gym routine. I would continue with my first love of swimming, but I would up my swim laps AND I would do something that I had never done before: Take a group exercise class I had not participated in previously. The “Definitions” class looked appealing. Bars, weights, stability ball…ALL VERY “NEW.”
On the first Saturday at the gym, I bit the bullet with this “Definitions” class. As usual, I was running a bit late that was made even later from the crammed parking lot and cars in vulture mode. I rushed to the class only to find that it was so packed that there were members nearly out the entrance way. I cringed. I could feel the energy was drowning in stress, anxiety, negativity, and bordering on drama. These things countered my lifetime mantra, which was to steer clear as much as I could from negative and dramatic energy. Nonetheless, I found my feet moving forward in a determined march. I randomly went up to one of the members with a bouncy ponytail and tight gym clothes that showcased her curvaceous figure. I could never understand why people wore tight gym clothes. I suppose it was to move freely without baggy clothes flopping around, but anything tight would stress me out even more because one of the most important tasks when it came to exercise was to “breathe.” The woman was very nice to help me find a step and all the exciting exercise gadgets and tools.
I was ready. I was psyched. Let’s do this!
My inner pep talk was cut when the woman in front of me snapped: “You can’t be here. I am going to end up hitting you. There are dots that let you know of your space where to put your equipement so no one can get hurt. There’s no dot here for you.”
I raised my eyebrows at her, completely baffled at her sharpness and stress that was oozing out from her. Rather than snap at her, I thanked her for letting me know and then tried to find another space or, as the woman said to me, dots. I could not find any freaking dots.
I went over to another area and another woman in that area snapped at me again, “You really cannot be there. There aren’t any dots. You really need to go to the front.”
By then, the high powered music was starting to blast and women were flailing their arms as though they were searching for a rescue boat. There was no way I was going to go to the front with flying arms and kicking legs. I knew when this “NEW” was not right for me, returned all the elaborate exercise tools to their proper places, and walked out of the class. I was bummed that I did not bring my swim attire with me. I walked up the stairs in defeat when I suddenly felt a pull to another room. I peeked in the window only to see a dark room with glowing dim lights. On the floor were probably no more than ten people in twisted pretzel positions. Yoga.
I cringed again. I never had the best experiences with yoga. I had a history of vertigo and nausea that has increased even more since my last surgery in 2014. I had felt so sick from the last yoga class I went to that I walked out of the class. A woman with cropped red curls caught my eye and motioned for me to come in.
“OK,” I thought to myself, “Well, I am about ‘new’ so let’s give this a try. I’ll just leave if I feel sick.”
In that dim room, I struggled to find a yoga mat and then pulled off my purple unicorn socks. I wish I could explain what happened in the next hour, but I cannot fully put it into words. Only that I felt a warm blanket of peace cover and wrap me. My forever stiffened limbs and joints unfolding slowly and softly. I could feel my breath like when I did the elementary backstroke in the pool. It felt like I was breathing for the first time in my life. A deep breathe that was coming from the very core of my belly and body. Throughout the class, the instructor would pop in with: “Are you breathing?” or “Remember to breathe. We are meant to breathe.” It made me think of something that I always say: “Oxygen is vital.”
When the class finished, I felt rejuvenated in my body, but, most of all, my mind. And my breath. I had NEVER in my entire 36 years of my life been able to get through an hour long yoga class and feel so incredible without a morsel of nausea. It was unbelievably empowering and, yet, so incredibly calming and peaceful. I could not thank the teacher enough and that is when my “new” kicked in that I would make every effort to take a yoga class once a week. Check in with me six months from now. I have kept my word thus far by taking yet another class these past two weeks. So far, so good. For the first time ever since my second yoga class, I did not feel any body pains and aches the next morning. I was shocked. I have been bitten by the yoga bug. I have been swept up with ‘breathe’ and ‘breath.’ I think the most fascinating part of all is that while I always live by my mantra of “PARTYEVERYDAY,” I am discovering and learning a new mantra of “JUSTBREATHE.” While we celebrate every single day that is a gift, we also need to find a sense of peace in our bodies, our lives, our minds, our lives, and, especially, others and ourselves.
Such power in breath and breathing that brings such peace. I felt empowered that I removed myself from a situation of such high-powered stress in that one class only to unexpectedly come across an age-old practice that seems so deceptively simple, yet incredibly challenging. Have you been in situations where that you purposefully removed yourself from only to unexpectedly find something new and better? Have you found that you can go from partying and celebrating to peace and calm? Life and the world are full of stresses. What is your way to find peace? What is your way to stay focused and centered? What is your way to breathe? Are you breathing?
Keep smilin’ until we meet again,