Monday, 20 October 2008

this post will whittle your waist

I have for some time been endeavouring to get myself back into the habit of doing yoga regularly. I say "back into the habit", but it's been more than ten years since I did it regularly, and even then, it was only twice a week. I did love it then, though. Unfortunately, the kind of yoga, Oki Yoga, I loved seems to be practised only in Japan and Australia, and therefore I can't find a class for it in the UK.

But I have a good DVD in the form of Megan Garcia's Just My Size Yoga, and a good book, to wit, Barbara Currie's Look 15 Years Younger. I am trying to get into doing the first fifteen minute workout in the Currie book every day, mostly because I'm terribly stiff and my back hurts.

Now, overall, I'm making great strides here. I am learning how to concentrate on how I'm feeling while I'm in the posture, and not spend the whole fifteen minutes wishing it was over (which is my usual exercise MO), and the postures in the workout are great for me.

You can tell there's a but coming, can't you?

It's this: Barbara Currie puts a blurb on every single goddamn posture saying how it will make you thinner. It will "whittle your waist", "tone your midriff", "firm those jiggly arms", "tighten your thighs", "smooth out double chins" and "get rid of those saddle bags". Apparently doing fifteen minutes of yoga a day is going to turn me into a supermodel. Well, I suppose it's to be expected in a book called Look 15 Years Younger.

This is a problem for me. I am ignoring it as best I can, because I like everything else about the workout, but it's irritating me. A lot.

Exercise and I have never been good buddies. I am basically a great slow-moving coelacanth*. I do not like to move quickly, I do not like to sweat, I do not like discomfort, and I do not like to be out of breath. It's more than that, though. It's always been a terrible combination of wanting very badly for things to "work", i.e. "make me lose weight", and stopping doing them very quickly if they don't work, and stopping just as quickly if they do. I have had programmes that actually did start to show the kind of results I was after at the time, and I still didn't keep doing them.

But I've been getting better, I really have, and you can tell because I've actually got some motivation to exercise that has nothing to do with what will "work" in terms of losing weight or not. But it's the very absence of that obsession with what will "work" that makes it actually possible for me to work out. Put another way, it simply does not work for me to exercise with the goal of becoming thinner. Ever. That has the exact same outcome as trying to limit what I eat with the goal of becoming thinner: insanity. But I can just about exercise to make my back feel better, or to learn greater connection with the emotions my body is storing. I can do it on what is, essentially, neutral territory. Step outside that zone, however, and you start triggering all kinds of wackiness, and the end result is that I stop exercising. And we don't want that, because (a) exercise is good for you, (b) I'm in pain, and (c) I want to be a healthier person, and a significant way to do that is getting more exercise. And you know, I'm not getting any younger, and all the things that are bothering me physically now are pretty likely to get worse, not better, as I get older.

So when I come across these paragraphs in this otherwise very useful book (I'm completely ignoring the diet section, but I really do like the workouts) which tell me how thin doing yoga is going to make me, it's weirdly demotivating. It's also total bullshit, because yoga may make you more flexible, stronger and probably more toned, but in my experience, fifteen minutes of stretching is not going to make you thinner. Hopefully, it'll make my spine fifteen years younger, but it's hardly going to turn me into an eighteen year old. And it shouldn't. I'm thirty three. That should be okay with me. And I'm fat, and I have to learn to be completely okay with that, because it's the only way I can stay sane.

And Jesus Christ, if YOGA can't be an exercise done mainly because of how it affects your feelings and your health, rather than your damn appearance, what can? It's yoga. It's not supposed to be about freaking beauty, for God's sake. Of any exercise, it's supposed to be a whole person experience, not just for whittling your waist or whatever, but for uniting your mind, body and spirit, and making your body function as best it can until you're an old, old lady with dyed purple hair and a face which is a mass of wrinkles, and who doesn't give a shit about how she looks but is really, really bendy. And dude, my mind gets really distracted by the notion that my experience of uniting said mind, body and spirit is supposed to be about making me thinner. That doesn't unite anything, except my neuroses.

I vastly prefer the attitude of Just My Size Yoga, wherein Megan Garcia has a tummy and arms and thighs and all those things Barbara Currie wants me to believe will magically melt away with her workouts, and is doing the yoga because it makes her feel good. But I'm more likely to do fifteen minutes a day than thirty, and, as I keep saying, I like the workouts in the book. I can actually feel them helping my back and my feet.

I am seriously considering taking the Tipp-Ex to the book. I can't have Barbara Currie's sales techniques getting in the way of me actually improving my life, and since I really like the workout I've been doing, I don't want to have to give that up because the person who wrote it thinks that whittling one's waist is more important than easing one's spine. I don't want this to be yet another thing that I quit because it's failing to perform magic. I don't want to be thinking about magic. I just want to have that goddamn fifteen minutes of connecting with my body. That's a miracle in itself.

*This isn't self-deprecation, it's just a quote from a play (Away, by Michael Gow) that entertains me every time I say it, so I keep saying it at inopportune moments.