I just tried an honest-to-goodness yoga workout for the first time. It was supposed to be a one hour and twenty minute workout. I barely lasted thirty minutes.
Most people who know me, know that I am a dance instructor. It’s what I’ve done for the past sixteen years and dance has been a major part of my life for the last twenty-six, but people are always shocked when they first learn that I am NOT flexible. Sure, the majority of what I teach is tap and I only really get to perform once a year in the teacher routine at recital, but because I struggle with inflexibility on a daily basis, I always thought it was more obvious to the outside eye. This is misconception number one.
When most people think about flexibility in dancers, I assume their first thought is the splits. Confession: I have never been able to do any of the splits, ever, in my whole life, and I’m not holding my breath thinking that one day this will magically change. But as I said before, I mainly teach tap, so why do I care about being flexible? Frustratingly, my flexibility issues go further than being able to do the splits.
All of my muscles are tight all of the time. It doesn’t matter if I get a massage once a week or once a year, I always get harped on by the massage therapist. I can get a deep-tissue massage in the morning and come back in the evening and it will be as if I’ve never had a massage before in my life. So, how does this relate to my failed yoga experience this morning? Because, the area of my body that gives me almost constant struggle, the shoulder/pectoral region, was highlighted within the first five minutes of the workout.
My pectoral muscles are so tight that my shoulders are literally rolled forward. I am unable to keep a purse up on my shoulder, push-up into a bridge position on the floor and even hold my arms straight above my head while keeping them close to my ears. It wasn’t until about a year ago, when I started getting a massage on a regular basis, that I realized this because the therapist was hell-bent on getting my shoulders to lay flat against the table. This is when it all started to click because during my years as a dancer, there have been times when different yoga techniques and stretches have crept into different classes that I’ve taken and I’ve always been extremely frustrated with myself. Insert misconception number two: I thought it was due to a lack of upper body strength.
As I was attempting Warrior 1 Pose this morning, very obviously struggling to get my fingertips pointed to the sky, the teacher started saying if I was having difficulty keeping my front leg bent, then I could straighten it. In my head I was thinking, “Dude, I could hold my legs in a runner position for forever, it’s my arms that are about to fall off!” That’s when it hit me – maybe it’s not that I don’t have enough upper body strength for yoga, but that my shoulders are positioned in such a way that my body is actually working against itself when I’m attempting things such as Downward Dog and Warrior 1.
My mom tried for years to convince me to try yoga because she was sure it would assist with my inflexibility. You know how we hate to admit this, but I’m starting to think mom was right. Honestly, after the first fifteen minutes, Warrior 1 was not happening, so I had adjusted to holding my arms straight out from my shoulders with palms up instead. After I didn’t feel like I was going to pass out anymore, I decided to try raising my arms again and surprisingly, my arms were closer to my ears than they had been before.
Okay, so maybe I can do this. Not the full class the first time and probably not the second, third, fourth or fifth time, but I’ll work my way up. The funniest part about all of this? I didn’t even want to do yoga this morning. I had first pulled out a more cardio-focused workout DVD but for some reason, that DVD wouldn’t read properly and after a couple of failed attempts, I settled for yoga instead. You can call me crazy, but I call that God.
I’ve been told by several people in the last few months, both medical professionals and friends, that I need to “gain some weight” in my attempts to start a family. When someone says this to me, I usually just laugh and say, “But I’m a dance teacher! I don’t even go to the gym!” I’ve also always joked that I’m “skinny fat” and after reading some recent articles regarding the subject, it’s actually not something I should be joking about. I’ll write more on that later, but for now, I’ve decided that I’m not going to focus on losing the love handles, or gaining weight so my BMI is up into the normal range because I’ve decided this is misconception number three. I’m not going to focus on gaining or losing weight, I’m going to focus on getting healthy. If you also know me, you know this is going to be no picnic. But now that I’m thirty and I have all of these goals ahead of me to accomplish, I have to make sure that my body is well-equipped because what’s the good of having a sound mind and soul if you don’t have a working instrument with which to fully utilize them?