I have never been the most flexible of people. As a child I followed in my older sisters’ footsteps and tried out rhythmic gymnastics; hoops, ribbons, bit of dancing, sounded like something I could get into. However, I’d show up to class and watch with envy as other children wrapped their feet around their heads, I’d be baffled at how they could literally fold themselves in half. I, on the other hand, would set about trying to get my chin on my knees like the rest, only to see it refuse to budge past my belly button. Safe to say my gymnastics days didn’t last long, I threw a few hoops in the air, twizled a few ribbons, managed (miraculously) to win a gold medal (there were actually only three of us in the competition) but after a few months decided to hang up my leotards and take up a more upright position for the rest of my days.
Lately however, I’ve heard much about the benefits of being bendy. I absolutely love the calm natured presence of a yogi. If you haven’t hung out with one get yourself down to the local yoga studio. Sometimes, I find yoga instructors so peaceful I am almost inclined to have a little nap in their company.
Anyway, I decided I wanted a piece of the peace those bendy yoga types carried around. And I signed up to Bikram yoga.
If you’ve never been to such a thing before let me tell you that the first thing that hits you when you step through the door is the smell. This is yoga in forty degree heat. The air stinks. As do the walls, the floor, the mats you sit on…
As it was my first day they picked me out as someone to keep an eye on, and 10 minutes into the session the ridiculously toned instructor was telling me to change my position and get the pose right. But I didn’t give a shit about the pose. I wanted to vomit. Apparently, feeling sick is all part and parcel of the Bikram experience. Being the very well behaved British girl that I am I was adamant I’d be staying in the class till it finished, but I was convinced I’d be seeing dinner again before it did. On top of that, I quickly realised, this type of yoga is hardcore. Forget children bending in half this was grown men (in very small pants) pretty much taking limbs out of sockets so they could push their bodies beyond their limits. I was so overwhelmed I had to sit most of the class out, melting in my own little puddle of sweat and feeling more and more inadequate as the session went on.
But somewhere towards the end, as we finally got to the part of the class where we could lie down and relax, new thoughts and realisations were forming in my head. This wasn’t about me coming to class, to be more bendy, to be like the spiritually enlightened yogis. This was about me recognising the body I have. Coming to yoga was my subconscious’ way of telling me to pay attention to my body, to see it and use it and move it, in a way that feels natural to me.
And as I lay on that mat, infused with the sweat of 1000 people before me, I realised that it doesn’t matter how far my body can go, it matters that I love it anyway. My body is a miracle, and I want to always see it that way, regardless of how far it bends.