This week, despite being pretty busy, I’ve made time for 4 yoga classes, 3 runs (short & slow, I do 5k max, 10k only twice so far), 2 pilates classes and 1 swim at Brockwell Lido (pool temp a sharp – and lovely – 15 degrees). I love being this in my body.
When I was a kid both of my parents worked full time at the Kinleith mill in Tokoroa. While the primary and high schools I attended had virtually no provision (or facilities) for arts teaching*, they had LOADS of sports clubs when I was little and things like drama and debating and gymnastics after school at high school. With no-one at home after school, I joined the clubs. When I was around 9 I pretty much went to something after school every evening – Brownies, gymnastics, ballet (my mate’s mum was the local teacher), gymnastics again and yoga because some of our teachers chose to teach us what they did themselves. This was Tokoroa in the 1970s – my primary school teachers were a mix of very old-school corporal punishment types and a smattering of hippies, no doubt writing a thesis about our hugely multicultural town.
This, and loving the gymnastics and dance part of PE at high school (way less keen on the netball, hockey side!), meant that I used my body a huge amount as I grew up. I wasn’t happy with it (which young woman ever is?), I was too short, too round, too red, too freckled ETC, but I USED it, I worked it, and I loved working it.
Doing physical theatre in my 20s meant I was still using my body, but this was work, sometimes joy, yes, but mostly work. It also gave me a serious back injury during a touring show, and another show contributed to the knee damage that is part of the arthritis I live with now. I did my first 5k run in my 20s, a one-off, but I did it.
In my 30s I had my first cancer and subsequent infertility, and my attitude to my body changed markedly. It became a place of uncertainty, a betrayer, a place of loss. I (slowly) came back from that to some extent in my 40s, but with a second cancer at 50, the subsequent fear, surgeries and ongoing chronic pain widened the split between me-head, me-heart and me-body. Too wide.
And this is what I’ve been working on for the past couple of years, in therapy, in a growing mindfulness practice, in everything – coming back to myself, being me in my body/mind/heart as if they aren’t three separate places. Being me. Being.
I think it might be a life’s work.
I’ve written about it in the sort of about mental health category on this blog, but what I am very clear about now is that my mental health is intrinsically connected to my physical health. Obviously, I knew that because of the cancers and the injuries from my 20s, but I don’t think I’ve ever felt it as strongly as I do now. Yoga and running in particular feel like I’m me, all me, joined-up me. Not always, but often enough. Almost (!) as good as I feel in the Pacific – big waves, vast ocean.
And so to the joy … in addition to my usual classes at Brockwell Lido with Rachel and Sasha, I’ve been going more regularly to Fierce Grace hot yoga in Brixton. I welcome the tougher classes, but deep core, the deep stretching class, gets me emotionally as well. Yesterday I got to kurmasana/turtle/tortoise pose. The link says it moves us toward inner quiet/meditation, and not long after this pose I was in sivasana (corpse pose) and crying. Sobbing (silently!). Good crying. Dripping sweat and sobbing at the same time felt great. A joy of crying, being in my body, being me.
*at my high school you could do art – if you were already good at art. sigh. at least singing was for everyone.