I have been trying to write this post for the past three weeks but for some reason the words did not want to be written. Perhaps it is because there are things I don’t want to admit to myself let alone other people but I said I would be 100% honest and if I don’t write this then I’m not being true to myself.
I am reading my journal, trying to remember the emotions I felt so strongly such a short while ago. That’s the thing about emotion, once it has passed it is very difficult to bring the feelings back in their entirety. This is a shame when they are good but a very good thing when we have gone through something traumatic. I suppose the lesson there is that if you are currently experiencing some challenging emotions, take comfort that they will pass and once they do the full strength of the emotion will be diminished if not fully forgotten.
Those who know me or follow me on Instagram will know that I love the gym, constantly pushing myself to the limit physically. One of my fears before coming on my Yoga Teacher Training was that I would lose my cardiovascular fitness and all my strength. I had planned to get up early and do some HIIT and still go to the gym 2-3 times a week to do weights (this seems quite ridiculous now). During our opening Puja on the first day of the yoga course we were told explicitly not to do any other form of training as not only would we not fully get the benefits of the yoga but also risked injury. To say I was upset is an understatement, I felt angry and I was on the verge of tears through frustration as well as fear.
During the first week I was forced to access why this mattered to me so much. Was it really the fitness that was upsetting me or something deeper? I felt a loss of control, not only could I not exercise as I wanted, I could not eat how I normally would. I feared putting on weight, which I realise may sound silly as I am naturally thin but like many women I have a daily battle with the way I feel about my body. One day I will feel too big, usually imagining I have big thighs (something I have thought since I was horse riding as a teenager) and another I will think I look too skinny. To not like your body is a horrible feeling and our bodies don’t deserve to be treated like this.
We are constantly bombarded with images of what we ‘should’ look like. The current fashion is a big bum, something I will never achieve as that’s not my shape. I also have no boobs which used to really bother me, now I’m fairly accepting. We put far too much emphasis on the outside and ignore what our bodies do for us. Simple things like being able to get out of bed in the morning or putting on socks, which I discovered was a luxury when I suffered from a back injury a couple of years ago. It is only when something is taken away that we appreciate it and then it is sometimes too late.
Before coming away I was so regimented in my exercise routine that the thought of going on holiday lost its appeal, I feared breaking my routine. When things become an addiction, it is no longer a good thing regardless of it being alcohol, drugs, exercise, yoga or love. We often jump from one thing to another, usually to fill a void and until will fix the underlying problem we won’t feel fulfilled. Taking a week off or even 4 weeks off in my case isn’t the end of the world and if it feels like it is maybe take time to consider why.
During the first two weeks, I battled with my emotions, I was really angry a lot of the time. The yoga wasn’t hard enough for me so I felt like I wasn’t getting enough of a workout. This is completely not the point of yoga, it is not exercise and shouldn’t be viewed as such. I was just struggling to let go of my addiction to exercise and my fear of putting on weight. It also made me realise that I didn’t want to cure myself of this feeling as I worried that if I did then I would relax diet and exercise regime and ultimately put on weight, so the whole thing is something of a viscous cycle.
Another thing that came up in those first two weeks was my battle with injury. When I was 17 I had issues with my knees which forced me to give up horse riding. Since I’ve been exercising regularly they have been fine but after spending the first day sat cross legged they rebelled. They hurt all the time and I was really worried I wouldn’t be able to bend them at all due to inflammation. This also made me very angry, I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to do my usual exercise after the course and remember quite clearly thinking nothing was worth injuring myself long term.
Thursdays were our ‘day of silence’, left alone with our thoughts. By the end of the first Thursday I had been trapped with my thoughts all day and was getting more and more upset about my knees. Someone asked if I was ok and that’s when it all came out. Why is it that the minute someone asks you that you that question it is impossible to hold it together?? I got back to my room and sobbed, proper loud, uncontrollable sobs, luckily my roommate wasn’t there. I didn’t really know why I was crying, I thought it was about my knees but it went deeper than that. At one point, I didn’t think I was going to stop, fortunately I did as I would have been seriously dehydrated if I didn’t 😉. It felt good to have got everything out, I didn’t need to know its source, just releasing it was enough. This was the turning point for me and I am pleased to say that although it was not plain sailing after this, it was much easier.
I’m feeling much more relaxed now, by the end of the course I did not miss exercise at all. I have spent the past four days doing HIIT on the beach and it felt good to get out of breath, tomorrow I am going to have a rest day which I wouldn’t have allowed myself previously. I have lost muscle and I am sure the gym will be a struggle when I get back. I am accepting of this, I think I have nourished my body over the past month and become more in tune to its needs. I can now start a fresh, working on imbalances to prevent injuries and lay a strong foundation to hopefully result in becoming even stronger, faster and fitter. While I don’t think my body hang ups are resolved, they may never be but I have acknowledged them and my addiction to exercise, hopefully that is the first step to letting them go.