In the last week, I have done my first exercise since October, aside from walking of course. Unless you are into running or team sports or have the space to do exercise DVDs, it can be rather pricey. As I seem to be perpetually penniless, a bit of a charity case and have no space for home workouts, (other than on my exceedingly squeaky rickety fold-out double camp bed!), I have had to forfeit regular exercise. You could argue I can run or jog but ever since Primary School running has led me to hyperventilate, go red faced and sweat profusely. Some might say this is normal but not if you saw me when all this is going on; the reactions were so alarming that even those sadistic P.E. and Games teachers of old would tell me to stop.
Everything changed when the lady I lodge with kindly gave me radically discounted vouchers for local fitness centres - all valid until the end of February. In true Leo style, I have set myself the task of trying to use all the vouchers before the end of the month, despite the fact I will not even be in the country for a substantial part of the few remaining days. Last week I attended two Yoga sessions, an hour of aqua aerobics and a Pilates class, as well as the lengths I used to so faithfully do three to four times a week.
Aside from shortness of breath and rather achy limbs, all this exercise caused me to reflect on the different reasons people actively seek exercise. From my observations, there are those who exercise because they like to look buff with bulging muscles; others merely want to turn fat to muscle and squeeze into certain clothes; some folks actually care about their body being a finely tuned machine; some weirdos actually enjoy it; some people reportedly get some kind of buzz like an adrenaline rush and there are those who have been informed by their doctor certain forms of exercise might be wise. I am sure my tone gives away which category I fall into and if you know me, it will be quite obvious.
Swimming with its ability to mask the sweat I might produce if not in water, has always been my exercise of choice so how did Yoga, Pilates and Aqua fair? I used to do Yoga as a games option in school, preferring what seemed to be a few stretches and relaxed lying around to running across pitches holding a Lacrosse stick. Since those days I have sampled it a few times and enjoyed Yoga but never understood breathing techniques. Two hour and a half sessions have confirmed that Yoga Iyengar isn't for me. I just don't really care what is going on inside of my body and am not in tune with my internal organs (my interest or should I say lack of interest in Biology hasn't changed much since the days of G.C.S.E.s) - so long as I am not dying and fit into my clothes, I am happy. All this talk about feeling the skin on the hip bone moving this way and the bone on the other hip moving another way is lost on me. I either feel a burning pain or the move seems pointless. As for inhaling and exhaling at the right times or through the correct nostrils, I have decided that can get lost too. The amount of props needed for this type of yoga shocked me. As far as I was aware all you needed was a cushioned surface or a mat - no, not with Yoga Iyengar! I was instructed to get a chair, two types of mat, foam bricks, wooden bricks, a blanket and a kind of strap to aid stretches - some folks seemed to be even getting what looked like medium sized bean bags to use as soft weights. The one thing I did like about the class, was the strange man who attended both times and seemed to sit in a corner doing his own stretches for the entire class wearing chequered boxers, a fleece shirt and a white head band. Why bother showing up and paying? As far as I could see he may as well have done his personalised "work-out" at home. His presence fascinated me.
Unfortunately activity number two, Aqua, had no apparent eccentric regular. I went in to Aqua thinking it was strictly for old women but I owed it a go. In the days when I had the cash to be a Virgin Active member, I would resent the predominantly older and all female aqua crowd for stealing half the pool and causing enormous tidal waves across the water when I was battling to do my lengths. After an hour of aqua I have to take back everything I said. Aqua was actually exhausting - that may be because I am so unfit at the moment! Its appeal is clearly still more for females, although a much more mixed age group than classes I had previously seen. A supportive boyfriend did show up to the second session I attended, looking slightly bemused. Pilates on the other hand, seemed to attract a real mixture of ages and abilities with a greater male representation. An hour of Pilates and I could feel the burn immediately and three days later my body is still complaining.
So what have I learnt from my fitness frenzy? Perhaps not to judge an activity without trying it and that unless I want to try to get in tune with my body, Yoga Iyengar isn't for me.