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Category: yoga

Oh to Be a Gym Bunny Again (wait, I never was one!)

sadly, this rat looks cuter than I do at the gym
sadly, this rat looks cuter than I do at the gym
I’ve become a gym rat, which is a good thing. I say gym rat, not bunny, because there is a serious distinction between the two, and sadly, I’ve aged out of the gym bunny phase. Not that I ever was one, mind you. Somewhere along the line I missed that stage, darn it. Gym bunnies are those gorgeous, svelte young women who turn heads at the gym even when they haven’t showered and are drenched in sweat. The only head I turn these days at the gym is my own, in an attempt to get my nose far, far away from the smell that is the very byproduct of gym-going. But that’s okay, I’ve resigned myself to my rat status. It’s better than not being a gym creature of any sort (i.e. sofa sloth), a status I had adopted by neglect for a good while there. So it feels good to be back at the gym, even with the assignation of some disease-bearing rodent.
she is a rodent, isn't she?!
she is a rodent, isn't she?!

Although being middle-aged at the gym does present its levels of shame, no doubt about it. Take for instance the day I was in an abs class. The gym bunny instructor was blasting music while we strengthened our core (or attempted to, in my case) and I recognized the song from long, long ago (back when I should have been able to enjoy the benefits of being a gym bunny, only gyms weren’t so common back then, even though I still wasn’t bunny material, regardless).

“Now most of you are too young to recognize this,” I said, a hint of joviality to my voice. “But this is the intro music to the Jane Fonda Workout Record.”

Yes, I did say record in that sentence. As in record album, circa two thousand years ago. (As an aside, my son has found it to be very hip-retro to have purchased a record player and now stockpiles cheesy old LPs just because he can occasionally find them at antique stores. Argh, who ever thought one day articles from my era would be considered antiques?! I feel like Martha Washington.)

I looked around the gym, hoping to see a face of solidarity (the kind with telltale crow’s feet). Someone, but someone, who would a) know who Jane Fonda is, and b) fondly recall Jane in her soothing post-Vietnam protest voice reminding us to “feel the burn” while the Jackson Family crooned “Can you feel it?”

Instead, here’s what I heard in a squeal from the instructor: “Oh, I think my mother had that album!”

Shoot me now. But at least she didn’t say her grandma had it. Thank heavens for tender mercies.

The gym offers up so much delusional potential. It hooks you on the fantasy of the you-that-will-likely-never-be. Shy of a hollow-leg budget allowing for endless personal trainers, maybe (and one rife with plastic surgery and liposuction to boot). It’s sort of like Hollywood, luring us in with the fake reality of it all. But we buy into it, hook, line and sinker. Yes, I can look like a gym bunny, if only I try, we tell ourselves. If only I go to every class and succumb to the unspoken peer pressure that is a given, like it or not.

Take for instance Nia. Now, if you take away all of the encumbrances of pride and self-respect, Nia is a really fun class. You flail about in a la-la state, getting a surprisingly good workout, all things considered. The instructor is all flow and grace and wears funky clothes that look amazing on her and you project yourself onto her image, foolishly thinking you too look as sleek flitting about the ballet floor. Until you catch a glimpse of yourself in the mirror and realize that in fact you look like the dancing hippos from Fantasia, and that oversized t-shirt ain’t doing you any favors in the style department. What we sacrifice in dignity for a good workout. But trust me, Nia and it’s contemporary cousin, the hip-happenin’ Zumba, these classes are for gym bunnies, not the rhythm- and physique-impaired like moi.

The peer-pressure factor is hard to resist at gyms. It is subtle, and usually self-imposed. It comes in a few forms: the “I’m not too old to do this” form—always a killer. Or the “if she can do it so can I” method. Natch. What happens with the self-imposed peer-pressure is you kill your gym fantasy with a career-ending injury, like, say, a torn meniscus, that makes it nigh impossible to work out without public tears, something you should never, ever reveal at the gym. Crying betrays your wimp factor and even if you’re near-dying, even if you have to take the elevator after your workout, your knee hurts so badly, you cannot cry.

The moral to the story (at least for me) is you leave the class when the kickboxing music is speeded up to high-on-crystal-meth level, so fast that injuries are inevitable. And when you see the yoga class is called Flying Dragon, you turn the other direction and fly away from it. So what that technically you can do it? Doing it and surviving it are two different things altogether. Repeat after me: anything with the words “flying” and “dragon” in it involving exercise are not for the faint of heart (or failing of physique).

Yeah, I’ll remember that for next time I find myself jonesing to be a gym rat. And remind myself that I’ll never be a gym bunny, so don’t even think I can act like one. Can you feel it?

Relax Your What?!

Sometimes I’m startled that I am as old as I am. Because despite the maturity that comes with age, I can’t help but occasionally revert back to juvenile middle-school behavior that I’d thought I’d outgrown.

In my attempt to be mature and worldly, I enrolled a few years ago in my first yoga class. I needed to learn how to chill out a little bit, and figured being in touch with my inner Zen would help to center my balance, achieve yin-yang, and maybe I’d get a little feng-shui thrown in for good measure.

It was great. First class, I learned my sun salutation, stretched limbs so tight from lack of use that they deserved to snap like tree branches. My instructor, a former type-A New Yorker-turned-Yogaville devotee whose chosen Yoga name, Suraya, more closely resembled that of an Indian guru than someone from the Bronx, was very serene. His soothing voice tranquilized even the tensest of class members: me. In his calm coaxing tone, he encouraged us to rid our minds of any pollutants, to focus on our center, and be at peace within. Fine, I was on the same page at this point. I’d really started feeling that I could change, become a woman unfettered by the stresses of life.

The final fifteen minutes of class were devoted to complete relaxation. Cool, I thought. That is right up my Type-A alley. We all lay on the floor, eyes closed, focused on our own inner universe. The mesmerizing music on the boom box washed over me as Suraya talked us through letting go of whatever tensions remained. He began with the toes, worked his way up ever so gradually to calves, knees, thighs.

And then came the clincher.

“Relax your anal sphincter,” he said, as serious as an executioner, not even remotely cracking a smile.

What? That’s impossible. First of all, It defies the laws of nature. And secondly, even if we could, just think how nasty that would be! We can’t do that, I thought. Like a naughty kindergartener whose head is supposed to be face down on the desk during naptime, I snuck glances all around me. No one but me thought that was the funniest line ever uttered.

I could feel my laughter erupting, and from my unrelaxed belly it rose. I tried desperately to suppress it, but it was of no use. I cackled so loudly that the entire class opened their once-relaxed eyelids and glared directly at me. Even Suraya looked a bit uptight.

As the class drew to a close, the peaceful silence destroyed, I slunk from the room, somewhat embarrassed at my level of immaturity. But I actually felt more relaxed, having belted out a good chuckle.

Yes, I realize I have gone from middle school to middle age, but isn’t it nice to know that you don’t always have to totally grow up?

I read recently about a new yoga craze: hot nude yoga. Please, dear Lord, let’s hope Suraya’s not teaching that one.

Stress Yoga, Anyone?

This is SO not me LOL
This is SO not me LOL

I’ve always loved to exercise, though unfortunately my lifestyle has not lent itself to nearly the level I once enjoyed, nor the amount I now require, for that matter.

One of the activities I have found most gratifying both physically and mentally is yoga. So much so that for a couple of years I practiced yoga daily. And it was then that I was probably my most chill, as I conditioned my mind to find a quiet center, and so many little life annoyances—traffic, obnoxious people, an out-of-control life–just stopped bothering me.

But as my schedule somehow grew more demanding, yoga became one more added stress in my life—a have-to that I felt guilty if I missed, but anxious if I attended, knowing as I did I was failing to perform some other mandate in its stead.

So while yoga at first presented itself as downright medicinal, it became, well, I don’t want to say toxic, but it became contraindicated. I know, I have people in Yogaville right now wanting to injure me upon reading my suggestion that yoga is anything but peaceful, except that it’s so un-yoga-like to want to injure someone. What I mean by that statement is that yoga became part of my stress. But it wasn’t yoga’s fault! It was all my doing; I was simply incapable of letting yoga do what it was supposed to do: relax me. Instead, my yoga practice became a practice in managing high blood pressure, because the longer I was at yoga, the more I was internally freaking out about what I had to do but wasn’t doing because I was doing what I wanted to do which wasn’t what I should be doing because I needed to be doing other things. Yoga=Peace became Yoga=Internal Strife.

Finally I had to bid farewell to yoga, much to my chagrin. Which of course has caused more stress, which, I know, would be ameliorated by just practicing yoga. But I’m trapped in a Type-A-need-to-earn-money-to-send-my-kids-to-college-and-god-forbid-dream-of-retiring-some-day-without-having-to-hand-out-smiley-face-stickers-at-WalMart-till-I-keel-over vicious cycle, the tail wagging the dog and the dog eating the cat (or in my case, the parrot) and who knows what else.

But I think I have a solution to my quandary that will enable me to return to my practice without feeling one iota of anxiety: Stress yoga! I want to become the Doyenne of Stress Yoga. I will be to yoga what Jane Fonda is to aerobics. Or what the Hamburglar is to McDonalds. You decide.

Now hear me out. For years Hollywood has masterfully hybridized something good-for-you with something usually ludicrous, just to test the limits. In the lingo of L.A., they’ve taken exercise and made it High Concept. For the uninitiated, High Concept is flipping something on its head to make you say “Huh!” Like blending Jane Austen with zombies in a novel (bet you never thought you’d read that one, did you?).

Some of the quirkier Hollywood workout trends? Paddle surfing (canoeing and surfing). Budokon (a fusion of yoga, martial arts and meditation). The Katana sword workout (à la Kill Bill, only with foam swords). Hoopnastics (hula hoop, yoga, ballet and pilates). Boogie Box (hip-hop and kickboxing). Piloxing (pilates and boxing). Or how about Bollylates (Bollywood dancing with Pilates). (I confess, I just made that last one up, but it probably will be a fad soon enough). But Naked Yoga is indeed a reality that could only be gotten away with in Hollywood—with any lesser physiques in attendance, the entire class would have to be conducted blindfolded. Although I would argue that seeing Nicholas Cage engaged in naked yoga is enough to make me run the other direction.

picturing what lies beneath this caped crusader doing yoga scares me
picturing what lies beneath this caped crusader doing yoga scares me

And in a cruel reversal of the trend, someone is making a killing on a new L.A. fitness craze called Celebrity Jogging, which doesn’t involve celebrities jogging, but rather everyday schlubs running from hotspot to hotspot, cameras at the ready, trying to spot celebrities while elevating their heart rates. They should call that the Stalking Workout.

Hollywood types are known for launching all sorts of trends in the name of health and fitness (or at least thinness)—the latest being weeks-long cleanses in which you ingest only a concoction of maple syrup, lemon juice and cayenne pepper. Or vinegar, if you really want to be wild. By comparison my workout will be downright healthful. Besides, you’ve already heard of Power Yoga, right? I’m just taking it one step further.

Stress Yoga might well be my salvation, since I can readily market it to an ever-busier population that just might have no choice but to multi-task being extremely stressed while being centered and ultra-chill. All I need to do is market this class (which is, if nothing else, slightly ironic) to the right people and I’m guaranteed if the power-workout fiends in Los Angeles take to it (and who wouldn’t? Those folks have to be as stressed as they come) I am bound to strike it rich. And if I become rich, then I’ll have time on my hands and voila, I’ll be able to return to yoga, stress-free.

Hey, at least it’s not Naked Hula-Hoop-Swordplay-Hip-Hop-Kickboxing Pilates, right?