Thursday, May 03, 2007

Pretzel Logic

I just started a new job last month, and feel like I've landed in the Bizarroland counterpart of my old office.

Like many food service/hospitality folks, my previous coworkers were smokers (out of a staff of 48, only three did not partake), hard drinkers and sugar fiends. As a group, we were chronically anxious, depressed and ill, totally giving the lie, as far as I'm concerned, to the idea that you have to be fat to be an insurance liability. We went through one of those gigantic bottles of Advil every week. My cubicle was near the cupboard where it was kept, and all day long, I listened to those pills rattling out by the handful.

Every afternoon, the chef would come downstairs with some experimental recipe - fried hushpuppies, dripping with oil, creme brulee, cheese wrapped in meat with melted cheese on top and more cheese (melted) to dip it in. It was generally acknowledged that anyone coming to the UClub from a normal place of work would develop all kinds of bad habits by the end of two months, and put on at least 10 pounds.

My new job is in an office right across the hall from a yoga studio. Every Wednesday at noon, a good-sized group of my non-smoking, bike-commuting coworkers, who all have fruit sitting out on their desks which they actually eat, are released for almost 2 hours to go to a class there. This Wednesday, I went with them, and today, I feel like my muscles are made of shredded beef. Ow, ow ow ow. Ow.

I'm not a complete tyro with yoga - I've been doing hatha yoga on and off for about 10 years. More off than on, though, and I've never gotten to the point with it where it became really life changing.

Yoga is scary. I come from a family of skeptics, so I was pretty scornful at first of the idea that anxiety, anger and other long-held, unexpressed emotions could rise to the surface just because of the way I was twisting and contorting my body. After repeatedly bursting into tears during anything that stretched out my hips, though, I think I'm woman enough to admit that it's probably true.

I am a big control freak. I tend to stuff anything that makes me feel the least bit uncomfortable or out of control, so yoga is both terrifying for me and an incredible release. It's also frickin' HARD. I feel like I should have the body of Mick Jagger already (ever wonder why he looks so great for a 60-year-old dude who mercilessly pounded his body when he was young? Yoga. I want me some o' that. Though I don't really want to look exactly like Mick Jagger, I guess. Maybe Keith Richards).

The last time I did yoga (before yesterday's class) was when I was at my low weight. With 60 extra pounds on me, it was murder on my feet, and my fat kept surprising me by being where I wasn't expecting it to be. Once I started gaining weight in earnest last year, I stopped looking at my body, or thinking about it. I have been remarkably unaware of what's going on with it for the past year. Yoga makes you notice your body. You can't get away with thinking of yourself as just a floating brain, because you'll find yourself twisted around in some weird position and, hey! there's your ass. Wow...look at that. And you hold the pose, and hold it, and hold it, and there's your ass the whole time, looking right back atcha.

You also have to tune into your body more so you don't hurt yourself. You pull on one leg, then reach for the other one, expecting it to be about the same - it never is. Wow? Why not? Why is half of my body wound up like a guitar string and the other half reasonably bendy? And wow...I didn't notice that bruise. Dude, it's HUGE.

As fat women, I think many of us dread being tuned into our bodies. We don't want to be reminded of what all is there. And for those of us like me, we don't want to lose our dignity or our control. Yoga is scary, but whether I end up losing weight or not this time around, I think it can and will transform my life if I stick with it - and probably help me deal with some of the underlying issues that drew me to food for comfort.


Blogger Beena said...

"As fat women, I think many of us dread being tuned into our bodies. We don't want to be reminded of what all is there."

Truer words have never been spoken. I think that's why shopping is a scary experience for me. I deplore trying things on in the dressing room. It's easier for me to lie to myself when i'm not faced with a full-length mirror.

Once, just after I had my first baby I decided to go shopping. I felt happy about losing some baby weight. Then, something dreadful happened. I looked at myself in a full length mirror and burst out into tears. I thought to myself, "How. The hell. Did that. Happen?!

7:33 AM  
Anonymous littlem said...

Nice Steely Dan reference. Try a long afternoon of yoga sometime to Aja or Gaucho. It's a total bodily indulgence and you don't gain any weight.

Yoga is good for control freaks. (Don't ask me how I know.) It teaches limits while it teaches you how to expand them healthfully, if you have a good teacher and do it right and don't lose your mind in competitive female Western BS.

I will NEVER forget the first time I did a forearm stand, after about 15 months of practice, by MYSELF, AWAY from the wall (in the center of the damn room for that matter), that I held for two minutes. It was like my body was rising by itself (you know those Ouija things we used to do as kids?)-- I believe in part b/c of increased upper body and core strength as a result of daily practice (doh!) but I was also making it do it! I wanted to shout "BY THE POWER OF GREYSKULL!!!!" or something equally idiotic, because I felt like She-Ra or WonderWoman, but I couldn't because it would have wrecked my balance and I would have come tumbling down. So I held it in until I came down s-l-o--w-l-y. You know, the gooooood kind of control.

Confrontational or no (which IMO it certainly is), I think you will enjoy it if you decide to continue.

Plus, Mick Jagger? Mmmmm. The yoga (and the econ degree) certainly explain a good deal, coupled with the fact that I've seen pics, and IMO he looked like a leonine angel when he was about 18.

You've seen Robin Williams' HBO special and what he says about Keith Richards, right? He says at the end of the world, it's just going to be Keith and the cockroaches, and Keith will say to one of the roaches, "You know, I think I smoked your uncle..."


9:03 PM  

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