After a meal of delicious Thai food, my husband and I were walking past one of those fly-by-night gyms in a strip mall the other night, and a young woman bolted out the door and onto the sidewalk. Red faced. Sweaty. She’d clearly been feeling the burn, and her self-hate was palpable. I don’t know how to describe it, I almost felt it telepathically, but she hadn’t been having any fun. I remembered exercising like this. In my teens and twenties, exercise was punishment, namely for being too fat. I did it sporadically. Abusively. Sometimes it would turn into something deeper, say when I decided to run on the cross country team in high school, I’d unexpectedly get into a meditative state, calm my nerves for a bit, but mostly I ran to change my body which I perceived to be gross (at just 5 lbs over what I wanted to weigh). And I would run with so much anger, and so little awareness, I’d inevitably end up with injuries that would sideline me.
In my early twenties, I trained in martial arts while living in the DC area. It was a beautiful way to channel my energy in a controlled environment. My teacher was so genius in her sequencing, injuries were not common. Even with people like me.
Years later, when I moved back to my hometown to change careers and start nursing school, I needed one credit to fill out my schedule and decided to try a yoga class. It was in a huge wrestling room. I was required to take a 90-minute class twice a week. I walked in blindly, not knowing anything about yoga. The practice worked its magic on me. I was calmer. My stomach stopped hurting all the time. I didn’t think about hating myself while on the mat. Had I ever truly taken a deep breath before in my life? I’d certainly never combined exercise with self-love.
A path had presented itself, but it would take me years to truly commit.