Looking for Balance

This week has been a hectic one, mentally and physically. Sometimes I have to hit the pressure valve to release some tension or else I’ll blow sky high. There’s so much to do the next couple of weeks and I’ve been feeling crushed under the weight of my to-do list. I had an unexpected window last night, and decided that instead of spending all evening in front of a computer, whether for my own writing needs, to tend to legal documents, to spend on tax prep, or paying bills, or anything else that involved me sitting SOME MORE after sitting all day, I would break out and accept an invitation to dance.

I’ve been recovering all week from pushing too hard to get to nine miles in last Sunday’s run. I haven’t been able to so much as think about exercise all week. I get charley horses in my legs and feet all week, and the annoying wheeze deep in my lungs, from exercise-induced asthma, has not gone away all week, despite hitting the inhaler more often than I usually do. This probably means I need to take a short course of Prednisone, which I really hate, and I’ve been resisting it. I will contact the doc today to see if she wants to call something in.

Despite all that, and 10 degree weather, I went to dance last night. I haven’t taken any structured dance in a few years; my instructor moved away but recently returned, and the other stuff I’ve taken since then has been pretty free-form and improv-based so I haven’t had to really move like a dancer in years now. But first, so that I felt like I was really getting a hard workout in, I signed up for a very difficult class that was an hour before dance, a “Buti yoga” class, which is a combination of very fast vinyasa yoga and, well, sort of a very tough stripper workout. It would have been comical if it hadn’t been such a tough and intense class.

As is the smart thing to do, I notified the instructor I was new before we got started. The instructor looked like Britney Spears at the height of her career – compact, muscular, beautiful, a tiny powerhouse. As I was definitely the fattest chick in class, and, second to one other woman, the oldest, I’m sure she thought I was probably nuts for showing up. “I won’t lie,” she said, “This is a very difficult class. It’s for intermediate to advanced-level people with yoga experience.” “Good,” I told her, “Sounds great.” “It is a lot of fun and you will get a very hard workout,” she told me. All of a sudden, I was transformed back to the days when I was deciding which dance class to take in college, or thinking about taking an advertised master class that was coming up. If it said “advanced” or the instructor was “challenging,” that was the one I wanted to take. I was always all over whatever the most advanced level was, and I felt suddenly, perhaps unwisely, thrown back into that. What was I in for?

How did I do? Well, all the working out I have done the past 7 months or so really helped me out. But the run I had done less than a week prior was my biggest challenge to overcome. When we would sit on our heels, my feet would both cramp up immediately. When we held our legs up and circled them, my quad would cramp. But I soldiered on. I had to make a couple of modifications to some of the really deep squat stuff as my knees are still not quite there yet for deep bouncing at that level, but I have to say, I think I did pretty well for an old, fat lady, especially one who can’t hear anything. I could hear zero instruction from the teacher, because the music was blasting really loud and she was facing the front of the studio, plus my hearing loss makes it nearly impossible for me to hear anyone saying anything while there is other noise happening. But I kept up simply by watching what she was doing, and I think I not only held my own, there were a few things I could do that the youngins’ on either side of me could not, which made me feel pretty good. I may not have looked great doing those things, but I was able to make the shapes, keep the beat, and get a lot out of the class. And yes, it was damned hard.

Proceeding directly to my friend’s modern dance class after that was a shift in more ways than one. The balance you need to hold and keep when you dance is different than any other way you hold your body for just about any other type of exercise. Yoga is close, but it’s not the same. And the ability to ground your lower body while gracefully moving your upper body is a combination of movements I haven’t really thought about making in a long time. It was like getting my sea legs. The first 15 minutes of class, I felt stumpy and awkward and like I had completely lost whatever skill I used to have. Combined with my feet and calves cramping up all the time, and the fatigue I had from the class just before, it was an exceptional challenge. But it felt really, really good to move that way again, and after a short period of reorienting my mind and body to how to move like a dancer, I found it came back to me, and I was able to grasp the choreography and remember how to make my body move to make the shapes look and feel right, the mirror helping me correct myself. As exhausted and struggling as I was in this fight with my body to make it do what I wanted, it felt glorious. I slept better last night than I have all week.

Need to remember to force myself out of the rut of the daily grind and into the wild, so I can maintain that balance.

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