Saturday, November 12, 2011

Body Fear and Safety

There is nothing scarier to me than going to a new gym or fitness or yoga class.

Ok. Maybe I could rank it up there with having a gun pointed at my face or almost dying in a car accident. However, these are less frequent and less likely. Also, I don't put myself in those situations.

I went to a gym this morning to (hopefully) try out a Nia class. I'd been excited about the idea of Nia for a long time, on and off hearing about it from Minneapolis friends who love it, and at the same time, resistant. I like my yoga just fine, thanks. I do Vinyasa Flow when I need my blood to pump and Yin or Hatha when I need calm body connection. In fact, I mostly do these at home because for me, finding a new yoga teacher (and safe yoga space) is like trying to find a new psychotherapist: wrenching, personal, vulnerable and tiring. But doing it on my own has its faults, too. Meaning: it's scary for me to do it at home, too, sometimes. I have body connection and disconnection issues, and sometimes, the right class can help me release that and be with my body.

It took weeks before I could plausibly go (schedule-wise - been on the road a lot) and then getting me out of bed, into yoga clothes and to the gym downtown was a real struggle. I am coordinating a Shambhala Training weekend this weekend (Level II: Birth of the Warrior) so I kept reminding myself - this is about breaking habit, facing fear and going through it to fearlessness.

When the meter needed one more quarter than what I had to hold my spot long enough to get through the class, I wondered if it were an omen, but didn't take it too seriously. As I walked to the corner and into the front door to the elevator, I sensed three blond slender women in workout clothes and half hoped, half dreaded that they were going to the class, too. But they chose another floor.

The space is exactly where, ironically, my last "real job" before becoming a self-employed teacher used to have its administration offices. So it was weird and cool to see it transformed: great beautiful photos on canvas down the hall, wonderful lighting. I felt good - yeah! I can do this! My kind of peops. But at the end of the almost-maze on the way there, I landed out into a bunch of heavy hardcore gym equipment. Huh. Odd. Where's the classroom for Nia, I thought?

No front desk. A table for sign in, all oriented towards folks who knew what to do. In the foreground, a man and woman doing a private personal training lesson. In the background, on a wood floor in the sun, four women doing semi-fitness (a thing like a pogo ball to balance on and many small medicine balls rolling around) to "Lucky Star" by Madonna. That must be it, I thought. But I froze. No one noticed me, said anything at all. I stood around, feeling uncomfortable, for five minutes. How do I sign in, pay, find out where the bathrooms are? Ignored, listening to the women in the background talk about the sun and looking serious in their warmups with devices I have never used, I started to feel sick.

My hips tightened. I felt too warm. Do I really want to enter into that situation, with people I don't know, in such a gym-like space? The music was my only comfort, but the situation screamed AEROBICS more than FELDENKRAIS (one of the base teachings under some Nia approaches). I backed out, waiting for someone to call me back. Nothing. Walking out the hall, not even seeing the photos, I began to cry. My body said, Please leave. Not for us. No.

I made it out to my car and home before crying. I felt lonely, unseen, isolated. I did some gentle yoga to come back into my body and sat with the cats. I went from angry (Why do they make it so inaccessible/snobby/separatist?) to sad (I wish I could connect more with my body) to safe - In my body, in the present, able to take care of myself.  

I am glad I went alone. Perhaps if a friend had come I might have taken more of a chance, but I wouldn't have heard the message loud and clear from my body: This is not a safe place for me. I will try again. I know good places and teachers I can start classes with doing other things. It seems this is the only place that does Nia, for now, in Madison. That's ok. At least I tried. I did try. And that means a lot to me, to try, to reach out and go new places, make new connections, even if they prove to not be where I want to go or who I want to support me.

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