When I think of yoga, I think of everything that I am not.
Good balance, smooth hair, triceps, nice toenails, abs, zen, a person with all their shit together and who doesn’t swig cider out the bottle as if they were most at home on a park bench most nights of the week.
It has therefore come as a huge surprise that I have found myself not only doing yoga these last few days, but enjoying it.
Prior to this my relationship with the activity, as with so many things, has been somewhat half-hearted.
I tried it once during the day in my local gym but couldn’t get on with the aforementioned non-cider-swigging-from-the-bottle-types, I booked in to the 6am class but concluded no muscle was worth that sort of commitment and then of course there was that one time I tried it at an Ann Summers event at the top of Tower 42 earlier this year with Vix Meldrew; we sat in the back of the class like the outcasts we were and laughed as I toppled, again, out of the crow.
After hurting my hip at the end of May so badly that I have been able to do little more than go for a walk for six weeks, I was climbing the walls (sadly not literally) with a desire to do some sort of exercise.
Headstands! I thought.
I am going to become one of those people that can do headstands.
Admittedly I was no Serena Williams before the hip incident, but I can’t deny the massive difference exercise makes to my mental health (read more about my anxiety here) and I really can’t deny the fact that I feel desperately sad when the perky arse I absolutely deserved after hours sitting on a bike saddle starts to slide, unceremoniously, down the back of my thighs.
I want to feel fit and strong again, I’d fucking love a tricep and I really seriously have never come across a person that does yoga that doesn’t have bloody marvellous hair, so for that alone it had to be worth a try.
Alex offered to teach me when I first tried it. Alex is one of these annoying people that does some weird body sorcery off the side of low walls and uploads the photos onto Instagram.
He couldn’t understand why I couldn’t just do the crow so I told him how I couldn’t understand why, if he didn’t want a punch in the face, he was still talking.
For the sake of our relationship and in the interest of not breaking his jaw (I might not be up to much yoga yet but I’ve got an impressive right hook), I decided that this was going to be something, at least for now, I was going to have to get into on my own.
I downloaded the Daily Yoga app on my phone, which is every bit as annoying and infuriatingly peaceful as you’d imagine it to be, and embarked on my journey. Yes, when you start yoga, you have to call it your journey, because you’re a pain in everyone’s arse now.
It’s a good app to be honest, the woman really is a fucking nightmare ball of insufferably soothing American tones but I’m on the 14 day beginners’ course and it seems about right. The sessions are only 20 minutes long and I think at this point it’s about teaching me the basics, getting me focussed on my breathing and establishing how easy I will realistically find it not to give up and find a glass of wine somewhere.
In truth I think I would really benefit from a few classes; from the handful of ones I have had in the past I am sure that my technique could do with a lot of work (at least that is what I inferred from the fact that every instructor I have ever met has spent a large portion of the class readjusting me).
But gym classes are funny things aren’t they? In the same way I find myself wanting to tidy the house before a cleaner comes over, I very much feel that I need to at least get a little bit fit before I join a class designed to make me fit.
With this in mind it makes sense that I at least try to master the basics (lifting one foot off the ground without falling over) before arriving at a class full of the smooth-hair-non-cider-swigging-folk.
So the app stays, and perhaps when I get back to London in a couple of weeks I will find some yogis to hang out with.
Yoga is both harder and easier than I thought it would be, but in truth I think the reason I like it so much is because it’s so easy to see progress.
No matter how good I got at running, I never envisaged a time in my life when I would find a ten mile jog easy. It wasn’t like I finally got good enough to run a half marathon (read about that here) and then found every distance shorter than thirteen miles easy.
That wasn’t the case at all, I am still just as capable of finding a three mile loop as hard as a ten mile one.
With yoga progression is much quicker and somehow much more satisfying.
Truthfully when I first started last week I could not hold the tree pose, every time I tried I would stumble and fall (I’ve just had to take a two minute break from writing to listen to the Razorlight song) and my downward dog was somewhat shambolic (although one of my yoga pals assured me via an Instagram comment that proper yoga wasn’t about perfection it was about the experience… I still don’t really know what that means but it sounds good).
It’s only been a few days but already I feel my ability to disguise myself as a tree has come on leaps and bounds.
If only the me of 2002 had mastered this, I might have been a more convincing part of the set I was supposed to blend into in the school play.
It feels really good to get a little better at something every day and to see and feel the progress so fast. All I keep thinking is: it’s going to be really cool when I can do this totally effortlessly.
The biggest misconception though has been the one that I had created for those people that do yoga.
I’ve been banging on about my new found love of yoga on Instagram this week (because yes I really do love it) and am obsessed with how bloody encouraging everyone is.
I feel like the yogis are genuinely excited to have me in their ranks.
I’ve received actual messages from friends to tell me how excited they are that I have started to get into it.
How fucking adorable?
If I’m honest I thought the people that did yoga were a bit pretentious, precious and with much too much appreciation for themselves.
Yes, you can do a handstand, do you have to put it on Instagram?
I would like to take this moment to apologise to every person that has ever uploaded a photo of them doing a yoga move that I didn’t like or comment on the moment I saw it.
You can be damn sure that the second I manage anything upside down, my Instagram feed will be littered with photos of my on my head. If I ever get the hang of this stuff, for real, photos of me in anything other than lycra will be few and far between.
Whilst I doubt I’ll ever be the headstand on a paddle board type (not least of all because my stomach fat has a terrible habit of allowing gravity to pull it towards my face at a distressing rate), I’m desperately hopeful that one day, in the not too distant future, I’ll be the headstand-against-a-wall-without–ending-up-in-hospital type.