On Monday night I decided to go to my first EVER gymnastics class. I’ve never even step foot into a gym like this so it was truly a first for me. Being a yoga practitioner I assumed I’d be quite good at gymnastics. And in some areas, yes this was very true. What I didn’t realise, however, is just how terrible I could also be! Let’s just say this was a very humbling experience indeed. ;p
First off, rolling. OMG! The repetitive rolls across the floor left me seeing stars and the wish I’d decided against that muesli bar on the way to class. Whilst I spend so much time upside down in yoga, I don’t roll like they do in gymnastics. #bilious
Next up - cartwheels. I watched the demonstration and thought, “Yup. Got it! No need for further demonstrations”. My inner child was reappearing and memories from playing in the park doing handstand after handstand were flooding back. I knew I’d be a natural at this.
Let's break this down. The steps for a cartwheel are: Hand, hand, foot, foot. Lovely wide spread arms and legs with a perfect, soft and silent landing. Well, that was not to be in my case.
By comparison, Jessica’s steps for a cartwheel went more like: Hand, tumble, trip, crash, bang!
Yup, I ended up on my butt following legs flying everywhere and hands completely unstable on the floor. I was shocked by how unusual this feeling was. Absolutely nothing like what I remembered it feeling, or looking like. In my uncoordinated defence, I wondered if my scoliosis was having an impact upon the cartwheel by causing my body to twist as I spun, rather than to remain open so I could gracefully transition back to an upright position. Hmm… Or perhaps my spine has nothing to do with it and this result came down to sheer lack of coordination.
The next part of the practice blew my mind. I had NO idea my body was unable to do this… Until I tried and failed multiple times. And that was - I can’t jump! What the?! Sure I can do a hop, but there is virtually zero spring in my step. Another OMG moment. To get onto the parallel bars, I needed to be lifted up (which was also far from graceful). I have ZERO skills in jumping.
During this gymnastics class I would have looked like I have never done anything movement based in my life (excluding the floor work and balancing beam). I lacked confidence in so many areas and really struggled to bring together the wiring needed to complete the exercises we were being shown. I fell on my butt that many times that I ended up with bruises.
I’m sharing this with you all because I feel it is a great reminder of how clever our bodies are. (Whilst I know it doesn’t sound like it so far, bear with me.) Why? Because it shows how our bodies become conditioned to particular movements or shapes. I’m clearly conditioned for yoga. For isometric holds. For being able to resist against my own body weight whilst simultaneously relaxing to improve overall flexibility. In yoga we often chat with students who are feeling disheartened by their practice because they find it difficult to transition into a warrior pose or who lack confidence coming into their headstand or handstand. What we fail to remember is it all comes down to practice. Our bodies need time to adjust. We need to develop the patterning in the brain that tells us how and when to coordinate the muscles of the body so we can move in a particular way. We cannot expect our bodies to suddenly know how to move into yoga poses and shapes. Just as I cannot expect myself to know how to jump and swing onto parallel bars. We need to teach ourselves how. And I clearly need to keep practicing how to jump. I currently lack the patterning in my brain which signals to the relevant muscles in my body to fire when it comes time to jump. But in time and with consistent practice this will become more natural. I know this to be true and I will continue to work at it.
Moral of the story - be OK with laughing at yourself. Be OK with the learning and adapting process. Let yourself play and just enjoy the process of exploring your body. At the end of the day, yoga or any other form of movement is here to help us become healthier, more aware and connected human beings. If we can laugh at ourselves along the way and be prepared to step out of our comfort zones to deepen that awareness, then a path to a long, happy life is being carved out for you.
Smile. Be silly. Enjoy life.
Lots of love, Jessica xx