I bent the yoga challenge rules today because I had to.
Harlan’s shooting all weekend, daycare at the gym only goes until 12 on Saturdays, and the only yoga class today was at 12:30. So instead of yoga, I did something called Nia, which is described on the gym’s website as “a dynamic total-body cardiovascular workout that stimulates and integrates your body/mind/spirit. Nia blends dance, martial arts, yoga and healing arts – leaving you feeling recharged, rejuvenated, amd fully alive. Sweat your body, calm your mind, invite your spirit to soar!”
It sounded at least somewhat yoga-esque and, at 9:00, it allowed me to bring Aidan to the gym daycare, so I went for it. It turns out taking a break from yoga and trying something different was exactly what I needed.
As I’ve been writing, my neck and back have taken a beating from all the yoga, I think because it’s so intense, you hold poses for so long and you rest a lot of weight on your joints. So, this Nia thing—which is a kind of goofy, flowy dance class with a focus on intention and some shouting out of inspirational phrases and animal sounds—was a welcome break.
I don’t know if it’s because I’ve done yoga for such a long time, but I am such a perfectionist when it comes to yoga. Every movement needs to be really precise. I also fear that that precision and the intensity of holding each pose is leading to this stiffness and damage in my neck and back. So this flow—and rolling my back, flinging my head, tossing my arms and kicking my legs—felt amazing.
I loved just moving around. I loved the imprecision of it. I loved letting go of my ego and letting myself look a little bit foolish.
At one point the teacher said, “There’s a rumor that Nia is fluffy.”
After that she started doing these tough-chick moves that were reminiscent of Pat Benatar’s Love is a Battlefield video, and with each punch or lunge, she’d shout, “Fluffy!” It was funny and it gave us license not to take ourselves very seriously.
The practice never struck me as fluffy, but it did strike me as goofy—full-on goofy. It helped that this was not a class full of Santa Monica beauties who studied dance at Barnard or NYU, but rather a class full of Cambridge babes, ranging in age from 25 to 75, with belly flab, gray hair, leotards and a lack of coordination (to match my own) on full display. Everyone got totally into it, thrusting their hips, shimmying their boobies, shouting, “Fluffy!” or growling like a “mama bear” when the moment demanded it.
At one point, my mind wandered, as it always does (though it wandered a lot less in Nia than it does in yoga!) and I found myself thinking about the book I’m working on. It’s been an agonizing process, because my agent and most of the members of my wonderful, talented writing group think it has issues, largely that I’m too close to the material and need to find some distance and perspective before I can write it successfully.
Once my mind wandered down this path, I had a moment of frustration. I wondered whether I should go on writing. In my mind, I saw the faces of my writing group, heard again some of the things they said and wondered whether their criticism was enough reason to stop, remembering also their praise of the book’s humor and honesty and the insistence of other people, of my friends that I’ve spoken to about the project, that this is a book they really want to a read, this is a book I must write.
And suddenly, while alternately thrusting my hips and sticking out my “booty” with a room full of mostly middle-aged Cambridge chicks, I thought, “Fuck ’em.”
I wasn’t thinking about anyone in particular. I really like my agent and everyone in my writing group. I just think I have to keep writing this book, and in that moment, I had faith that I would eventually find the good book hidden inside the confused one.
I proceeded to think, “Fuck ’em fuck ’em fuck ’em fuck ’em fuck ’em fuck ’em fuck ’em fuck ’em fuck ’em fuck ’em fuck ’em fuck ’em fuck ’em fuck ’em fuck ’em fuck ’em” for the next ten minutes of class. Fuck ’em fell into rhythm with the hip thrusts. Fuck ’em became a mantra more powerful than Om. Fuck ’em made me smile and laugh and flush while I swung my booty and punched my fists.
Fuck ’em felt like fucking liberation.
And here I thought yoga was the practice that would bring me transformation.