Guess what I did this morning – I re-started yoga. I left it almost two years ago, which made this morning nothing short of pure torture. I woke up an hour earlier than I normally do, which in the Delhi winters is a lot more complicated than just placing the alarm far from the bed so that you’re forced to physically get up to silence it. Because after that first wave of cold air hits your bare arms, you’re going to waive a mental middle finger to Robin Sharma’s 5 am club and wiggle yourself back under the blanket.
Today, though, was a different day. I had called a yoga teacher home.
I have been suffering from mild back pain sporadically for a few months now but it has been neither painful enough nor consistent enough to go to a doctor. It comes and goes, but I’ve definitely felt my back stiffen. Long hours at the desk and uncomfortable seating will do that to anyone. My wrists have been hurting, and I don’t wear atleast fifteen pieces of clothing I own anymore because…I’ve outgrown them. At 26. Not exactly the right age to experience a change in your shirt size, right? The physical pain of being unfit, and the mental pain of pushing clothes to the back of the cupboard because you don’t fit in them anymore – had gone on for too long. Something had to be done.
I tell the yoga teacher that I’ve been out of it for long, and that she needs to go gentle on me for the next one month. We stretch some, then we stretch some more, and soon I’m using muscles I had long forgotten about. As I begin to experience the familiar feeling of wanting to throw up that comes in the first month of doing this type of yoga, I get into the position for the first surya namaskar. I curse myself and wonder…
Why did I ever stop working out? I had been really driven to become my fittest and healthiest self right before my wedding, and I’ve let go of my fitness ideal, little by little, over the last 24 months. Was it because I stopped caring about my health, just because I was married now? Why is it that everyone puts on weight after they get married? Is it because you don’t care about how you look anymore? The poor soul who is married to you has promised to be yours forever, and therefore you no longer have to attempt to fit in your XS t-shirt? And since you’re hitched, you definitely don’t need to impress others of the opposite sex anymore? Is the reason really just this shallow?
In the middle of the second surya namaskar, I think harder to find a better reason.
Maybe it’s something a little more loving? You know, being in love and being so happy spending your days with The One, that you forget to take care of your health? When you get married, your first few months pass by in a blur. You’re moving into a new house, into a new routine, your social commitments double, you want to spend time discovering your new partner (if it’s an arranged marriage) or spend time discovering new things about your old partner. You want to spend all your spare time with your spouse, and…who has time for working out in the middle of all this and even think about healthy food when you’re eating out so often?
Thoughts of food have made my stomach rumble and I snap back into focus. I’ve just finished my fifth surya namaskar and I realise I’m panting already! I’m irritated with myself because there was a time when I could do 50 in a row. The instructor notices my exhaustion and switches gears to a different kind of stretching. Relieved that the surya namaskars for the day are done, I get lost in my thoughts again…
I read about this phenomenon recently called “health concordance” in the book – The Happiness Project. “Partners’ health behaviours tend to merge, as they pick up good or bad habits from each other related to eating, exercising, visiting doctors, smoking, and drinking.” This is a 100% true. Fortunately, my husband likes to keep working out an integral part of his life – he’s rarely gone a whole week without atleast a running session on the treadmill. Thanks to him, I have atleast not gone a whole month without trying to workout. If he hadn’t made exercising a priority in his life, I might have spent a whole year without so much as stretching! On the flip side, he doesn’t take out the time for a doctor’s appointment and doesn’t care as much as he should about what he eats. In comes this wife of his who runs to the doctor for the smallest of worries and says things like “sausages and salami from Green Chick do not count as a home-made meal just because they are fried at home!” This is where things got tricky for us, I realize, because we reached a middle ground. Good for him, but bad for me. It’s good to start caring more about what you eat (which is what he started doing) but it’s terrible, stupid and extremely idiotic to start caring lesser about what you eat (which is what I started doing!) I have lost my mind, people. I have gone in reverse!
My thoughts are cut short when I realize I’m back in the starting position for my next round of 5 surya namaskars. This teacher won’t let me off the hook so easy. And so we begin the sixth one.
I’m losing my health-conscious attitude at rapid speed. I recently even procrastinated a dentist’s appointment by a whole month. Does living in a house where no one else makes health their first priority my sure-shot arrival to the land of XL shirts, delayed doctor’s appointments and late night dessert binges? Don’t I have any self-control? Am I not an independent, sensible individual who can make a decision for herself that is not influenced by her environment? Have I really bent backwards so much that I am now willing to not only adjust to my husband’s family values, but also his health values?
My thoughts are barely able to keep me distracted from the pain my body is feeling now. I’m 8 surya namaskars down. Two. more *deep exhale* to go…
I recognise that compromise may well be the secret to a happy marriage, but there’s one thing they missed telling us. There are no compromises in health. There is no “ok, let’s compromise and go to the doctor 2 months later instead of 6 months (your choice) or tomorrow (my choice).” There is no space for “ok, I’ll compromise to one heavy dessert after dinner every night if you promise to do yoga with me every Sunday morning.” NO, NO, NO! There are no compromises in health! Compromise all you want in your marriage – adjust, adapt, learn to appreciate a different kind of music, find it in you to be enthusiastic about a football match. But if you think that getting married means you have an excuse to ignore your health just because it helps you “fit in” to the his or her ways, and you think you’re being a good spouse by shedding your “health freak” tag and drowning yourself in double choco chip brownies at 1 am in the night even though it’s against everything you’ve ever learnt – you’re plain old stupid. Don’t do that to yourself. There are no compromises in health.
The tenth surya namaskar is finally done, and I’m exhausted. The teacher asks me to lie down on my stomach, while she massages the stiffness out of my back. I start to relax…
The reason why fitness has been on my mind lately is because someone I knew of passed away recently. From a heart attack. At 30. I had heard of how people are getting heart attacks at a younger age, but it all sounds like a distant theory till you actually see it happen within your own circle. While I didn’t know him too well, it shook me up. And as a natural first reaction – I ordered myself a salad for dinner. And I did not further postpone my trial yoga class with a new instructor.
I have been uncomfortable in my own skin lately. My back has been in pain, my wrists have been giving me a hard time, and I don’t fit in half my clothes anymore. I don’t want to be in a Medium size shirt because it’s not in my genes to wear an M at 26 years old! I feel terrible when someone tells me “it’s alright” because it’s NOT! It IS in my control. And it’s not unreasonable or silly to want to have the health stats of someone who is 26.
I choose, fellow health freaks, to re-join the gang. Let the world say what they want to say. “But you’re so thin, you don’t need it!” “You’re still young, have a second slice of cake!” “We are all going to die one day, might as well…” WHAT? Help it along? I’m just going to let it all roll off my XS t-shirt.