CW: suicidal ideation, body image
You might have noticed I didn’t write a newsletter last week. This wasn’t intentional, as I always try to let everyone know if I’m going to miss a week. It’s just that there were a few things going on last week out in the world! And I, like many people, didn’t go a whole lot of sleep last week and spent a lot of time too nervous to really do anything productive. Consider this my apology for depriving you of the newsletter for a week unannounced. That perfectly leads me into what I want to talk about though. On Wednesday morning, when things were still looking pretty uncertain, I did some yoga. It’s been yoga that has gotten me through this hell year of 2020.
(Also want to preface this by saying that this is very central to my own body image and relationship with my weight and fitness, which is not the healthiest relationship. There is nothing wrong with anyone’s body just how it is. You are beautiful and perfect and your relationship with your body is no one’s business except your own.)
I have had a weird relationship with my body for a few years now. During college I did enough walking to class and activities with friends that even though I was eating like garbage and housing a lot of alcohol every week, I was still in shape. Once I graduated and moved back home, all of that physical activity disappeared, and I ended up putting on quite a bit of weight. I’ve never really been happy about how I look, but that was a low point for my own body image. A health scare caused me to give up alcohol and soda for a few months, and I ended up losing a lot of that gained weight again (I still don’t drink soda except for rare occasions). While my weight was back down, I was not fit at all.
About a year ago, needing to save money but also wanting to get in shape, I began working out at home. I have a set of small dumbbells and googled a few workouts to do at home and got to work. I quickly discovered though that there were some issues with this approach. To begin with, I’m an inpatient person. I wanted to get to the next level of workouts and increase my frequency before I was ready. To compound that, I was also brand new to working out in any sort of concentrated manner. That means I didn’t really know what proper form was, and even after watching videos I had no one there to correct my bad habits in real time. This ended up putting a lot of stress on my joints and giving myself some lingering pain without many benefits. And then the pandemic hit.
I now had no option to go to a gym even if I wanted to pay a membership fee, and my routine was heavily disrupted by the lockdown. I ended up stopping working out altogether, which put me into a dark place. In May, after a particularly frightening period of depression and suicidal ideation, I restarted therapy after a couple years away. It was my therapist who suggested yoga to me, and I am here to tell you that it has been a major part of getting me through the week.
From a logistics standpoint, it’s much easier to do at home than a lot of other workouts. I spent roughly $20 on a yoga mat and use the athletic clothes I already have. Because of the more deliberate pace, there’s more time for me to adjust to the correct form. I also use the app Down Dog, which has a pretty low subscription fee and has a ton of videos and different levels of instruction.
Physically, don’t ever let anyone tell you yoga isn’t hard work. The routines that Down Dog cook up for me routinely kick my ass. There’s a ton of strength and balance required to do yoga well. Mentally, the focus on breathing and mindfulness allow me to have a few minutes of the day where my mind isn’t fixated on my problems.
As it seems unlikely that the world will go back to normal anytime soon, I’m going to stick with yoga in order to cope. And maybe one day I’ll actually be able to touch my toes while bending over.