Saturday, March 12, 2016

Fat Girl On A Bar: Body Knowledge

The other day I reached behind me, and for whatever reason I found myself acutely aware of the way  my muscles stretched and moved. It was fucking profound. I kind of lost myself thinking about my body and the way it can move. It's miraculous really.

I've never been really aware of my body. I don't think about it much to be honest. Even in the midst of being in the best physical health I've been in, I sculpted my body and ran without thinking a lot about the way my body moved. I mean there was a cursory awareness but I didn't find myself really pondering the way my body looked when I ran. I'd think about technique only long enough to keep myself from injury. With running it was even more removed than weights because running was my escape. I ran to not think about my body.

And it's deeper than just exercise. I don't think most of us really spend much time thinking about our insides so to speak. Even when pregnant and going through my natural childbirth phrase, I just didn't think about the mechanics of how my body birthed. It's not something I needed to think about unless of course something went wrong. I became quite aware of important a big toe could be when I broke it twice in a six month period. When my gallbladder went wonky, I definitely felt in tune with the pain that comes from something going dreadfully bad.

End result of this kind of body unawareness is that I often felt disconnected from my body in space. I was always the "clumsy" kid constantly falling downstairs and bumping into things (the aforementioned toe break happened because I kept stubbing my toe on our dining room bench). Even as adult I am not often aware of my body in relationship. And most of the time it's just not a big deal. Until I fall in love with the bar.

Watching our instructor do a hip pullover was the first time, I started to realized that my body unawareness might be a problem. Even with Ashley giving me a boost, I couldn't get my body positioned right on the bar. I ended up on the floor every time.

"I just can't see my body," I told her laughing at how ridiculous that sounded.

With weights I've become reliant on mirrors to check my position. I've never had to check my position through feeling. For the first time, I had to move my body in relation to space and an object. A thin object hanging on two ropes. Which means that not only did I have to figure out the way my body looked on the bar, I had to do it on something that is always moving.

I went home from the hip pullover class determined to see myself in the dolphin position. I visualized myself over and over again. This worked for things like shooting star, and later would work for spear and bird's nest. But with hip pullover, it was no good. I could see myself in my head in that position but when I got on the bar, I couldn't see it anymore. It took almost the entire session for me to realize that I needed to feel myself.

A couple of classes ago, I struggled with all the moves but at some point I realized that I could get into dolphin from hip pullover. I'd been able to get into Catcher's Hang without too much trouble because my body just kind of flipped into that move. Ashley pointed out while watching me that I kept moving my leg to the outside of the rope instead of the inside. I focused the next time I went over, and I felt my leg starting to swing out which I quickly corrected and bam I was in position. A very uncomfortable position.

Last night sucked so much. I worked my ass off and my hands were raw and blistered by the end of the night. And I didn't do one fucking new move. It was a hard hit. I was used to my bad class good class routine so having another bad night really threw me. I didn't cry this time. No I was pissed. I've been working my ass off. I spend every night of the week doing some kind of exercise including very intense cardio sessions at the Y three days a week. I do planks and other ab work at home. I've been doing assisted pull ups. And last night I felt like I had zero strength.

"You don't have the strength to do these things," I thought bitterly watching everyone else do the moves as I sat on the mat feeling pissed off at my body.

We ended the class again with standing moves, and I tried to find solace that I could do those with relative ease. But as I sulked on my way home, I told H, "Those don't take any strength. I'm good at them because I can be weak and still be good at them."

But I thought about that a bit more today. I remembered the way my shoulder shifted as I put my arm around me to reach. And I thought about the best moment I had last evening. See I sometimes get to watch a Beginner II class while the big girls' do a conditioning class. Yesterday they did a routine where they moved on the bar with their eyes closed. Improv style. I found myself intrigued and a little scared as some of the women got so dizzy they were almost sick. But as I moved into skater, I leaned back, threw my arms, and....closed my eyes. As I spun softly in the air, I just lost myself in something new: my own body. I could feel the robe pushed against my butt along my leg and up my neck, and the way my heel drove into the bar's elbow and pushed the bar away. I could place myself in space with a sense much different than anything I've ever used before.

Why do the stand moves do this for me when the other ones don't is something I've been thinking about for the last few hours. Perhaps it's that the standing moves do appeal to my strengths: legs, balance, and a likely unhealthy love of the robe. I think some of it is that I feel like I have more steps to get into the moves. There seems like there is more prep. Regardless, I realized that yes strength plays into this but there's also the need for me to slow down just a bit and place myself in space. I thought I was good to go because I can see my body in my head doing the tricks but the problem is that is not enough. I have to get to that other place of seeing.

This intimate relationship with my body and how it moves gives me so much more than just some funkadelic moments. I find that knowing where I am in space also gives me a new appreciation for my body. Combined with that patience I talked about last week, I feel like I'm just getting to know myself for the first time. I pay more attention to the way I twist and the way I reach not just in exercise but also in the simple action of doing dishes or writing a grocer list. I'm suddenly curious about how the muscles work  to do what they do. But mostly I am just in awe that flying lead to me feeling so very grounded.

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