GUYS. I did the first headstand in my life EVER in my yoga class yesterday. Let me attempt to explain what a huge and momentous deal this is.
For years and years I’ve told myself and believed that I am too big to do tricks/inversions with my body. I wasn’t a child who ran around outside learning to cartwheel and walk on her hands; I preferred to stay indoors playing with my guinea pigs and doing interesting craft projects with my Oodles Caboodles kit. God, they were great. Does anyone else remember these from 90’s Australia? My Dad used to go to the newsagent to get the paper and come back with a clear plastic pencil case filled with bits of fluffy foam-covered wire and blue-tac and wooden balls and googley eyes and shit… glitter, glue… you know. It was awesome. I’ve tried to find those kits online but no joy. I guess the craft industry has evolved since 1994.
In Year 7 I had the most amazing teacher, Mrs Pendal. She was the pride and joy of St Columbas’ Primary School, to the extent that even the troublesome children who hated school knew that they just had to stick it out til Year 7 because then they’d have kind, funny Mrs Pendal and everything would be right with the world.
Mrs Pendal immediately recognised that my skills lay in writing and craft projects, and that being forced to participate in PE benefited nobody – least of all the school. She couldn’t let me skip an entire year of PE, but I knew she understood that Friday afternoons were harrowing times for me. I distinctly remember a Friday towards the end of the school year when our class was sent out to the basketball court to exert ourselves together for one of the last times before we all went off to high school. We were split into two teams. At the end of the register, my name hadn’t been called out. “Rebecca, you can stay here and read your book, if you like.” YES PLEASE THAT IS ALL I HAVE EVER WANTED TO DO, THANK YOU MRS PENDAL YOU ARE THE PRIDE AND JOY OF THIS SCHOOL.
It wasn’t that I hated being active; I loved riding my bike to and from school, I went on family bike rides around the Swan River with my Mum and Dad, I liked to do laps under water in the pool and see how many I could do without coming up for air, and at one point when we lived in Darwin for a year I became proficient at cycling around my suburb hands-free, like a really cool person. It was the highlight of my 1996, along with the purchase of Hit Machine Volume 12 featuring Waterfalls by TLC and other such classics. Living an active life is fine by me; being forced to participate in team sports and to compete is not.
By the time I got to high school I was overweight and ashamed of my body. I didn’t look like “everyone else” and I wanted to draw as little attention to my body as possible. I rarely went to PE because a) PE sucks, and b) I didn’t want to be seen in a bathing suit by the athletic boarding girls, or forced to race and compete and lose and have everyone know how unfit I was. Also, what 14 year-old girl wants to play cricket? Fucking nobody, that’s who. Thank god I went to an all girls’ school and didn’t also have to contend with boys seeing my body. I think that would have sent me over the edge.
At drama school I was one of the heaviest in my year and a non-dancer. I know what you’re thinking – how did someone who hates their body so much end up training for a profession where people stare at and judge your appearance all day long? I DON’T KNOW, GUYS.
I was embarrassed that most people already knew how to handstand and cartwheel and backward roll whilst I, a 23-year old woman (which also made me the oldest person in my year) couldn’t do any of it. I hated having to try to heave my body up into the air in front of other people. I didn’t want anyone to see the strain, or hear the weight of my legs crashing onto the sprung floor. GSA was an incredibly supportive environment and I count those classmates as my family but even whilst surrounded by chums in a safe and nurturing drama school, my brain was still screaming, “everyone can see how fat and heavy you are, baaahahahaha”.
Today, I’ve been practicing yoga on a regular basis for coming up to three years and it has changed my fucking life, guys. It’s really hard to love your body when you’ve been mean to it for 20+ years but yoga is instrumental in slowly rewiring my brain, strengthening my body, flooding my soul with self love and loads of other hippie shit that you read about yoga. IT’S ALL TRUE, GUYS. I love that even in a class full of people, everyone is focused on their own practice. There’s no comparison, no having to keep up with anyone else. I love that you can break a sweat, increase your heart rate and boost your mood for the entire day without having to do sprints or pick up a sodding cricket bat.
I never thought I’d be able to lift my legs up into the air on my own. Yesterday I lifted them up, felt them touch the wall and then immediately started crying whilst upside down. It was very glamorous. And also, very overwhelming. As I balanced there with blood rushing to my head (so to speak – did you know there’s a valve in your neck that stops blood flooding your brain in these situations? Clever!) I was overcome by all the negative body thoughts that have circled through my brain over the years. They all hit me in a flash and then dissipated as quickly as they came. It was like there was another little voice in my head that had elbowed its way to the front to say, “HI – I HAVE BEEN TRYING TO TELL YOU, YOU CAN DO THIS. YOU’RE UPSIDE DOWN NOW. PUSH OFF, EVERYONE.”* (He has to shout because he’s so used to being ignored, you see.)
So – I was wrong. My body can do lots of cool things, and just to make sure it wasn’t a fluke I tried doing another few headstands at home last night… and I did! Even after a G&T, which is rather admirable, I think. Now I’m gonna work towards doing a headstand without a wall for balance and then maybe a pincha. Then, Circque de Soleil.
If there is something you’ve always wanted to do with your body but have convinced yourself that you can’t, then… I reckon you should go out there and try it. I bet you’ll surprise yourself. Do some yoga! You’ll be amazed at how quickly the strength builds in your body.
Thank you yoga! Thank you body! xxx
I’ve been incredibly inspired by Dana Falsetti. Go check her out. She’s badass, and living proof that all body shapes and sizes can be strong and flexible.
* “Push off” is my favourite Home & Away insult. Let’s bring it into RL. Push off, Irene.