I was the kind of kid that was picked last for kickball. It wasn’t so much that I was uncoordinated as it was that I tended to space out and forget what the rules of the game were. It seemed like the ball was always either flying by my face, untouched, or flying into my face, totally unexpected.
So team sports, for me, were out. My mom got me into a dance class when I was 3. At the end of each class, the teacher would turn the lights out, put up the disco ball, and turn on some Michael Jackson. Fun, right? Except I had seen the music video for “Thriller,” and I was totally TERRIFIED! My mom told me that if I wouldn’t go out there and dance during disco horror hour, I was fired, and couldn’t go to dance class anymore.
It was determined that my brother was the athletic kid and I was the academic kid. Still, my mom was concerned about my lack of exercise, so she encouraged me to restart dance lessons (tap, jazz, and ballet) when I was 6. Every Saturday I’d go to dance class, followed up by McNuggets, and my exercise requirements were fulfilled.
I quit dancing shortly before my father died. I was 13, and my June recital was coming up. It was the first one that my dad wouldn’t be able to attend, since he was bedridden. I didn’t want to do it anymore. It didn’t make any sense. Nothing made any sense. I became depressed.
In high school, I faced mandatory P.E. (“physical education”). We got to choose our teachers, so I identified the teacher least likely to make me do anything and chose him as often as possible. I was always ready with an excuse not to move, and he was usually willing to accept it. I glided through until my requirements were met.
As I drifted on from high school into college, I became even more stagnant. I moved to a very flat and bicycle friendly town, but I didn’t take advantage of it. Even short walks winded me. Getting anywhere seemed impossible. I was swallowed by depression and spent most of my time sitting in front of my computer.
My miserable state led to a breakup which drove me to my breaking point. I needed to do something to rescue myself. So I enrolled in a weightlifting class and a running class to fill up my time and hopefully feel slightly less awful. I wasn’t surprised to find that I didn’t enjoy weightlifting and despised running, BUT I also noticed that they improved my mood dramatically.
The classes ended, and I tried to keep up my physical activity, but it was hard without any attendance requirements. I dabbled in skateboarding and badminton. I engaged in the questionable sport of running up and down stairs, hollering and drunk. I didn’t find a form of joyful movement that really worked for me, but I was certainly moving around more, and I knew that movement was essential to my well being.
Finally, adult(ish) life. I had a few rounds of trying to get into cycling. It took a long time to figure out what I liked and didn’t like. Likes: sense of freedom, natural surroundings, and flat ground. Dislikes: traffic, loud noises, and hills. Most importantly I figured out that so-called comfy bikes, like cruisers, are too heavy and cumbersome. I feel most comfortable on a lightweight road bike and wear a chamois to keep the downstairs happy.
In my early 20’s, I unwittingly got sucked into a yoga class, and was surprised to find that I enjoyed it a lot. Then, my instructor moved away, and with her, the fun times. I tried just about every yoga studio in Oakland and Berkeley that offered a free trial. In those classes I suffered boredom, discomfort, and self-consciousness. I loved how I felt afterward, but I hated the actual class time, so I gave up.
Years later I thought to myself: there has to be more than one fun yoga teacher in the world. So I began searching again, and eventually found a class that I love. It’s a fast paced class, with music, sage advice, and the occasional silly joke. Do you see the theme emerging here? Here are the keys to building a joyful movement practice:
- Be willing to experiment. Try new things, old things, different varieties of things.
- Figure out exactly what you don’t like, and don’t force yourself to do it- EVER.
- Be determined, but patient. You’ll find what brings you joy if you keep looking.
Through experimenting, I figured it out. I need flexibility. I get bored. I can’t do the same thing all the time. So I tried a bunch of things to see what I enjoyed. I now have a list of favorites: hiking, biking, dance, and vinyasa yoga. When I get bored, I rotate. And when circumstances change, I adapt.
I recently broke my foot (not the first time- alas!) and I had to adjust once again. Here is a slice of what I’ve been up to lately: