Yesterday afternoon, I posted the photo above: me, in all my sweaty, rosy-faced glory, hanging from the ceiling, wrapped in the silks of the yoga hammock. This was the end of my Air Foundation class, which uses the suspended hammocks to stretch and strengthen the body, sometimes doing classic yoga poses three feet off the ground.
I can see what people see when they look at this photo. First of all, I’m hanging from the freaking ceiling. Trust me, I know how awesome that is. But I also look strong, agile, flexible. You can see how my arms are holding me up, seemingly with ease. With my toes pointed, you can see how toned my legs are. Maybe I’m not doing a full split, but my body reads like one practiced in the art of fitness.
But as I’ve written before, social media only shows a moment, a cleverly crafted, meticulously manicured moment. As much as I love this captured moment, I am prouder of the things that led me to this point and I want to show how much truly goes into a fitness moment like this.
First, let’s take the moments leading up to this photo. The photo to the left is a step-by-step progression of how I got to that final pose. In order to reach the end result, I had to tip backwards over the bottom of the hammock and wrap my legs around the silks. Then, I had to pull myself up enough that the silks rested under my butt, like a mountain-climbing harness.
While the end result is sleek, the process most certainly was not. There was a lot of squirming and fidgeting to find the right angles to wrap my feet and pull myself up the silks. As I moved my way through the steps, my movements caused the silks to spin me back and forth. My hands felt sore from gripping the silks so tight. The silks cut into my back as I hung upside down, trying to remember the next step of choreography that would bring me from upside-down Spider-Man to gracefully sitting in the air. My arms, already exhausted from trying this and other moves again and again, felt heavy, like maybe they’d refuse to cooperate this last time.
But I did it. I got up there. Yes, to take a photo to show my friends and family a cool thing that I did. But also, because I knew I could. I was strong. I was determined. And despite never using a yoga hammock before in my life, I lifted myself up in a matter of 10 or 15 seconds, when only a half hour earlier, it took me quadruple that time to figure out what I was doing. Progress, friends.
But the implications of this small moment are even bigger than that. The strength of this photo isn’t a reflection of one class. It is the reflection of 89 classes, to be exact. Back in October, on a night that I had one too many glasses of wine at my kitchen table, I decided to take the plunge and sign up for ClassPass. My body felt unbearably thick and unmanageable. I’ve felt uncomfortable in my skin since high school, but in the final months of being 22, I said, “No more.” I was an adult in the big city who worked a full-time job and paid her bills on time. Time was of the essence to get serious about my health.
I was a pretty active kid. Dance. Soccer. Basketball. Softball. Volleyball. I never lost the opportunity to run around outside or ride my bike. As I got older, I continued with dance and volleyball, but I didn’t develop other ways to stay fit. I did a handful of Zumba classes, but I, for the most part, was afraid of the gym. I didn’t know how one properly took advantage of a gym membership, so I avoided it. I found group exercise in college, but at maximum, I did three classes a week, which eventually petered off while other things got in the way. I didn’t have a way to hold myself accountable.
I realized quickly ClassPass would work for me. Not only did it cater to my love of group exercise classes, but it gave me a lot of choices (hundreds of studios all over the city!) and there was a financial incentive to commit (cancel 12 hours or less before the class and you have to pay a fee). So, after the initial embarrassment of not knowing what I’m doing and feeling like far behind others in my classes, I set off, full-steam ahead on my fitness journey.
Reformer classes. Barre classes. Kickboxing classes. Cardio. Flexibility training. Strength training. With each punch, each squat, each tuck, each push, each pull, each lift, I was changing my body. That’s what my instructors say. That every movement was making a change to my body, and little changes add up.
For every change I made to my body, I was making a change to my routine. For the first time in my life, I was someone that worked out every day. Someone who wanted to work out every day. Someone who was excited to choose the next day’s class and get up, even if it was before the sun even rose, to attend and put in 100%. I’ve turned into someone unrecognizable to the me of mere months ago. Fitness has become a reflex, an obvious part of each and every day, and with each day, my body has reaped the benefits of my better choices, which brings us back to today.
This picture is a moment, a fun moment, of me doing something new and different and daring, but it shows so much more than that. It shows the months of hard work that made my body strong enough to even attempt something like this. It shows the confidence I’ve gained through these classes, because I didn’t lose faith and give up when I couldn’t do it at first. Like with every part of every class, I tried and tried until it clicked and I could do it. It shows that the woman of five months ago who didn’t like what she saw in the mirror or what she felt when she sat down at a desk in skinny jeans is a woman who no longer exists. Now she is a woman who yes, still wants to make changes and yes, still stumbles on her journey towards healthy living, but has a better handle on the tools she has available to her and the right emotional attitude to use them.
We all know a picture is worth a thousand words and we know that context can change the way you see a photo entirely. But for once, I wanted to show that the context for an Instagram photo doesn’t have to be a negative. It can be a positive. It can be that you see a brief snapshot of a long journey of personal improvement. It can be that you see a triumph only reached through hard work and attitude adjustment.
I think it’s important to point out how this moment fits in the timeline of my fitness, because I don’t want people to think these things magically happen. It takes time and patience, discipline and determination, commitment and confidence. Anyone can maneuver their way into a yoga pose in the hammock, I have no doubt. You just have to motivate yourself to get there.
Until Next Time,
Casey Brown | Gal about Town