I had never been to Las Vegas, nor had I actually cared to visit, at least not for any type of vacation. But it was my older brother Peter’s birthday, and he had convinced me (and my husband John) to go with him and his wife. While John did not bat an eye, I could not imagine spending time in smoke-filled rooms gambling the night away. “C’mon, Meg!” my brother pleaded. “You’ll love it. You don’t have to gamble at all. You can see shows, eat great food, and our hotel even has an incredible gym and spa!”
And that is how I found myself in a hot, small multi-mirrored room at the Venetian hotel, Las Vegas, surrounded by about eleven other people, all in the same, “Eagle Pose.” Although we had signed up for a completely different abs strength training class, somehow the schedule was switched last minute, and a medium level yoga class was being offered in its place. While mentally I knew the class would prove to be a disaster given my inability to balance well on one (extremely small) foot baring only one toe, I decided to try it anyway. “Shift your weight onto your left leg,” I heard the instructor say aloud as she began to expertly demonstrate the pose. “Now, cross your right thigh over your….” And then, everyone turned in my direction after hearing a rather loud thud; I had fallen completely over, even off my mat, onto the hardwood floor. I felt a room full of stares, but then everyone quickly averted their eyes, continued with their own pose, pretending not to notice. “Are you okay?” My sister-in-law mouthed in my direction. I nodded with a half-smile. In my effort to balance, my left foot had failed both me and my effort to look like an Eagle. After a while, I completely gave up and began to do sit-ups in the back, figuring I would have the abs work-out after-all.
No, yoga was not meant for the likes of me.
“Hey, Meg.” It was my friend Beth calling. “Want to join me at my awesome spinning class? I’ll pick you up and you can be my guest!” An avid lover of biking (outdoors), I thought… “Why not?”
And that is how I found myself in a hot, small, multi-mirrored room at a local Fitness Center’s spin class, surrounded by about eleven others. The instructor was an extremely fit and attractive woman, who immediately filled the room with blaring, yet appealing music. As we all began our spin cycle, I felt grateful for the invitation, and a quick sense of relief. This was not only not fun, but arguably easy for me. I pedaled faster, grinning at my friend. Yes, it was true that I couldn’t really cycle and simultaneously reach for my water bottle like everyone else in the room, but I didn’t mind. This felt invigorating! I was more than thrilled…..until I wasn’t. After about ten minutes, the instructor chimed through her small microphone headset, “Okay, now everyone! It’s time to really see you sweat!” In that moment, as a new song blasted through the surround sound, the entire class began to stand up on their bikes and pedal simultaneously. “Cool!” I thought. But in that moment, as I attempted to stand and pedal, my tiny feet failed me. I had to immediately sit back down. It was clear that I didn’t have enough length in my foot to balance my body. And so, notwithstanding the class methodically following the lead of the instructor (up and down, up and down, as they pedaled to the loud music), I simply pedaled for the remainder of the class with my rear attached to the seat.
No, spinning was not meant for the likes of me.
A few weeks ago a close friend called me up on a Sunday morning, asking me if I wanted to join her in a class at our local YMCA called, “Shabam.” The gesture in itself instantly made me feel warm and appreciative, but I waffled, unsure if I wanted to once again subject myself to something I might not be physically capable of doing. And, not to mention, the name “Shabam” reminded me of something Super Heroes might scream out after accomplishing something courageous. “Hmmm, I am not sure,” I began to drift into a comfortable world of excuses. After all, I didn’t need these classes. Years ago we built a gym in our basement. I love the machines we have and treasure the time catching up on all my favorite pre-recorded shows as I work out. “Meg, it’s so much fun. Just cheesy dance moves with fun music.” Knowing me extremely well, she continued, “I know what you are thinking, that you can’t do everything. But I think you can and it will be fun!” I thanked her, but declined, at least initially.
To be clear—I have reached a point (or, as I like to call it, “dignity ladder level”) that I really don’t care if I went to a class and fell flat on my butt in front of everyone else. I wouldn’t feel humiliated in the least. Rather, the issue is more that I love to exercise and in particular to dance. The thought of trying something I absolutely adore and then learning it is beyond me physically can be, well, somewhat depressing. By not going to the class, I can skip the possibility of having that post-class “down feeling,” where everyone else is capable of doing things beyond my abilities. “It is just a fact of my life that I have to accept,” I said aloud to my friend.
“Meg, I need to remind you that it isn’t just you–we all have our challenges. I know yours are visible but I think you should realize how many people fall into the camp of feeling trapped by their bodies, even their minds. I totally understand, but I really would love for you to go to Shabam class with me. Not only do I think it is something you can do, I think we’ll have a blast.”
And that is how I found myself recently in a hot, small, multi-mirrored room at a local YMCA class, surrounded by about eleven others. There were two attractive female instructors who immediately filled the room with blaring, yet appealing music. As I began to follow (or at least try to keep up with) the moves, I began to feel like this was actually something I could in fact manage. From the days of doing ballet as a little girl in Pakistan with my Mom as our class instructor, I had always been able to keep-up on the dance floor.
To my relief, there was hardly any balancing as we “shabammed” (is that even a verb?), and I was overjoyed. I glanceded over and saw my friend beaming at me. “Are you having a good time?” I was, indeed. And in that instant, I noted a woman in our class struggling to keep up, who clearly had no natural sense of beat. When the class moved to the left, she moved to the right. When the music began to transition to a new song, we all ran to grab our water bottles waiting for us in the back of the room. The woman looked at me. “Isn’t this fun? I know I have no sense of rhythm and I am probably embarrassing myself, but I always wanted do something like this, even if it is something I really can’t do well.”
And with that, as if someone slapped me on the face really hard, I was provided with a necessary reminder. As much as I often think I am one of the small percentage of people struggling with what is possible, I am actually not that unique after all. As I find myself consumed with my own lines to cross, I often forget that people otherwise physically “normal” are similarly walking their own lined path. What can I say, other than,“SHABAM!” I had achieved my own heroic accomplishment it seemed.
Sometime in the middle of the Shabam class, the music changed to Meatloaf’s “Paradise By the Dashboard Light.” As the girl sang the lyrics, “Before we go any further, do you love me? Will you love me forever….” the instructor began to make a heart-shape with her hands put together as she danced and everyone followed her lead. For a moment I hesitated–it was the one “move” I was physically incapable of doing. But as I watched the same rhythm-less woman dance in the wrong direction making the heart with her hands, I smiled as I simply danced and patted my hands on my heart—my own personal adaptation for the move. In that moment I realized it didn’t matter that I couldn’t make a heart with my very differently-shaped hands. After all, and most importantly, with this experience I had already found the heart to try new things. I didn’t need my hands.