Monday, June 11, 2012
Stuff Black Girls Do: Hot Yoga -Tia
I'm fairly certain that at some point in their lives many of our readers have heard some variation of the following, "(Insert activity here)!!! Black people don't do that!!!" For me it was swimming. I've been tall my whole life. I wanted to be 6 ft, but have had to settle for just south of 5'10". My father and uncles played basketball and as I was tallest and one of the oldest girls in the family, and as there were no boys yet, I was expected to play basketball.
I didn't really care about the sport so I never really applied myself. But I ALWAYS loved to swim. I remember going to a swimming summer camp when I was five and getting bumped up to "big kids" group (8 and up) because I was such a strong swimmer. So when high school came along, I made a half-hearted attempt to play basketball before completely abandoning it to swim. My father was just happy I was staying out of trouble and doing something competitive. So he didn't give me too much grief about turning my back on being a star forward.
But from practically the first day, I remember some of my black associates (those broads WEREN'T friends) telling me that I should find another sport because black people didn't swim. As someone who'd spent their life being "not black enough" their tired reasoning for turning my back on something that I loved and was good at fell on deaf ears. I saw no logic in their statements. Just because YOU don't know how to swim doesn't mean I don't. And just because you have a relaxer and as such CAN'T swim doesn't mean I can't. Yeah...my braids are looking like the way now, aren't they suckas?!?!?!?!
So being a BGLU, I've found that there are always going to be things that we do that may not be considered the "norm" for black girls, be it because of lack of opportunity or general disinterest. But as a self appointed arbiter of the anti-establishment, I feel it is my responsibility to inform all of my fellow BGLUs and anyone else who will listen of the merits of things that "Black people don't do." First up: Hot Yoga.
I'm currently nursing tendonitis, bursitis and a micro fracture in my knee. I had a bad collision with a male competitor from another team during a kickball game. Yes, I play in an adult kickball league. Yes, it is all kinds of fun...until you get hurt. As I am nursing so many ailments, my ortho doctor has informed me that until I fully heal, I'm to do nothing weight bearing. No running, biking, Stairmaster, elliptical, rowing...NOTHING! I have basically been relegated to the activities of senior citizens. And I'm teetering on the verge of going crazy from inactivity.
During a follow up visit, he gave me the okay to do Yoga as long as I did it with modifications. As I am always in need of doing sports to the absolute extreme, I immediately knew that if I was going to do Yoga it was going to be Hot Yoga.
My first class was nothing short of an experience. I was still in my knee brace and informed the teacher that I would need modifications so as not to put any undue strain on my knee. I had no clue that the modifications were the LEAST of my worries.
As someone who has NEVER done Yoga before, I was certain that the positions the instructor was calling out were complete gibberish. No way these were words. My 10-month-old niece makes the exact same noises. But apparently, my virgin ear was simply unaccustomed to the sounds of...seriously...what language is that?
I did my best to keep up and watched the other attendees attentively. (At this particular studio the teachers don't actually do the poses so as not to wear themselves out because they have several classes to teach per day.) I like to be great at things the first time I do them. (It's an illness...I know.) I was NOT great at Yoga. In my mind, "Sir, how is there supposed to be no space between my arms and my ears?!?" Also in my mind, "You want me to put what WHERE?!?" For all of the times I've ever clowned someone about Yoga being nothing but breathing and stretching, I humbly extend my apologies. That mess IS. NOT. A. GAME.
I continued to try to follow the instructor's commands while watching the other people in the class for guidance. Watching proved to be difficult as I was sweating BUCKETS of perspiration. It's hard to see when your eyes are stinging from sweat, hair products and skin moisturizers. Sweet LORD!!! They are not kidding when they say hot. It was easily 100 degrees in that tiny little room. And so help me, the instructor kept adjusting the heat. During garudasana (see the picture to the right) two things became clear: 1. My body doesn't bend that way...yet. 2. Even if it did, how would I be expected to keep that pose as my body was basically an oil slick from the combination of sweat and lotion? And sir, if you touch that thermostat again, I'm going to Namaste you in the ankle.
Right about the time I was seeing spots and certain that I was going to pass out from the heat, dehydration, exposure and anything else you could think of, the instructor told us that we were wrapping up and to assume the...whatever the position is where you lie flat on your back. It has a name I'm sure, but at that moment all I could think was, "YESSSS!!! I WON'T be remembered as the black girl who passed out in Yoga."
Even though it was my first time doing it, I knew none of the positions, I was CERTAIN at some point I was going to eat floor because I lost consciousness, I genuinely loved the experience. I woke up the next day sore in places I hadn't been sore in for some time. And in my mind the more pain I'm in the following day, the better the previous day's workout was.
I must admit it was a little intimidating walking into a new situation with no frame of reference as to how it would go AND being the only person of color (I always want to be awesome and represent for coloured girls in situations like that.) But once the class was over I had a sense of liberation. I only know one other black girl who consistently does Yoga and I think it's a shame. More of us should branch out into things we're not typically known for. I enjoy running and basketball...now(something about getting older and not being obligated to play made me embrace the sport more.) But those are the activities that people expect black girls to do. Let's be different. Let's be "abnormal." Life is far too short to skip activities because you're the "wrong" shade. It's time to break out of the box and try something different. Even if you have to do it alone or do it afraid. Trust me, you'll never regret trying.