Protection

“I stand in front of you. I feel the force of the blow.” – Massive Attack, Protection

I’ve been in love twice in my life and both times we were bezzies before we were lovers. (“Lovers”! Ick!)

The first time we broke up because our backgrounds and our futures were so entirely different, and we were young and still growing; and didn’t realise what we had; and disrespected our relationship with drugs and looking elsewhere.

But there was a time we would have done anything for each other and we wanted to spend the rest of our lives together and I believed that he was the most flawed yet all-round beautiful thing I had ever held.

The second time we broke up because he developed a profound mental illness and neither of us knew how to live without control over that; or how to recapture the trust in our future together; and he needed to get out and I needed to protect myself.

But I believe he was the most flawed yet all-round beautiful thing I have ever held and I would still do almost anything for him.

Sometimes I think that my story since then can be summed up as the need to protect oneself being stronger than the need to live.

Everyone has a heartbreak sob story. Boo hoo. Mine happened too late in my life and too early in the history of popular culture to become a reason to audition for X Factor. Thankfully. I guess.

But still, it anchored itself so deeply in my core and fibre that it became a form of paralysis.

Chief among my motivations, had I only known it, was that I should make no sudden movements for fear of getting cut again on a jagged edge. Life is a nightmare when you can’t locate the wound let alone stem the bleeding.

So far, so self-indulgent.

Why is this relevant to a blog about my personal experience of bikram yoga? Perhaps it’s not relevant at all. Perhaps nothing is irrelevant. Perhaps I am putting this down here because I have to let it go. (“Let go”! Ick!) Perhaps this blog is a safe place in the same way the hot room is supposed to be a safe place. (And this is a totally separate issue but before the recent rape allegations I would not have used “probably” in that sentence.) Perhaps the changes I see in the hot room mirror scare me ‘cos I think I’m returning to the body that left me unguarded and allowed me to get hurt so badly.

Maybe when I feel sick, sad, angry, confused and overwhelmed in camel or floor bow or the one before spine twist (“The one before spine twist”! Ick!) What I’m actually feeling is vulnerable and – even though my body is fighting, fighting, fighting me to let go of that protection – vulnerability is the most confusing and alarming state of all.

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Triumph turns to tears (not really, I’m being dramatic)

This post is going to be so postmodern it will actually be post-postmodern. You should hurry up and read it before the postmodern element achieves critical mass and begins to exert its own gravitational force, pulling all the other elements towards it until they all collapse in on themselves and disappear into a black hole of self-referential meta-narrative and get commissioned by BBC FOUR, and I spontaneously transform into an episode of LOST.

In the last 24 hours since my studio review I have learned of the dizzy heights and the crashing lows of internet notoriety (netoriety? Can I make that a thing? Your homework is to use that in a sentence, straight-faced, by Friday).

1. Dizzy Height

The owner of the studio I reviewed yesterday got in touch and we had a lovely conversation today. She asked me if I would like to guest blog for their website at some point in the future and – AND AND AND!!! This is the good bit – added 10 complimentary days onto my 20 day intro ticket so I can do a 30 day challenge! How awesome is that? That’s like, share my joy! So, so gracious and kind. I’m a lucky girl.

2. Crashing Low

When I was leaving the studio this evening the happy and smiling guy who greeted me yesterday was reading out my blog – the bit about how he was so unfeasibly happy and smiling. He was smiling as he read it out, but I ain’t too sure about happy. He said to his friends “Is that a compliment?”  So, the person I was describing was reading my description of him and, having written it, I was listening to it being read out loud, and he was unaware I was the person who had written it but he knew I was listening or at the very least could hear him. This, dear reader, is the postmodern part. Large cracks are starting to appear in the walls of my front room and the lights are flickering. I think I just crossed the streams. As postmodern boundaries go, Russsell Brand should be looking for new representation.

So, here’s the thing. I am SO, SO, SO, SO, SO sorry, happy and smiling guy, for making you doubt yourself and probably for giving you that sick feeling in your tummy when you realise someone is talking about you and you’re not 100% sure it’s not quite mean. I didn’t mean it to be mean, I truly didn’t. It’s just a cheap gag. I’m sorry. I’ve been reacting to quite a lot of stuff recently and had kind of free-floating anger and I’m often so pleased with myself and how I can turn a phrase that I incur some collateral damage. I’m sorry. I hope you get to read this as it’s sincere.

I might also add that your friendliness did genuinely take me by surprise as the reception staff at my old home studio, which I won’t name (Old Street) generally avoided eye contact at all costs and only learned “hi” within the last 8 months or so.

Long story short: a) judge not lest ye be judged; b) fame’s a fickle bitch.

STUDIO REVIEW: HOT BIKRAM YOGA LONDON BRIDGE.

This could be a sign:

I’m not one to make rash decisions or pronouncements (that’s a lie) but I am stopping talking about bikram yoga from now on. I won’t talk about it, I won’t social network (yeah, that’s a verb now) about it, I won’t encourage my friends to try it, I won’t give it any credit or credence at all when I receive compliments or get asked what I’ve been up to. As far as I’m concerned from now on the official story is that I go horseback riding after work every night. In fact, I might even start a back-lash whispering campaign so that everyone knows what a thorough waste of time and constant disappointment it is. I’m not even kidding. I’m so worked up about this I just opened a packet of chicken breast cold cuts with my teeth. TOO MANY people are doing bikram. Studios are TOO CROWDED.  Stop publicising it, delete all the hashtags. Today. As in: now.

How busy was the studio, Caz? Well, thanks for asking, let me tell you. I got to the studio half an hour before class in order to register as a newbie at that studio and buy my intro deal (£35 for 20 days). I was met at the top of the stairs – it’s a basement studio – by an unfeasibly happy and smiling young man who was like unfeasibly happy and smiling. Can you imagine someone being sacked from the Disney Store for being too upbeat? Good, you’re there. Had I booked online? No, I was a newbie. Ah, well we’re fully booked, would you like to be on the waiting list, we’ll get you registered and keep fingers crossed. No problem, I’ll go on the waiting list.

Go downstairs, de-shoe, de-sock, complete form. Sit and wait. The teacher, an utterly brilliant teacher called Sanjay who I have practiced with before (and the reason why I picked this class) is at the studio door taking numbers off students. Literally, when you confirm your online booking you’re given a giant red laminated number and that gets you past the double doors into the studio. No number, no practice, cowboy. This, it strikes me, is inspired. It’s so good. It’s a perfectly simple system and it gives the teachers more face time before class. Awesome. Why don’t all the studios do this? Because, to be candid, they’re not all as good as Hot Bikram Yoga London Bridge. For real.

Finally I get called over, I can go to class. I get a number. I am number 81. I’m just going to leave that one there.

I get in class and I am last to arrive (as far as I noticed) and the first thing that strikes me is the sheer amount of mirror I am surrounded by. Secondly I am struck by the pleasing elephant grey carpet. But wait, a couple of steps in I realise this isn’t carpet, this is mats. The mats are already all laid out, not only squished up side by side like floor tiles but in some cases actually overlapping. Sanjay is already going through injuries with people so I just effing PICK a mat and kneel. The class was awesome. Truly and genuinely. That’s for another post though.

At this point (I mean right now writing, not in class. Woah! Fractured timeline. Call J J Abrams. So meta.) I take a deep breath and stop reacting because when I say the studio was busy – and it clearly was – it was totally FINE. Like, actually really lovely. For one, it’s easily the nicest studio I’ve been to (in the UK, which is still pretty big as comparing it to ground floor studios with an unobstructed view of the sunset/moonarc over the Rocky Mountains just isn’t fair). There are maybe three pillars which obstruct the view of the teacher from certain vantages but they are clad in mirror so it’s kind of ok. And the sound system is great. In fact it sounded to me almost the whole time like Sanjay was behind me (I couldn’t see him) which was a nice feeling. Even though it’s a basement there is much natural light, and it has windows that shjshjshjshjshjshj open and shut like a Miami beach house. And even though there was some brushing of thigh and elbow getting in and out of posture (there may have been a slight nose on calf muscle incident also) it was totally ok as everyone seems to accept the compact nature of the practice and the two neighbours were very sweet and smiley. In fact the atmosphere in the room was much different to the one I’m used to at my old studio. Different in a good way. It was chilled and not competitive or smug at all. And I’m already looking forward to going back.

However, and this is what made me a LITTLE fricking fractious, the changing room was an utter nightmare. I’ve never had to queue to get OUT of a changing room. It’s madness. Like, properly gridlocked. I’m not one to exaggerate (that’s a lie) but even if I were (which I am) I’m not right now (I’m really not). I have been turned upside down in mosh pits, I know what I’m talking about. It’s still the nicest studio I’ve been to in the UK, though.

When I managed to chin my way out of the changing room, as primally charged as the last person on the last chopper out of Saigon, my friend from before asked me how I got on. I said, that changing room is insane. And he smiled and said “I know, right?” Yeah, I guess it is what it is and now I know. I said I would be back tomorrow for Nicola’s class and he said to come at 9pm it’s a nicer and quieter class. So maybe that’s what I will do. Make a plan, stick to it, baby steps, do what you love, I can’t do this but I’m doing it anyway, it’s all good, breathe, smile, soften your gaze. Maybe breathe some more just to be on the safe side.

Conclusion, I wasn’t prepared for how busy it would be but I loved the studio and fully endorse it. Although, clearly, bikram is complete balderdash, Emperor’s New Clothes, license to print money – and you should be doing rock climbing instead.

I’m not sure if that this wasn’t more of a freeform organic venting than a studio review but I promise I won’t let that happen again (that’s a lie).

This is how close Hot Bikram Yoga London Bridge is to the Shard, I took this standing just outside the door that leads down to reception:

I must be long-sighted. Or I must try to be.

I’m currently working at a hospital. In one of the non-clinical offices – and don’t panic, you can’t get any more non-clinical than me so I’m in the absolute right place.

We have floor-to-ceiling windows that look onto the hospital itself and last week (maybe my third day in the job) I said to my colleagues “there’s a naked man in that window”. Because there was, he was putting on deodorant. Instantly there was a flurried response, but certainly not the one I had expected. After the entire office got up to verify, the general consensus was that this was scandalous. One colleague got out her blueprints of the hospital to see what the allocation of that room and then rang the facilities office to suggest that they hang blinds in that window for “patient dignity”. (The thing is, to me, he looked terribly healthy. Not unwell at all. In fact, quite rigourous.)

I had to tell them that this – though tremendously honourable – was not the reaction I was expecting and would not have been the reaction at almost every other office I have ever worked in.

“What would have been their reaction?”

“Within seconds we would have been looking for binoculars on eBay.”

No one laughed.

Now, I ‘m no expert but even I know that yoga and yoga-adjacent blogs are supposed to have some kind of profound lesson or enlightenment along the way. Otherwise what’s the point? Well, the point is just to be.

Actually, no, that’s not it, that might be another blog. Sorry, I’ll stop before I disappear up my own facetiousnarse.

The point is this. My colleagues’ reaction made me realise I was objectifying that man’s body in a way that I revile. If I was aware of someone doing that to me I would find it obscene. And then I realised that I objectify my own body. And that is equally obscene. I don’t feel the need to furnish you with details or examples of my inner monologue, you can take my word for it. It’s pretty grim. Perhaps you do it, too. I’m not sure how to stop but living the life I live it may well be impossible, we are formed by our peers and our environment waaaaaaaaaaaay more than we like to acknowledge. And here, clearly, I am speaking just for me and not the entire human race when I say “we” as that would be arrogant. But how else do you explain the cosmetic surgery epidemic? And all the really hideous tattoos?

I’m really pleased to have made this break through and to realise how fallible I am. And when I say realise, I mean be reminded. And when I say pleased, I mean chuffing heck one more thing to work on. And when I say one more thing to work on, I mean please stop.

In a few days I will be blogging about how I use humour to shield myself from myself and from the work I neeed to be doing on my enlightenment and realisation. And when I say enlightenment and realisation, I mean enlightenment and realisation.

If I squint I can see your chakras.

If I squint I can see your chakras.