I’m not one for setting hard and fast fitness goals but I do need to get off my arse and do more active stuff. Every time I peel myself away from my desk, my sore back and throbbing legs remind me that I’ve, yet again, sat for way too long without actually doing anything physical apart from tap keys and pick up my phone every so often to check Pokemon Go.
So when I was invited at short notice to go to a yoga class yesterday, I couldn’t really pass up the chance – maybe it was nature’s way of telling me I need to get out more? After my routine dental appointment was out of the way and I’d rushed back home (grabbing the Poke gyms and stops along the way of course, I’m not an animal), I threw some of my finest workout gear on and grabbed a lift to the place where all the yoga-ness was happening that evening.
Saying yes to more stuff
By the way, I’m trying to force myself to say ‘yes’ to more stuff. That’s not a New Year’s resolution thing either, just a general life thing. Events are usually nowhere near as daunting as they seem like they will be, and it’s helping me with anxiety issues. You should try it out!
In my mind’s eye, a few things happened. Firstly, I had pictured a warmly lit room with colourful drapery, incense burning, and a middle aged hippy lady teaching us about our chakras and how to ground ourselves while we sweated out our troubles with complex yoga poses. I also imagined a swanky looking fitness studio filled with amazing looking women in their expensive yoga clothes with things like ‘Is it wine ‘o clock yet?’ written across their tops, and wrinkling their noses at me as I lift a leg and audibly fart into the silence. Clearly I need to stop watching so many films.
The Queen jumping rope
We arrived in the sub-zero temperature gym hall which smelled of, well, my old school’s gym hall to be honest. It’s a local gym I’ve never been to before, with graffiti style art of odd things like the Queen jumping rope whilst telling the members to never give up on their dreams. It wasn’t the hippy haven or the snooty health club, but I liked it.
Now, many years ago when I was about twelve, we had this shop in our town centre full of whimsical trinkets and books. With my pocket money I bought a book on yoga from this shop for a couple of quid, and ended up learning a bit out of it – what a downward dog is, and how to sit in a lotus position (which I was never able to master, by the way). That’s pretty much it on the yoga front though, but of course when the nice instructor asked me if I had any experience with yoga, I lied and said ‘yes, I practice at home occasionally!’.
What I’d imagined was going to be heavily spiritual, or cruelly competitive, wasn’t either of those things. Or maybe halfway between the two, but in a nice way. My husband was the only bloke there, but it didn’t feel exclusively for women. The environment helped, I think. We just borrowed chewed-up looking yoga mats and these block things made from foam and set up a place wherever we wanted in the middle of the floor of a room which was filled with things like squat racks and other weightlifting apparatus that I won’t pretend I know about. It wasn’t pretentious and I didn’t once roll my eyes as the instructor welcomed us and started us off with some basic stretches, fully aware that there were a few of us not totally adept at contorting our bodies into human pretzels.
Something hit me about ten minutes in though, which shocked me but I guess it shouldn’t have: all this time, these YEARS, slumped at my desk, writing, gaming, or whatever else, has taken quite its toll upon my body. As a teenager I used to be quite athletic, did my fair share of walking and used to compete as a runner. But nearly thirty years old and having no compulsory PE lessons has left me not able to move very much.
I wouldn’t have thought that simply ‘touching my ear to my shoulder’ would be as challenging as it actually was, or even a ‘proper’ pose at all – but all those night hunched over my keyboard have clearly given me ‘tech neck’ – a phrase I’d never heard before that night, but I suppose it makes sense: we all crane our necks to look at our phones, slump in front of the TV, hunch when writing or concentrating or playing games. And if you do that shit enough, it’ll start to affect your body.
It scared me a bit, to be honest, and I instantly had images flashing up in my mind of having such a humped back from tech overuse that my head looks like it’s coming out of my chest by the time I’m forty.
I thought I was quite fit for someone who works from home and doesn’t have a planned exercise regime. But just because I can walk miles without getting tired, doesn’t mean I’m healthy.
Throughout the hour-long session, I found most of the poses much more challenging than I had expected – one or two too painful to actually do safely – and it dawned on me that perhaps I need to invest a bit more time taking care of my body.
3.2 million deaths a year are related to physical inactivity
We spend on average 12 hours a day sat at our desks or in front of the telly
Smartphones increase anxiety, as does being online all the time
It wasn’t just in the strain those poses put on my body physically that made me realise that spending less time in front of a screen isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but the fact that doing something active out of the house, when I would have normally been tapping away at my keyboard, gave me thinking time. Time with my body. I know how awfully cheesy that sounds, but until doing a class where I felt pressured to actually make an effort at holding positions and being uncomfortable, I think I’d been in denial about my quality of life and found it easier to bury my nose in games or writing.
I guess what I’m trying to say is:
You don’t win medals for sitting in front of your PC for several hours on end.
You need to spend some time away from tech, moving your body.
Exercise can be fun, and fitness apps are cool, but it’s beneficial to switch off and be away from them for a little while sometimes.
Before the tech creeps up and gives you a terrifying chest-head. Nobody wants that. Where would you buy your clothes?
Yoga you can try at home
I’d recommend joining a class near you if you can, because if you’re like me and you need to have other people around you to make you feel bad about picking up your phone every few minutes, it can be helpful. But, if you’d rather not then I’d suggest checking YouTube. I found this video, which was quite similar to the class I did and perfect for beginners: