Tango til they’re sore*

 

dance
Photo by Dee Hill Photography

Tango til’ they’re sore*

So, the Tango begins my friends. I’m taking things to the next level.

Many years ago, I was a bartender with a service industry schedule. which meant, sleep all day and oftentimes, party all night. I smoked, I drank, I occasionally did other things that contributed to the lifestyle. One day, and quite honestly, I don’t remember some big moment of clarity, I traded in smoking and most of the rest for early morning hot-yoga. I remember vomiting. I remember being really really hot. I remember sticking with it for the most part, although our memory can twist things sometimes, huh?

I dropped weight. Whole sizes, actually. I wore short-shorts and got free coffee that I attributed to this newly discovered body. I still tended bar. I still drank. I still kept poor sleeping habits. But all of a sudden, everyone around me saw me as a “healthy person”. I think I was depressed and pretty lonely. But I portion controlled, watched makeover shows while on the treadmill and chose work or sleep over eating. I did not make many healthy decisions.  Then… not long after this phase, I dropped to a size 6, my lowest ever and I was elated in my depression. I had smaller boobs (yay!!!!) and a giant head on an oddly small frame. And I got compliment after compliment – which I hated because I saw every “wow, you look great” as “wow, you look great which is good because before when you were bigger you were pretty much a failure with no control over yourself so never, ever, ever go back to that cuz you are clearly not as strong as you think you are”.

It was a strange time. On one hand, it was possibly the most amazing thing to put clothes on without the 20-minute assessment of bumps and rolls. I just dressed and left – and it was awesome. But I hesitated anytime someone expressed “awe” or “pleasure” at how I looked. In high school, I was obsessed with writing “transformation” fantasy stories about how no one recognized this great new “bikini body” I had become after months of undercover working out (complete with shedding the baggy sweatsuit for a teeny red bikini). And now here I was living it and I resented the hell out of it.

A lot has changed. Some hasn’t. Not sure I have the healthiest of eating habits. Well, actually I am sure that I don’t have the healthiest of eating habits. I am beginning a journey to learn “intuitive” eating… I’ll let you know how that goes later.  I sleep better, much to the credit of a partner that helps regulate my patterns. I drink far, far less. I still use work and possibly sleep to distract myself from emotional woes (another issue I am addressing…  there is a long list clearly.) And I am heavier than I was during the hot yoga phase but not as heavy as prior, somewhere in between.

I still hold onto some of that resentment that how the size or shape of my body can change how I am perceived in public. But, I also catch myself passing the same (or sometimes opposite) judgement which fills me with guilt and shame.  We all have work to do and I want desperately to do mine and then I want so much to help others do their work.  So, during my work on body image issues, emotional responses, fear of failure, fear of success, fear of acceptance even, maybe… I am taking one giant step forward in my professional life. I think at some point my brain/body/heart implanted these ideas inside me: Ideas that my body can do most things, but not all. That I can teach in the fitness community but not be a role model for it. That I can support the body positive community, but not be a mouthpiece for it. That to really move in a way that expresses my fullest joy (yoga, dance, hip hop, kayaking, climbing, etc etc etc) my body needs to be smaller, lighter, better… that my arms need to be thinner in order to feel graceful, that my belly needs to be flat in order to be strong.  And here I am now saying bullshit to all of that. All I need to do to be strong and to feel graceful is to stop judging myself and just simply move.

I want movement to heal my mind and my heart. And I want movement to lift up my body.  And I want to give those same things to other people seeking comfort and challenge in themselves.  While I’m studying to get my PT cert, I will also learn from professionals in the community who embrace that body acceptance and healthy living are not exclusive of one another. You can celebrate yourself while still striving for the healthiest version of the entire package – mind, body & soul. You absolutely can. Watch me.

Keep following. The dance has just begun.

 

-Kris, The Gracious Body

April 2017

*Song Title. Lyrics by Tom Waits

Gotta Have a Little Lovin’ *

So, it’s March and that means it’s the time when our hopes & goals from the new year start to maybe wane a bit and the day-to-day world kicks in. The endless rainy days, the not quite warm enough temps… Before we know it, the daily grind of getting through the last of Winter and into Spring leaves all those wakeup.kickass.repeat goals in the dust. But here is why this year is going to be different:

-Because you aren’t working out because you hate something about yourself.

-Because it’s not about the jiggle or the “extra” that you’ve convinced yourself you need to get rid of in order to be “happy”.

-Because this year, you are going to “Wakeup. Sweat. Run. Bike. Lift. Flex. Stretch. Dance. Move. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.” because, wait for it… … …

 

Because YOU LOVE YOUR BODY.

 

We will do all of those things for our healthy, strong selves that can take-on anything.

We will do them in order to wake up the next morning ready to tackle yet another day of life hitting at us.

The stronger our bodies, the stronger ourselves!

If you have taken a class with me, you probably can repeat my mind-body blah blah blah by heart as I talk a lot about connecting breath to movement, creating resistance in your body using your brain, using visuals to connect posture and form to an exercise, etc. But there is a reason I say it over & over!

This year, I’m challenging myself to use this same technique outside of the gym/studio. To connect breath to movement when my brain starts to slam my body. And resist the habit to use words of weakness and failure when talking about myself – refusing to let my mind bully my body. I will stand tall and graceful when I get stuck on a “flaw” in the mirror and instead I will recognize the power my body provides me.

So many of my students are working out with specific goals in mind: weddings, bikinis, lift goals, summer activities, etc. — just remember to respect and revere the body that allows you to work so hard. Do not slam it or talk down to it. Love it! Love it so much that you feel weak in the knees just thinking about it.

Then maybe, just maybe, those goals won’t be quite so difficult. Eating smart energy-fueled foods will be easier because you are loving & respecting your body by providing it nutrients. Stretching and foam rolling won’t be a chore you forget to add to your workout because you revere your body and support its need to recover. And the dreaded bursts of cardio in Tabata or HIIT will become your way of giving oxygen and power to your body, to tests it limits and challenge your body in a way that it deserves and desires. I (and YOU!) will embody our goals as a show of respect and not because of insecurity or hate.

In class, when I repeat cues and modifications, it is often because I need to hear them as a reminder as much as some students do. This lesson is no different. Repeat after me: “I am here sweating and working hard because I freaking love myself.”

As a burlesque performer, I am ridiculously proud of the community of different bodies that create art on a stage where you get to embrace every “flaw” as a perfection and treat the audience to that all-too-rare display of body/self-love. But as a fitness instructor, am I discouraging acceptance and instead helping my students to “change” or “correct” something about themselves they see as a weakness? And is this wrong?

For a long time these two worlds have always felt disconnected. But lately I have realized I am not helping you correct anything. I am helping you love and respect your body through safe and strengthening movement. Exactly the same thing I do as a performer and choreographer.

My work is to help myself and my students connect their brain and their bodies. To understand that accepting and loving your body doesn’t mean not wanting to challenge and change it in a healthy way that makes you happy. To discern that your definition of radiance isn’t necessarily mine nor the person next to you and that is awesome because then we all get to be unique and amazingly different. And my work is to support your decisions and determinations while driving you to see graceful strength in the mirror instead of the warped image society has dictated you to see.

I’ve been teaching for over five years now and in the past, I worked at several studios under the name “The Gracious Body”. It is time to reconnect to that brand by showing kindness to my body and being grateful for my strength. (And maybe even remembering to use this blog as a tool of connectivity.)

So there it is. Our goal together. This day and everyday after…

Get to the gym because our bodies deserve a reward for all the good they do.

Work hard when it feels right. Be kind when you need it most.

Say thank you with sweat.

I promise, it will thank you back.

 

 

Love,

-Kris

*Song title. Artist, Camille Howard