OK, I have a confession to make. I tout myself as a specialist in adult learning (and the cultural sector) but I have not been an active learner myself for some time. Returning to learning is scary. You get things wrong. You feel stupid. You are out of your comfort zone. All the things in life that we tend to avoid. But the benefits, once you accept that there is nothing wrong with being wrong, it’s stupid to feel stupid, and it’s quite comforting to be uncomfortable (within reason), are very real.
So. How am I pushing my boundaries? What comfort zone am I stepping out of and what am I letting myself in for?
Yes, I’m going to unwind by tying myself up in knots.
The day after Boxing Day 2016 I suffered an agonising lower back spasm. I’ve had them before (comes with the territory of being 6ft 4ins and not standing up straight. Ever…) but this one was a doozey. It incapacitated me for two months and the opioid painkillers I was on affected my mood and judgement so badly that I lost a significant piece of work (mainly as I could not string a coherent sentence together when talking to clients). The drug issues eventually faded, as did the terrible back pain. But, since March 2017 I have been going to the gym a couple of times a week and trying to strengthen my core muscles in order to better protect my vertebrae. Top tip#1: if you clench your buttocks you engage your core and protect you lower spine. That was an easy lesson to learn. Clenching your buttocks is easy, especially with all the practice I’ve been getting every time I read the BBC News website (“Trump/Daily Mail/Kim Jong Un/Boris Johnson has said what!!?”)…
But I wanted to do more. I wanted to build strength and flexibility. I wanted to be able to wrap my ankles around my ears and levitate whilst strumming a sitar (nice image! Perhaps I’ll buy a small one. A baby sitar…).
So I metaphorically bit the imaginary bullet and went, today, to a yoga class.
I was nervous. I felt outside my comfort zone. I didn’t want to look stupid.
The class leader welcomed me warmly and I gave her my back’s back story. “Age-related wear and tear (blah, blah, blah), strengthen my core (blah, blah, blah), are these shorts ok (blah, blah, blah)…
Introductions done I set my newly-purchased yoga mat out beside a fellow student. I was the only guy there.
We got started.
Flippin heck! I didn’t know when to breathe in, when to breathe out, when to hold my breath. But I was beginning to feel stretched.
Hang on!? Dog head what? Upward dog what? Pint of Cobra? Sideways ferret? There’s a lot of animal references going on here. More stuff to learn.
Best part of the session was when the straps came out. Using them to pull your leg and get a hamstring stretch. Oh that was lush!
By the end I was a sweaty heap but I was stretched and relaxed. I will return and learn more.
Main lesson learned for next week is: wear pants under my shorts. Noone wants to see my giblets as I attempt clockwise rabbit or whatever the heck it’s called…
Onwards and upwards