Jakarta, 19 October 2005
Written under Miss Sassy (4)
One persistent problem I have is my body’s fascinating ability to put on weight. If I stop exercising and enjoying light dinners twice a week, it’s guaranteed I’ll gain three kilos by Day 30. This is why yours truly does not typically eat dinners, tries exercising regularly, occasionally falls victim to fad diets, and constantly blames Mom for being the root of the problem (really, Mom, the pear shape and slow metabolism are ALL yours).
But for all chubby genes that she, or Dad, passed on to me, they compensated it by teaching me to manage by exercising. Good ol’-fashioned muscle aching, sweat producing, physical workout– from swimming, gymnastics to rigorous dancing lessons. Dad, longing for a son, tried to get me into soccer and karate. Later, obviously without considering that learning graceful dances and forceful karate at the same time was confusing enough for any 3rd grader, Mom decided to introduce…. yoga.
But I was too busy growing up to slow down and embrace yoga. Instead, I kept swimming and aerobics, took up more dances, and traded karate belt for marching band.
Yoga resurfaced much later in life. What would one do when one suddenly got much free time after a post 9/11 lay-off? One could sit around eating cookies feeling sorry for oneself, or one could kill time by exercising. Especially when a low-charge YMCA was conveniently located in front of one’s apartment.
The Y, surprisingly, offered various classes ranging from regular step aerobic to yoga, Pilates, kickboxing and aquarobic. Trying to balance menial part-time jobs and networking for real job, I instantly turned to yoga to help finding serenity, while stretching cold muscles.
Needing cardio to lose some extra pounds, I joined kickboxing, too. No, it’s not the violent, anything-goes matches that the crazy Thais invented. Our hour-long kickboxing class consisted of an instructor directing participants to jump, kick, shadow box, and punch sandbags in a rapid fire speed. Having practiced karate before, the kicking and jabbing was easy, but I had to learn delivering the right hook, swing and uppercut, and pace my breathing. On the first class, I lasted for 12 minutes. But as my endurance built on I eventually survived one full hour. Having a fat-free, muscular instructor was a great motivator to achieve what she displayed in her tight getups. Punching sandbags, apparently, could also relieve the disappointment of getting yet another rejection letter from the jittery, post 9/11, non-hiring companies.
But it was Pilates that was the prized discovery. Having read so many A-list actresses raved about it, I decided to try. As resourceful as the Y was, it wasn’t equipped with specially designed Pilates machines, but the mat class nonetheless stole my heart. Oh, the art of aligning your limbs and torso in finding your core, located inside between your stomach muscles and lower spine, making it your power house through deep nose inhaling and mouth exhaling while holding your abs as flat as if sucking your navel into the spine– supplying strength from the core, and not from the moving limbs. The beauty of delicate, yet strenuous way of slowly rolling up and down vertebrae by vertebrae, while maintaining a perfect hip alignment. The fabulous after feeling that your stretched-up body is somewhat lengthened, taller.
If kickboxing burned off the fat, yoga and Pilates formed the muscles into lean, non-bulky shape. Within weeks I shed pounds and got toned up more than I’d ever imagined.
Returning to homeland that summer, my eagle-eyed Mom noticed that I walked better, which was really a defeat, considering for years she’d thought I didn’t carry a proper posture. I vowed to continue my result-proven regimen.
This time, having regained employment, I could afford the class of prayer-chanting native yogi, and certified Pilates instructor with spine-corrector, reformer, and Cadillac machines. And when a hip gym downtown with its roster of body combat and power spinning opened their doors, guess who signed up and been a faithful member ever since.
Which reminds me, I’ve fallen off the track again lately! I need Pilates to help with my contorted legs from all-day running in the office on high heels. Besides burning calories, punching sandbags also provides relieving, safe substitute to, say, punching some nasty devils at work. And when I finally let off steam and want to feel serenely fabulous, I’ll assume the lotus position and chant
Sarve bhavantu sukinah
May all of us be happy
Sarve bhavantu niramayah
May all of us be healthy
Sarve bhadrani pashyantu
May we see good things around us
Maa kaschid dukabag bhavet
May we never suffer any misery or sorrow
Om shanti, shanti, shanti
Peace, peace, peace….