52 Exercises: #15 Freestyle Yoga (or Escape Artists Anonymous)
Running away is one of my special skills. I started practising it as a child, hoarding biscuits at the bottom of the Ali Baba laundry basket in my room and waiting until the time was right for me to sneak away unnoticed.
There was nothing in particular wrong at home but my drive to run away was fuelled by a general and misguided feeling of being unloved, unappreciated and unwanted. I was five years old.
Then I would pack my biscuits, bid a sad farewell to my cat Cleo, steal down the driveway and walk to a disused farm about half a mile from our house. There was an old hen house on the farm and I’d walk up the ramp, following in the claw-steps of long gone chickens, squeeze in through the chook-sized doorway and perch on a roost. It was dark and warm in there, the air thick with the smell of ancient chicken poo, the floor thickly crusted with it.
I’d stay for what felt like hours but was probably just as long as it took me to eat the biscuits. Then, unable to think of anywhere else to go, I’d walk back home only to discover that no one had even noticed my absence, never-mind missed me or worried about me.
Now I’m middle aged and while I still haven’t mastered the art of feeling loved I am an expert at running away. As soon as I was old enough I ran away to some of the best places in the world as well as some of the dodgiest.
Since I’ve been a mother running away has been mainly confined to my fantasy life. When I had post natal depression and my kids were aged 4 and 11 I fantasised about running away to live in a garage. I lived on a beautiful sub-tropical island so I could no longer kid myself that life would be better if I only lived somewhere warmer, more beautiful or more bohemian. I just wanted a place of my own and to be alone in it.
Now content myself with running away on a small scale. Being invited on press trips is a dream come true for an escape artist like me but this year I’m going on less of them. I’m staying home to earn money and feed the kids like a good mother should. It’s a struggle.
So I work a little escape into every day. I get up at the crack of dawn and sneak out of the house to run, bike or box. Sometimes I imagine what would happen if I never came back. Then I come home, put a load of washing on and start waking the family.
My favourite escape is missing the evening meal. We are not one of those families you read about in the media who never eat together, grab meals on the run or eat in front of the TV. We eat every evening meal together and many others too. It is often a torturous experience.
There’s always someone who hates what I’ve cooked. Depending on their age they will either whine continuously, shoot me poisonous looks or fake gag. When I tell them to stop fake gagging they tell me it’s not fake. that the food I’ve bought and lovingly prepared is so vile it’s genuinely making them retch.
So I run away from home once a week during the family evening meal. I’ve been doing it for a while. In fact the main reason I exercise is not because I want to or enjoy it but because that’s the only thing I can think of to do once a week between 5-7pm.
This week I headed to Doonan in the hinterland for an Astanga yoga class. I also wanted to do something less strenuous than boxercise, soccer or spin class because I am knackered.
Yoga Central seemed mighty quiet but I followed the signs to the studio only to find it plunged in darkness.
Back I trekked to the house where a few kids seemed to be watching TV and their mum appeared to my yoooo hooooo only to tell me I had the wrong day for Astanga yoga.
Sensing my disappointment she said I was welcome to use the studio alone, an idea which I sprang on because “that will give my husband time to cook tea for the kids and clean up afterwards.”
It’s hard to believe how selfish I am and how desperate for time away from the family I love.
Back up the dark path to the studio we went where she turned on the lights and left me to it. I walked around the big white room, noted ropes hanging from the walls and lay down my yoga mat in the middle wondering what exactly I’d do for yoga practice. It sounded advanced but I guess practice just means practice.
I tried to remember how to salute the sun and failed. I stood up straight, placed my hands palms together in front of my chest and I looked at myself in the mirror.
Racking my brain for yoga moves my thoughts were interrupted by footsteps. A man appeared, long curly dark hair tied back in a ponytail, a strapping fellow who didn’t look like the yoga type.
We sorted out the muddle with days, his confusion it turned out, then I asked him what the ropes were for.
“For hanging upside down,” he said.
“Yes, would you like to have a go?”
“Oh sure, why not?”
“I’ll give you a demonstration first.”
In the blink of an eye he was suspended upside down in the bat pose.
“Can I take a photo?” I asked.
“Yes,” he said, “then I’ll take a photo of you doing it too.”
Righting himself he showed me how to position my hips on the rope, walk my feet up the wall and push myself away from it. Then I had to press my feet in, fold my knees out in the butterfly position and lean back. Right back.
As soon as I was upside down I felt a tremendous pressure in my head. My face was surely puce.
“How long do you stay like this?”
“Oh, about five minutes'” he said, then wandered off to sit down.
“Don’t sit down! Quick, take my photo,” I ordered.
His bottom had lowered to within an inch of the platform but he got up and took the photos. As soon as they’d been taken I pulled myself back up right.
Next he showed me how to use the bar with a wooden block under my feet to realign my hips. One foot on the floor, one on the bar, leg out, one fist banged into my hip to get it in and lots of pain. My hips are tight, I think a lot more work needs to be done. So that was Ardha Buddha Padmottonasana.
Darren’s a great teacher but you can’t slack off when you’re the only student so I was happy when he left me to my practice alone. I still didn’t know what to do but remembered a few poses from Bikram yoga and found inspiration from photos in the studio. I even went upside down a few more times in the Bat pose.
I felt batty doing it but playful too.
Finally I lay back over a bolster, stretched my back and stayed there for some time.
I called by the house when I left to thank my hosts for letting me use their studio but no one heard.
So I drove off back to my own home, my own family. It feels good to escape and good to go home too. Mummy might be a little bit batty but she’s doing all she can to provide a balanced family life and a happy home.
Having kids turned my world upside down. Maybe if I turn myself upside down more often it will set things back to rights.
And I’ll probably keep running away then running back home again because there’s no support group for people like me. I should start one. I’d call it Escape Artists Anonymous.
Are you an escape artist?
Yoga Exercise Review
Cost: $o – You just do it anywhere you can find a comfy quiet place. Or to find out about yoga courses and classes in Doonan which is a ten minute drive from Noosa visit the Yoga Central website. Lovely studio, lovely people. Just check the website for dates and times first.
Time Exercising: One hour
Average Heart Rate: I forgot to wear my heart rate monitor but it wouldn’t have been needed. Definitely not aerobic exercise.
Fun Factor: 6/10 – More relaxing than fun.
Fear Factor: 3/10
Post-exercise Glow: 7/10.
Thank You for Reading
If you’re enjoying Get In the Hot Spot and the 52 Exercises series check out more from the 52 Exercise quest here and take a moment to share this post on Facebook, Twitter, by email or wherever you please. Thank you.
Get the weekly newsletter – If you’d like email updates from Get In the Hot Spot click here to subscribe now. You won’t get an email every time I update the blog but I’ll email you weekly with the best stories.
Let’s stay in touch – I’d love if you circle me on Google+. Thank you.
I love the look of that bat pose –
And fabulous to have the run of the place all to yourself.
Perfect for someone looking for a bit of ‘me’ time –
I find one of the best escapes when I’m ‘knackered’ is to do meditative relaxation, where you become the sky and any thoughts you have are the clouds, so you let them go and they float off away and as each part of your body bit by bit releases the tension and the stresses strapped inside of you, you gently levitate into space…
It was fun having a solo and freestyle session :)
I’m learning to meditate now, I’ve been practising for about 10 mins a day for the last six weeks.
I LOVE your meditation idea, will definitely be trying that one. Thanks for sharing it :)
I should possibly add that I ‘cheat’ when I do “my’ version of meditation – I had a CD which was just half an hour, where the instructions told me I should sit bolt upright so the connection through the top of my head was closer to the universe – But like you, when I bought it, it was just too much like hard work sitting up, so I lay down and let each part of my body go and then the colours in my head would change and I’d float off (often snoozing just for 20mins) but coming to soooo refreshed I decided its whatever does it for you – And this certainly did (and still does) do it for me ;)
Oh I’ve been using podcasts too and struggling with sitting upright. It’s much more relaxing when you lie down and zone in and out of consciousness :)
To be honest, I don’t like yoga, and now this photo of you upside down is the perfect excuse to not even think about taking it up. [Pilates is more my style]
Though good on you Annabel, as clearly you’re challenging yourself to move beyond your comfort zone, in every area of your life. [yeah… that really looks uncomfortable]
Life does have a way of turning one upside down, and inside out. I will let you know what it looks like on the other side of that. When or if I ever get right side up, or outside in.
You’re so funny, I can’t stop laughing now thinking about us all being upside down and inside out!
I’d say that yoga pose is quite extreme although I’m no yoga expert as you can tell. I always loved pregnancy yoga though where they give you lots of blankets and pillows to lounge around on and don’t expect too much of you.
I love pilates too but haven’t done it for years. I hope to try that again and write about it soon.
“Good on you for making time for yourself.” I just love my time alone and I am sure I would have been a better mother if I had taken some time for myself when my boys were young. I was always tired. :-(
I love the photo of you upside down.
I’m sure you were a great mother but we can never take enough time for ourselves. We seem to have too much guilt about what we should be doing instead. I like to think if I’m happy my kids will be do so I need to prioritise myself and try to overcome the guilt!
Hope you are feeling perkier now.
Hi Annabel, love that photo, good on you for putting it there, and also for the line: ‘Having kids turned my world upside down. Maybe if I turn myself upside down more often it will set things back to rights.’
I love an early evening out much more than a night out as it’s a treat to have a break from the relentless dinner-bath-bed routine. I’m just not great at the routine that motherhood requires so I do give myself breaks and, these days, don’t feel guilty at all. Our kids are old enough NOT to need us to be there every night, in fact, lets breed more independence in ’em and be there less. Actually I am breeding more independence in my husband too.
Myself and 50% of the kids are off to Scotland next week, not the most cheerful of journeys as so many old folks are sick… but a change… a real break for me. Good!
Re: I love an early evening out much more than a night out as it’s a treat to have a break from the relentless dinner-bath-bed routine.
I so agree with that. I can’t stay up late these days!
I hope a change is as good as a rest and that it’s not too much looking after the oldies AND the littlies. Hoping you can find a little YOU time in there sometime too :)
Oh my goodness, I love that cool photo. I need alone time too. I usually get up earlier than everyone else and play on the Internet or work on writing.
You are welcome back any time Annabel! :)