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Rugrat Reprieve

A Supposedly Slim Person I'll Never Be Again

By Rachael Brownell



It's not as though one day I put away the high heels, threw down the cute panties and bras and embraced the muu muus and late-night candy, but it feels that way. The time-warping devolution from slim pretty thing to puffy 40-something started with having kids (doesn't it always) and ended with getting sober and a nasty divorce (in progress). Not as an excuse, mind you, only by way of a righteous explanation to convince you I'm not one of "those women" who hates herself, puts herself last, and lets her kids win every bid for time and attention.

Except when I am.

Time and again I've strived to fit exercise and health between work and family, sex and bathroom cleaning, diapers and homework. And failed. I've watched my online sisters do Shredheads and group weight loss challenges, like a kid sitting by a window doing homework during recess. I failed before I started, convinced it wouldn't work, that there wasn't time and then capitulated to the onward thrust of days. 40 came and went, a job ended, my 2nd husband moved out. Another year.



Standing in the check out line one afternoon, reading horoscopes, debating the gum and M&Ms, I noticed"Oprah Magazine" and rolled my eyes at the lead story: "How to Get What you Really Want this Year." "Oh yah, right" I muttered as I placed the items on the conveyor... but then looked at the first subtitle: "A Healthier Body." Not slimmer, not tighter, not younger. Healthier. And something shifted. What if... What if... What if... in 2010 I could get healthy? What if I used this time, post-divorce, to tackle another Big Problem. I'd found a way out of alcoholism, out of an unhappy marriage, out of so many pickles these past few years. Why not attempt to conquer the intractable inertia over my body's lack of health? Why not?

The story begins with a young woman, divorced, unemployed, and overweight who documents her journey to health. For no other reason than I am sick of being tired and wrung out, I decided if she can do it, so can I. She chose Bikram Yoga, so I followed suit. I like the promise of "try this for 60 days and see the results." It's reminiscent enough of recovery (you get coins at 30, 60, and 90 days and other time increments) that I feel comfortable giving it a shot.

It turns out there are many reasons to fear Bikram Yoga (aka: "hot yoga"). 90 minutes in a room heated to 105 degrees Fahrenheit is only the beginning; 26 asanas, or poses, of increasing difficulty, one following the other so quickly there is barely time to panic; scantily clad very trim women and men; a huge full-wall mirror in the front of the room, into which one is encouraged to fix one's gaze on the (in my case) startling reality of 8 years without an exercise program. And this is just the beginning. My first class, I'm shocked at the state of my health. I can barely reach down to touch my toes, and the heat and exertion have me watching the clock after 15 minutes and praying for the class to end. Eventually it does. And I decide to suspend my disbelief long enough to do it again. And again.

It's been four weeks now, and as it happens, Bikram Yoga proves just enough sick torture chamber to keep me coming back. I can't go running, or walking, or do anything requiring proximity to home or children without the gravitational pull of guilt and chores sucking me back into its orbit. I can't buy a pilates CD, join Weight Watchers online, and discipline my flesh in the middle of my family room. I need to leave; exit my reality and enter another. A place where leaving early is frowned upon; where the encouragement is so constant the voices in one's head (the grocery lists, doubts about the divorce, mistakes recounted) aren't merely drowned out, they're decimated. I feel like all the demons of doubt and chubbiness are exorcised during class. I move mountains and beg childcare to get there. I sweat and cry and grunt. And I can't wait to go back again the next day.

I emerge on the other side of one of these classes, covered in sweat, reassured that my body can be brought back to the health and strength of the tomboy soccer player I once was. If I can do it, so can you. Come on! I double-dog dare you.


Rachael Brownell is the author of Mommy Doesn't Drink Here Anymore (Conari Press, 2009). A former contributor at Babble.com (which put Rugrat Reprieve on their Top 50 Mommy Bloggers list), she writes, edits, and raises children in the beautiful and blessedly cloudy Pacific NW. She spends time in between yoga classes shuttling kids and cleaning the kitchen. You can find out more about her and her Bikram journey at RachaelBrownell.com.

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"Try as hard as we may for perfection, the net result of our labors is an amazing variety of imperfectness. We are surprised at our own versatility in being able to fail in so many different ways." -- Samuel McChord Crothers