Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Me and Nadia Comaneci

Posted by Amy Baranski
Doodle by Amy Baranski.

Ever since I was 12 I've dreamt of becoming an Olympic athlete. During my last 30 day Bikram yoga challenge, amid the growing chaos of my unchored home and the mounting haystack of emails, voice mails, and text messages, I became Nadia Comaneci.

The precise moment I stepped into the heated and muggy studio everything in my real life melted away. The saga of my perfect ten played out during the 90 minute class. At times you could hear a pin drop in the gymnasium. The crowed held its breath as I took the floor.

I vaulted, tumbled, balanced the beam, and whipped my body around the uneven bars. But, mostly I practiced, tucked away in a small warm gym somewhere in the Romanian countryside. Everyone else in the studio was training too. The difference was that I was Nadia Comaneci, and everything I did was for the Olympics.

Even when I was "being bad" like whispering something to a friend before the instructor came in. I was not "being bad" before yoga class, I was being disruptive to my Olympic training.

I thought of everything in this light. If I couldn't get through the floor series I knew I'd have a hard time on the balance beam letting my mind take over the pulsating remixed Tchaikovsky playing further down in the gym.

I accepted who I was though. I was not the Nadia Comaneci of 1976, who at the tender age of 14 scored the first perfect 10 in recorded modern Olympic gymnastics. Rather, I was Nadia Comaneci at 30 years old. Things were difficult now.

But despite being heavier and out of shape from my competitive days I still knew that I contained an acute mental prowess to dissolve the limits of my body and reach a state of perfection. After all, I had in my lifetime proven to the world that I was capable of perfect physical performance. I was an Olympic champion. I could do anything.

The irony is that I experienced a very challenging 30 days of Bikram, losing hope, strength and determination along the way. I left my mat during class to go to the bathroom almost as a matter of habit. I sat out the floor series for many classes. I wimped out of triangle pose, lacking faith that my inner thigh muscle could sustain the posture. I was not a model student.

But somehow I still "trained" for the Olympics.  And, this finally occurred to me one day.

After class, walking home with Melissa I vocalized what I had been thinking. She loved it. Then, she suggested that I blog about it. And finally she asked why I didn't imagine myself as Mary Lou Retton. I'm certainly not lacking love of country, but I had no good answer.

Looking back on that experience I think the Olympic saga was a mental hiding place that I created  to keep my consciousness out of my body. In fact, after I admitted this imaginative landscape to myself and my friend I felt a conscious relaxation, a savasana, from the epic I created. It had bound me to something unseen and kept me from being fully present with the experiences of my body.

It may sound strange but perhaps this was the greatest gift of my 30 day challenge--to have gone through most of it unaware and then to have finally realized that.

1 comment:

Melissa said...

i, instinctively, from a FB habit well developed, immediately looked for the LIKE button.