Life

Nuala McCann: For me, sport hurt but the beauty of yoga is that it is not a sport

Yoga at 19 seemed a natural avenue. Then, I was good at it. Why, at one stage, I could stand on my head in my electric-blue leotard in the middle of the room for as long as it took for everyone to say: 'Wow, look at her.' Then life got in the way

You are alone with your own body on your own mat – it doesn’t matter what the rest in the room are doing

I’M CHANNELLING the January blues and this year’s 'slug on the sofa' look. Having lost my fist in the Quality Street tub while simultaneously gorging on Netflix, I’m not keen to move.

Sport is merely a word to follow “Tie me kangaroo down”. Something has to change. There are a new pair of swimming goggles waiting in their pristine box and they promise no fog.

Somewhere in this dark, dark winter, there is a springtime in my soul waiting to burst out and take on that idiot in the pool who thinks he owns it... he swims like he’s Trump of Trump Towers.

We were never a sporty family. Meet the original “me” in team. I liked to excel at school. Quadrilateral equations? A doddle. Iambic pentameter... hit the beat. Sport? Ah, there’s the rub.

Being lapped in the 800 metres was not going to endear me to running and while wearing the “left wing” vest on the netball court may have had a certain kudos, I stank at netball.

I do not like to stink.

I retreated into my corner with my tinny Walkman and listened on an endless loop to Janis Ian singing At Seventeen.

The line: “To those whose names were never called when choosing sides for basketball,” is burned into my soul. Sport hurt.

Add to that the ignominy of huge navy blue knickers that could easily have held a bag of Maris Pipers and a sports teacher who thought it might be a good idea to encourage third year girls to share showers... well that was the rumour.

Imagine? We did. The horror of it, the shame of it – revealing our naked bodies to each other – no bloody thanks. No sport for me. Never sport for me.

Flash forward a number of years and I’ve stumbled on sport. I’ve embraced my inner klutz, my two left feet and my ego.

Hello, Sigmund, I’ve said, it’s OK to fail. The important thing is it’s never team sport.

Back in my youth, you were either Team Olga or Team Nadia at the Olympics. Gymnastics was great; it was never team sport.

Back then, I discovered that I was double jointed and very stretchy. The lower back injury probably stretches back to the dinner line in Primary 6 when I bent up my leg backwards to touch my forehead... not a good look.

So yoga at 19 seemed a natural avenue. Then, I was good at it. Why, at one stage, I could stand on my head in my electric-blue leotard in the middle of the room for as long as it took for everyone to say: “Wow, look at her.”

Handstands, dog head down, warriors one, two and three. Oh, easy peasy.

Then life got in the way and having sport was more about a crowded pub and a glad eye. It’s been 15 years since I returned to the yoga mat.

Reader, I stink.

There are light years between me and my 19-year-old self. Ask me to stand on my head now and I’ll laugh at you.

There are women who are astounding. Age is a number for some of them. I remember watching a woman well into retirement, upside down in a perfect dog head down, pulling her stomach right in.

“Pick up your shopping,” she told us and I tried valiantly to haul in the muscles snipped by the surgeon when our baby boy came out the sun roof. But I’m not one of those wonder women.

Yes, it’s great to still be able to touch your toes – it’s my party trick these days.

When I’m making the dinner, I occasionally prop my foot up, leg straight on the counter. No stars on the door for hygiene about here.

But that is not it at all. My love affair with the mat may have begun with a desire to recapture the body of my youth, to stretch and tone and glisten with the best of them. But it quickly turned into something more.

You see, the beauty of yoga is that it is not a sport. Slip off your shoes, step through the door and enjoy the silence.

You are alone with your own body on your own mat. It doesn’t matter what the rest in the room are doing, it’s just where you are on that day.

Keep your eyes on your mat and breathe.

It’s a lesson for life that’s a million miles away from the thud of bodies on a netball court.

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