Okay, I haven’t ditched yoga entirely, but I have stopped attending asana classes in favour of a high-intensity dance fitness workout. At Partyfit, there are club lights and a disco ball and hot-bodied instructors in sports bras yelling “Wooo!” at random intervals while we follow their choreographed moves to top 40 songs.
I could try to rationalize this and say that Partyfit is my yoga, or that I find the yoga in it. But I won’t. I go to Partyfit because it’s a ball-breaking cardio workout. Because I sweat buckets (way more than any hot yoga class, and it’s a sweat that I’ve earned, not because the room temperature is cranked). Because there is a lot of shimmying, butt shaking and laughing. Because the instructors are enthusiastic, supportive, encouraging, no-attitude women who create a body-positive and welcoming atmosphere for everyone.
I go to Partyfit cardio classes once or twice a week, along with “Core & Booty” (it’s exactly what it sounds like) and bootcamp. Partyfit is a locally-grown entrpreneurial project, with only two instructors, a logo and a Facebook page. I’m sure that the founders want to grow it into a fitness brand to rival Zumba, but for now it’s only available at one training centre in downtown Victoria. It also has the greatest and most ridiculous name, which is admittedly about 65% of the appeal for me. (Perhaps I’m not getting enough party in my life.)
I’m supposed to be some vocal body positive advocate who encourages people to love their bodies as they are, perhaps with the support of yoga – and here I am jumping and bouncing to this and this in pursuit of my fantasy body. I’m well aware of the irony.
Which isn’t to say I’ve completely given up on yoga. I still have my trusty self-reflection and study practices. I still relish in almost-daily 10-or-15 min long asana sessions on my bedroom floor and delight in regular doses of yoga nidra. I go to weekly lunch hour classes at my workplace (which are actually deep and refreshing practices) and drop into the occasional studio class.
But as for a body practice, the thing that I go to three or more times a week and adjust my schedule so it’ll fit in, the thing that I feel my body calling out for, the thing that I notice in its absence – it appears that Partyfit is it.
where’s the party? dance fitness bliss
One of the good things about Partyfit is that it’s purely in my body, not my head or my mind or my spirit. I focus on my body’s movements, and I even watch myself in a mirror while I do it. Partyfit isn’t intellectualized, the way yoga is for me. It’s just pure, ridiculous fun. It invites some joy and energy into my newly routinized and stable life.
It also provides a new way of relating to my body. After almost 20 years of practice, asana has come to feel familiar, comfortable (except for when it hurts, which hasn’t been since I started Partyfitting). Introducing new ways of moving my body has repatterned my body-brain relationship, forged neural pathways.
Still, while I’m feeling some holistic benefits from Partyfit, I have to admit that my commitment is driven by a quest for a fit, sculpted body. Although I receive joy and pleasure from Partyfit, I also feel a tinge of wanting/desiring/pushing my body to be a certain way. That may not necessarily be a yoga body – I’m developing muscle and tone, unlike the kind of yoga body that dominates our popular consciousness. But where is the balance between being happy with ourselves and wanting to be as fit as we can be?
the dark side of the dance floor
It’s a relief to practice asana for the mental and spiritual benefits, not as a workout. My past efforts to make yoga a workout always ended up in injury.
I’m fully aware of the irony here – that I eased up on my asana practice because of a propensity for injury (lower back, shoulders and feet) and replaced it with high-impact exercise. I do find myself worrying: oh, my lower back, oh, my knees. But so far, so good. All the joints are feeling fine. I’m actually feeling more back and leg strength, which protects these parts of the body.
There’s no denying that high impact fitness can be hard on a body as time goes on. I’ll deal with that bridge when it comes. It’s possible that Partyfit may not be a practice I can carry on for the rest of my life, and that’s okay.
I’ve been obsessed with a recent article about a writer who gave up her professional writing career to become a personal trainer and then in her early 40s, after the death of her father, took up bodybuilding and now trains for bikini competitions. Not that I want to become a personal trainer or compete in bikini competitions – but I am fascinated by the idea of maintaining fitness over 40 and it seems like there are plenty of options out there.
beyond the physical body
Does working towards getting a fit body, so I can enjoy my life and move more, mean that I have abandoned HAES principles and body positivity? I hope not. No matter how hard I train, my body will likely never be ripped, and I’m okay with that. I don’t count calories or weigh myself before or after workouts, so I feel like I’m focused on staying in touch with my body rather than wroking against it.
Partyfit provides many of the things I need in my life right now: physical exertion, dancing to top 40 music, community, strong women. I’ve organized my life so that I can attend regular classes with no excuses or obstacles. But Partyfit is not something that I can fit into my everyday life, nor is it that thing I can draw on anytime I need to feel my body or breathe deeply.
That’s when I take a deep inhalation at my desk before sending a difficult email, or when I unroll my yoga mat and lay over a rolled-up blanket, feel my shoulder blades on the floor. To balance out the party and the high intensity moves, I tap into a nourishing, sustaining asana practice. And I’ll probably never want to ditch that feeling.
Featured image: not actual Partyfit, but it captures the essence.