Guest blog by Yogasteya member Brenda Reid
I stood frozen, terrified, wondering what the hell I was thinking when I signed up for this. Why, oh why did I so publicly announce that I was going to do this? Silently hating the people around me who had no hesitation. Damn fearless 5 year olds.
Here I was, 44 years old, and I was going to learn to swim. More importantly, I was going to conquer a lifelong fear of water, not to mention I was going to do it under public scrutiny in a swim suit.
My search for adult swim programs did not provide me with many options. Sure, there were the local recreation centers that employ lifeguards who double as swim instructors, but I needed something more. I needed a 1:1 instructor who understood my terror. Who knew why I couldn’t breathe when water hit my chest. Who CARED about my decision to be there more than they cared how the fat middle-aged lady looked in her swimsuit. After several phone calls I found it – a local private swim school where, for an hour twice a week, one lane of their pool would be mine to master.
The down side was that private lessons for adults were held along-side child group lessons. There would be a lot of eyes on my plus size floundering. Parading into the pool that first night took courage. Courage I drew from my first yoga class years before. I never thought I could do yoga until some patient friends encouraged me and a compassionate instructor led me through it. I just knew everyone’s eyes would be on me, judging me. Yet, to my surprise they were not. I found an accepting and patient culture in that class. Now yoga is something I love – and I knew if I could walk into that yoga studio for the first time, that I could walk into this pool.
So I mustered up my courage and went.
It took months. The first several weeks were spent doing nothing more than learning to be ok with being in the water, then, eventually getting my face in and my feet off the floor. Learning, as my instructor would say, that I control the water, the water does not control me.
The day she looked me in the eye and said “…you need to go to a bigger pool, there is nothing more I can do for you here”, I cried. I cried because she was my lifeline. I cried because I had conquered something so unspeakably terrifying for me that no one but me would ever truly understand. I cried, because I succeeded. On the way out of the pool that night, more parents than I can count, who had watched me – or in my mind “been judging me” – for months stopped me. Some hugged me; some told me how I had inspired them to learn to swim, many said how I gave them courage to do something specific they were avoiding. They celebrated with me, for me. The eyes that I felt so scrutinized by weren’t scrutinizing me at all; they had been cheering me on.
May is National Water Safety Month. Join me in conquering your own fear and in educating yourself on water safety. The life you save could be someone you love. Perhaps your fear is not water! It may be a yoga inversion, being seen in public in a swim suit, exercising after an injury, etc. I understand that your fear is very real. Believe in your inner strength! Most importantly- if you challenge it head on, let me tell you first hand that the freedom you feel from doing that will change your life. And you just might inspire someone else to conquer theirs.
Brenda is a software executive with a passion for travel, family, and the outdoors. Finding yoga in 2003 brought a new dimension to self-exploration and learning to work through physical challenges and she enjoys practicing often. “10-minutes-matters”, has become her new favorite reminder to get back to the mat! She spends her non-travel time volunteering as a mentor to teenage moms, enjoying her 2 adult children and grandkids around a campfire and 4-wheeling with her husband of 25 years.