Last week I decided that I need to be able to do a handstand. My theory is this: if I can teach my body to do a few gymnastic moves that should make learning all new physical things easier. Also, if I can reliably carry off a handstand at 31 surely I’ll be able to bend over and tie my shoes if I make it to 91.
I had a few goes at home up against a wall, but that doesn’t really count and the thudding was starting to sound a lot like a domestic disturbance so I had to stop.
Determined to persevere until able to maintain a proper handstand unsupported, I decided to look for professional help. It’s easy to learn gymnastics when you’re a kid, but trying to find a class for adults is challenging. Eventually I happened upon a gym in Bethnal Green that has an excellent gymnastics instructor in attendance every Sunday, purely to get adults cartwheeling again.
I went along to a beginner’s class and, to my delight, we started with handstands. Amelia broke it down for us, so we started with some footwork and ended up kicking almost fully up to handstand within a few minutes (perhaps the full blown version will come next week). Then we moved onto forward and backward rolls, again with the technique being drilled into us first.
I loved gymnastics when I was a kid. I’d forgotten until the class, but this was my after school activity of choice for some time before I decided I was all about jodhpurs and ponies.
Something in repeating these long-forgotten movements released all the playfulness and lightness of being a kid again. Like my body had stored it all in my muscles, ready to bubble up again as soon as I used them in the right way. I left feeling light and bouncy and full of energy. I even went for a swim afterwards and, instead of just ploughing up and down doing lengths, I spent some time doing forward and backward rolls and mushroom floats and all the things my body remembered from before it spent most of its time at a keyboard.
There is something to be said for just learning some physical dexterity. I am convinced that being able to do a backwards walkover, a handstand, a forward roll and a somersault would leave me much more capable in all sorts of disciplines. But even if it doesn’t, I’m going to keep going with it because I owe it to my inner child. And also I’d quite like to be THAT silly twat at the beach or in the park.