No, that’s not a typo. That’s me sending myself to a Sunday morning gym class with a grim and dour name: GRID. It’s my punishment for having doodled at the starting block from home. After some hundred paces out the door, I realized I had forgotten my scrunchie, oh, and my water bottle too!
The stupid backtrack would cost me a precious seven minutes, translating into a missed train and a missed yoga class at 9.15AM—some fancy, new-age fitness thing called BROGA with a coy insignia ® kissing its name. It’s “not just yoga,” according to the program notes, nor is it “simply group functional fitness.” It certainly isn’t some Brokeback Mountain-styled fitness yee-hah because it says brightly in the last line: “Women are welcome!”
For being late, my curiosity shall have to suffer, to stay the wait until my next brush with BROGA, when punctuality and availability come together like two star-crossed lovers. But luck was kind to curiosity this moody, cloudy Sunday morning, and curiosity got piqued in a whole new way. The 10AM line-up screamed at me in all its four-letter goodness: G-R-I-D—Grid Active, to be exact, as opposed to Grid Fit or Grid Lean, which, I’m guessing, are its evil siblings that eat you up in different ways respectively.
Roughly, as I had seen it before, while traipsing around the workout area to grab a cold towel or a cold slosh of water by the cooler, Grid is something like an obstacle race across six stations, demarcated by grids on the workout floor, three by three, labeled neatly at the bottom corner of each grid with laminated sheets bearing los numéros uno to seis.
But a detached outsider always takes with her a myopic view of the world, one so lightweight that it only paints less than half of the picture. What is reality, then, but the immersion of not just feet in cold waters, but heart and mind, and in this case, thighs, glutes, traps, biceps as well, and then some.
I had taken with me, to my grand surprise, all of me to this class which I had thought was a 45-minute endeavor, only to be thankful that as the time elapsed, everything wrapped up at the 30th minute. What a fucking, screaming 500-calorie-burning dynamite!
That was exactly what the class had demanded: all of me, all of my senses, my squeezing prowess, my discipline receptors, the rolling cinema in the eyes, even my OCD. Endorphins, dopamine, all those pain and delight fluids came out to play, and everything was lit up in high intensity—neon without the lights, moans without the sighs, climax without the orgasm.
At warm-up time, my black tank-top was hiding under a magenta Virgin shirt. The girl was cold, as she always is. Poor circulation, liver a little sluggish, heart never warmed enough, veins never struck by lightning. The music comes on, and we work at those stretches, some squats, ankle lifts, forgettable and predictable enough, in a monkey-see-monkey-do fashion.
Our Grid trainer, Brindha, a Tamil Nadu native, a bright-eyed girl, who comes across more as a Bharatanatyam dancer or a Mohiniyattam instructor, urges us on in a silky, wispy voice, too sweet to be true for a Grid chick, whose goal is to whip your booty and haul you through the whole nine yards with treachery and fire. But never mind, she’s holding fort, and doing it pretty admirably.
She breezes through the task at each station, swift and light-footed, demonstrating what she expects of us, with an irrepressible smile and mindful tips (don’t hunch, keep the core in, those kinds of things), but that’s all too much to take in at a go, especially when there are six different stations with specific dos and don’ts at each.
My mind suffers a momentary lapse of claustrophobia and a terrible noise overload, then I say, Chill it, Viv. Fuck it, and just have fun! But before I could even finish saying “fun,” Brindha gives us the signal to start, and I get down and dirty at Station #1 with this guy in gray, my default partner, who had parked himself strategically there at warm-up time, just like me.
It was how I’d like to have started, and nowhere else, knowing for sure I would have been twisted in the mind if my thirty minutes had been spent starting at #3 and finishing at #2, or worse, starting at #6 and finishing at #5. As it turns out, it also happens to be the smartest way to start because Station #1 is the easiest.
Bird-Dog, a yoga-inspired asana, says hello here. Brindha calls it the quadruped harm-leg raise (once again, that’s not a typo, but how she pronounces “arm,” just like how a French would, to my great amusement). The only difference with Grid’s bird-dog is that it’s rep-driven, unlike the longer breath-led holds in yoga.
Left hand grabs right ankle from behind while you’re on all fours. Repeat, until you’ve exhausted 30 seconds, sometimes feeling like you’re going to tip over sideways. Then you get rewarded with a 10-second break before you switch sides. That makes up a single paired sequence, and our job was to complete two sets of it, which works out to a total of two minutes of work and 30 seconds of catch-your-breath. Simple enough—an easy, steady rhythm to observe here at this station, and the next, unto eternity.
I keep at my bird and dog, casting my drishti, my focused gaze, on the words right below my eyes, white bold words splashed right across the top of the mat:
Strength & Conditioning
Thirty seconds per rep, from the perspective of that myopic, distant observer, is surely a piece of cake, but when you’re at the floor as the Grid progresses, the second feels more like a metric unit in the league of an hour. If love could be experienced this way, where a second is, in reality, a dense and charged love-swooned hour, lovers, I swear, wouldn’t whine or pine so much.
But the beginnings of swoons would come in a different way—thanks to a voice, that of Ed Sheeran’s, husky, full of heat, and nearly groping: I’m in love with the shape of you … I’m in love with your body. As a premonition of all the stings that would devour my muscles, I wasn’t registering so much the word love, but the shape of you, and yes, your body.
I’m only at Station Numero Uno, but already, I’m totally impressed. What a fine trainer we’ve got, one with a keen sense of the human body, and an even keener sense of the human mind!
The rest of the essay continues here:
The Grid of Moaning Mornings (II)
You may also enjoy:
An Active Virgin, on a Quest for the Body Beautiful