I bet that’s a question you haven’t heard before? So come on let’s have a think about this…
Is it because…
- You have to squat over a toilet and there are plenty of squatting moves in Zumba?
- You’re a woman of a certain age, or you’ve recently had a baby, and bouncing around doing Zumba makes you wee yourself just a teensy bit?
- You’re not the most co-ordinated of people and when you do Zumba you resemble a toddler doing a ‘wee wee’ dance?
- You’re generally a bit poop at this fitness lark?
OK so some of these may well be true, but for me the answer came last Sunday when I attended a Mini Bliss retreat run by our Fitness and Pilates expert Julia Willmott all in aid of raising money for the charity Toilet Twinning.
Toilet Twinning is all helping people living in poor communities to have the things that we in the Western world take very much for granted; clean water, hygiene education and a basic toilet.
The figures are really quite staggering:
- 2.4 billion people don’t have a toilet.
- Every minute a child under the age of 5 dies because of poor sanitation and dirty water.
- Girls are the most at risk, as they are often attacked when they walk alone in the dark to the one toilet that the whole community shares.
- Half of young girls in Africa drop out of school either because they have to use their time to collect water or because there is no toilet facility at the school.
Sunday was about raising awareness of this whilst also putting the ‘fun’ into fundraising with Julia donating the money she made to this very worthy cause. For every £60 that is donated, Toilet Twinning is able to ‘twin’ your toilet with one in an impoverished community and for every £240 they can twin up to a school toilet block. You can find out at the end of this article how much Julia raised.
First up it’s Zumba, so let’s put on those jingly wraps and get ready to shake what ya mama gave ya! Now, I’m the first to admit that I have zero co-ordination when it comes to dancing and having done Zumba many moons ago let’s just say that from memory I’m more ballerina elephant than sexy salsa senorita. But I’m here, I intend to have fun, work up a sweat and ideally not injure anyone in the process!
Julia is great as she injects so much fun into her routines and really strikes a balance between the high intensity cardio moves and the slower, floatier, chill out moves.
I laughed, I wobbled my bum, I strutted and God only knows what I looked like, but I felt like I was performing in front of the Strictly Come Dancing judges and it felt GOOD! One lady commented at the end of the session that it’s so nice to be able to do something that allows you to shake and wobble the bits that on a day-to-day basis, us women in particular, are so eager to hide away. And it’s so true, us Brits are incredibly stiff and find it hard to loosen up, but Zumba sheds away those inhibitions and allows you to dance like nobody’s watching.
I didn’t stand on anyone, I didn’t fall over and I giggled more than I have in a long time…
It’s a 10 from Len!
…10 minutes break that is, before cracking on with a Pilates sesh.
Pilates is something I know I should be doing more of, because whenever I do get round to fitting some in I can always feel the benefits and I’m pretty certain it would help with my running. Julia recently wrote an article for us all about the importance of balancing the Yin and Yang of your fitness and so having the opportunity to redress my balance with some much needed Yin to my heavy on the Yang fitness routine was a real treat. It felt so lovely being able to concentrate on mobility and the smaller movements of working the body in the right way. Using the essential toolkit of resistance band, squishy ball (ummmm so that’s not its technical name!), block and a gorgeously warm and fluffy fleece it really highlighted to me the key areas of strength and weakness that I should be working on; in particular my right shoulder, which has been flagged up by experts more than once, and I am certain is down to hour upon hour of bad posture sat hunched over a laptop screen (oops yep doing that right now!). Even though you’d have thought I’d have loosened up from all the free movements of the Zumba beforehand, I started the Pilates session off still incredibly tight, rigid and still unable to relax. By the end I was like a human embodiment of a Spirograph; loose, flexible, and capable of making pretty patterns with my body…OK so maybe not that last one!
Another 10 minute break to add some layers and head on up to the chill out room ready for some stretches, meditation and some lovely peace and quiet.
Scented candles, scattered flower petals, blankets, cushions and gentle music, Julia had created a picture of serenity up in her chill out den and it was the perfect ending to what had been a very blissful afternoon. It’s very rare these days that any of us get the chance, or allow ourselves, to have some time out to just lie down, take stock and well, just be. Listening to Julia as she calmly talked us through the motions of relaxing our bodies and encouraging us to mentally recite positive affirmations, I could feel my body getting lighter and lighter until it reached a point where I felt completely weightless and at peace with myself. Now I’m not going to lie, I find it incredibly difficult to switch off entirely, so I still had thoughts rushing around my head like a rabbit in a greyhound track, and yes I couldn’t help but pay attention to the motorbike outside and the lady snoring across the room (kudos to being able to chill out to that level!), but I still felt calm and more in control of those thoughts. I was able to reason with myself, put things in perspective and just generally be a bit more mindful of things, which is about as relaxed as I get these days. More than anything it flagged up for me that I need to take time out to destress once in a while, rather than attacking life at 100 miles an hour.
I came away from the retreat feeling replenished and grateful for the life that I have; to have a healthy, happy family, to have good friends, to have a roof over my head, a bed to sleep on and a clean toilet to…well you know!
If you’d like to find out more about the work that Toilet Twinning do and to find out ways in which you can help, head on over to the Toilet Twinning website.
And if you would like to find out about any of the other retreats that Julia is running this year you can find all the details on her website.