Lessons from My Thai Aerobics Class


Barbara Allen, 129 TESS

Things I am learning in my Thai ladies aerobics class:

The distinction between humility and shame. I think it starts with the clothes. Here, they are sort of makeshift. My co-aerboicers are like me and put on whatever is lying around. The point is to move with friends. In the United States, I could never afford state of the art aerobics outfits and I certainly was not a state of the art mover.  My Thai lady friends, we are a motley crew and definitely not sculpted, but we have fun and I think our hearts appreciate us for that. In Thailand, I am given the opportunity to move through the world humbly and quietly. I don’t miss that noisy clamoring to be unique and different.

I have no point of reference for Thai contemporary music that is being played during aerobics. It does not remind me of the electronica, hip hop, or straight edge stuff that my children have brought home. That being said, I am pretty sure a broken heart sounds like a scream no matter the language.

Approximations are fine. Look it, I am not going to lie to you, I don’t kick it out each time my aerobics instructor tells me to. Just like my lovely Thai students are not always going to say shoulder but rather should-ew. Nor, am I, apparently, ever going to quit saying kuuai (penis) when I really want to say gluuai (banana). You know, you just have it work with it.

Stereotypes, who needs them? During training we were often told the Thais are “sabai sabai,” laid back, late, go with the flow types. I think of this each day as I arrive late for class and the ladies are well into their stretches. I also think of it halfway through class because that’s when we start working on abs. I hate the abs but they are always part of the plan.

Thai classical dance, especially the arms and hands. I love the hand and arm gestures in Thai classical dance—-they are beautiful and emotional. Now I have learned they can be a real workout. Try this: bend your arms at the elbow, put your hands about five inches away from your shoulders, lift your palms up and have them face each other. Now do things with your fingers, hands and wrists. DON’T MOVE YOUR ELBOWS AND SHOULDERS!  Doesn’t that hurt? But it is good for you.

Reprieve and prayer. For the past several days I have checked my newsfeed way too many times with this hope, “Please, please let the separation of parents and children have stopped.” It has been so hard to read about this, so heartbreaking. Aerobics class has helped me a bit;  during class I say a prayer from my childhood, over and over again, the Hail Mary. I think Jesus’ mother knows the pain of having your child cruelly taken from you. I cry, I pray, I send emails. I invite you to join me.

Read Barbara’s previous article Laundry Tips From Thailand.

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