When I asked Samantha to do a guest post I had delusions of grandeur. I thought Id write an amazing intro showering her with well-deserved praise and totally setting her up for all ya’ll to leave MY BLOG in a hurry and git over to hers to read the archives. The problem is….I cant. Reading the post below immediately transports me back to watching her teach ZUMBA at Fitbloggin and I sit transfixed. Her moves and freedom there were so beautiful…so compelling to look at…so PLAIN OLE SEXY CONFIDENT Im not embarrassed to say it brought tears to my eyes. Her joy was palpable and it made me wish we could all experience it—even fleetingly.
One of the most frequent compliments I get after teaching a Zumba class is how confident I am and how much people covet how comfortable I am in my own skin.
People look at my short, stocky, 270 pound body and don’t see the extra jiggle that I see. People see the fact that I love what I’m doing and that I want them to get their groove thing shaking and will go to every length to get them to sweat more than they think possible – including being a total fool. They see that I OWN my choreography and push it to the limits. They see sass and attitude and power.
And honestly, it’s kind of amazing for me to try to see myself through their eyes. Why? Because I am one of the most anxious and nervous people you could ever meet UNLESS I’m in Zumba.
So what is it about Zumba that is so different? Is it the Zumbawear? Is it the music? Is it the choreography?
Not really. Those are all great but…
What’s so different about Zumba in my eyes is how the class itself embraces people being different and finding your own style. From the first time I walked in to Zumba class I felt the often touted “Zumba love.” Zumba became my safe place.
Instructors are taught to encourage their students to modify every move they do to their own level.
For more advanced students that means adding jumps and squats or other fitness elements or more advanced foot work to the basic dances. For newer students if could mean doing the most basic of moves, a step touch instead of a grapevine, a stripped down salsa, until they feel comfortable with the moves and can add their own flair. It could mean adding flair with different arm movements or sass with a flick of a head or a deeper stomp to accent the music.
Every student is free to interpret the music in a way that is real and honest to themselves. It’s not just a suggestion, it’s encouraged.
And that gave me the freedom, at 400 pounds, to go in to that first class and struggle through basic salsa, cumbia, merengue and reggaeton songs and leave feeling successful, happy and wanting more.
It’s a class where someone going the wrong direction isn’t going to be noticed and reprimanded. In fact, one hip hop routine we do in class turned in to something different and even more fun when someone turned the wrong way on a move and faced their neighbor and did the standing crunch/body pump move. It added an element of playful interaction that changed the mood of the whole song.
Now we don’t do it any other way!
Another cool thing? Everyone is welcome in a Zumba class regardless of color, creed, fitness level or gender. It’s easily accessible to everyone because it’s, at the core, a class that circles the world with its style and tries to bring a little something for everyone.
People think it’s a class for just women and that’s just preposterous!
Zumba was created by a wonderful male, Columbian aerobics instructor. Every move has a more masculine or more feminine modification. When we teach moves like the Samba we can show a more feminine, on-the-toes Samba or a more masculine stomp-and-twist Samba. Even belly dance moves have a more masculine version so that men in the classes don’t ever need to feel like they’re being forced to do something that doesn’t feel right to their body. And if we find a move that we can’t modify we are never afraid, in my class anyway, to change it to something more middle of the road.
Zumba is the one place that having a booty that jiggles is a GOOD THING.
Everyone always looks at the women with larger rears with envy when we do body pumps, or booty circles or hip drops or even the smooth sensual slides of belly dance because they look good doing it! It’s not uncommon to hear “Why doesn’t my butt move like that!” It was really scary for me to get up and teach a song for the first time because at 340 pounds I felt like people would look at my giant butt and laugh – they cheered and wanted to learn to make their body move like mine.
And lastly – Zumba is all about embracing personal style and being who you truly are.
It’s really cool to me to watch a student come to their first class in sweat pants and a baggy shirt. As they get more comfortable in their dancing, in the basic moves, and they gain confidence they start to come in wearing tank tops and leggings or shorts and some even progress to wearing all the wild and crazy Zumbawear. They begin cutting their shirts and mixing and matching colors and patterns to stand out even more.
Something wonderful happens when they reach that point.
They become part of the front row crew.
They show off their modifications, they play with other students and they make my job even more fun.
That’s when some even go off and get their license and start teaching their own classes.
For the hour I’m at Zumba I smile, I laugh, I dance and I PARTY. I never feel like people are judging me because they are too busy having a good time and getting their own sweat on. For me, it’s also a return to my youth. I danced until I was 13 and this is the first thing I’ve found that lets me tap in to my “inner dancer” and use that energy as an adult.
I get to put on a sexy song and strut my stuff, throw on an angry reggaeton and be a fighter, dance the tango and be a prideful woman or throw down on in dance battle with my students. I get to act. I get to play and I get to watch my students do the same.
Everyone should have a place in their life like a Zumba class release that allows them to feel comfortable, powerful, and free.
For some it may be found on the road running or cycling, in the pool, in a room surrounded by heavy weights, or at peace on the yoga mat but I challenge everyone to find what Chalene Johnson calls the “soulmate” workout and never let go!
Samantha is a relocated Yankee living in Eastern, NC. She graduated with an English degree from an all women’s college in Raleigh, NC and, naturally, now works as a technical analyst for a bank. Six years in to her journey from 475 pounds to a healthy weight, Samantha prides herself on her mad Zumba skills and her willingness to try new, scary things as often as possible. She then whines when she inevitably gets hurt over at simplifyingsammie.blogspot.com She also blogs about her zany adventures and her struggles with weight, food, anxiety, family and finances.