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Trigger Warning: This week’s article includes content about harrassment, sexual assault and harassment of an underage person.

“I think strength is important. Not how skinny you are, or how many kilos you weigh, or what size dress you wear. I think being strong is a really important feeling, particularly if you are a woman.”

I feel like women often feel disempowered, we are constantly being told men are bigger and stronger then us and that’s why we shouldn’t walk home late at night by ourselves, because if we do we are, ‘asking for it’. Feeling strong is a way for women to try and reclaim this power imbalance. Of course, before I started taking lessons at Sky Sirens, I didn’t even realise I wanted to feel strong.

I’ve never felt particularly strong. The closest I’ve ever felt was feeling satisfied when I’ve opened a jar of pickles without any help, or having to run it under hot water. I’ve been thinking a lot about strength this week, mainly because I’ve formed a strange addiction to American politics. The news that Brett Kavanaugh, a man accused of attempted rape, was just elected to be a Supreme Court judge made my blood run cold. It reminded me that so often womens’ experiences of abuse are brushed aside so men in power can remain powerful. Power, of course, is all relative. When I worked at a cafe, upper management excused our manager’s behaviour of touching young girls on their bums because he was happy to work double shifts.

There have been so many situations in my life where I have felt powerless and weak, from middle-aged men whistling at me in the street when I was barely sixteen, to men offering to buying me drinks and then insulting me when I declined the offer, to men sitting next to me on public transport and trying to slyly touch me, the list goes on. It’s not because I’m the best looking girl in the world that men just cannot control themselves around me. But I do have dimples and once at a gay club at 2am a man (who was probably on some heavy party drugs) said I looked like Miranda Kerr, and two years later I’m still basking in that compliment. The harsh truth is that some men cannot control themselves around any woman.

Every week my best girlfriends and I swap stories of men behaving badly. This week I got an uber home from my Sky Sirens class and the uber driver kept demanding my number, and then called me a bitch when I would not give it to him. I ended up getting out of the ride early and pretending to walk up a driveway, and then waiting outside a strange house until he drove off. My friend Bella told me a guy tugged on her backpack forcing her to stop in the street and yanking her, just so he could tell her she looked nice. I had another friend tell me a guy at a bar called her a slut, when she declined his offer of a drink. It’s depressing that the reality is, if you are a young women this is just what happens to you, it’s become an unavoidable reality.

I caught an uber home to be safe, and I got harassed by a middle aged male driver to the point that I felt unsafe, but if I had walked home that too, would have been considered dangerous. Taxis and uber aren’t full proof either, and my Dad likes to go to bed by 9pm, so he can start his day of complaining about who slammed the door or left their towel on the floor at 6am. So really, I don’t have a parent that can pick me up either, which seems to be the only safe option at this point. The terrifying truth is that I do not believe that society is a safe place for women, because even if we take all precautions possible, the result could still be the same. I’ve had bad experiences with men when I was in my track pants walking back from the Laundromat, and when I’ve been in a short dress at a pub. An outfit is not going to change the fact that some men do not understand consent, and they aren’t going to understand it any better if you show cleavage or not.

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It was week six this week for me at Sky Sirens, which means I’ve spent about six hours trying to get into a hoop. Not that much time in the scheme of things, considering I think I spend about twelve hours looking at my ASOS cart and I never press proceed to payment, but I’ve noticed I’m stronger. I can lift my leg easily into a hoop, I can pull myself up without dry heaving like a cat with a hairball in its throat, and I feel strong. I’ve never felt strong before, I mostly just feel uncoordinated and a little bit frazzled, especially if I’m trying to navigate peak hour or throw back a ball to someone in a park.

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I’m learning to twist my hips so I can perfect the position called the, “Mermaid,” and although I’m not quite there yet, I’ve noticed I’m more in tune with my body. I’m getting better at learning how to move my body, and I’m also getting some upper arm strength. Pulling myself into a hoop is no longer hard for me, and I love the feeling of being strong enough to lift my own weight. Every week I’m always pleased with how something has become easier, but also how my muscles ache less, because they are getting more used to me trying to get myself into a hoop, whilst also singing along to Tina Turner.

The thing that’s been most surprising to me about Lyra is how it uses basically all your muscles, because you use your whole body. It’s very physically grueling. and a lot harder than when I had a gym membership and would turn up, take a selfie in the mirror, and then pretend to walk fast on the treadmill for a while. The result of the fact I’ve been using all my muscles, when usually I just use the ones that allow me to walk around a shopping centre, is I’m starting to feel stronger all over. Kinda like one of Charlie’s Angels, except I don’t solve crime, I just create fake grindr accounts to check my friends’ boyfriends aren’t still using it.

Before I started Sky Sirens I was used to feeling weak, which I know sounds terrible but I’ve never been sporty or athletic so therefore I’ve never been particularly strong, and I never even realised I wanted to feel strong. But through my lessons at Sky Sirens I realise I’m loving that feeling. The feeling of feeling capable, of feeling a little bit tougher is important to me, particularly in this current political climate, where I feel so disheartened by what’s happening in the world, it makes me feel powerless and in a lot of ways I am. I cannot change the way men behave or our political systems or what people seem to value, but what I can work on is my own strength and confidence, feeling more powerful in myself, and holding my head a little bit higher as I do. Not only that, but knowing that Sky Sirens is a safe place, free from the worries of the outside world, really helps to grow and nurture that inner strength.

It occurred to me at the end of the class this week, that I’m getting stronger and that feeling is priceless. I often feel like women think the only reason to exercise is to fit into a pair of jeans or post a photo of them doing a yoga pose that lets everyone know they are bendy. It never occurred to me that exercise could be about feeling strong and capable, and how empowering that feeling is. When I first started my classes, I noticed how great my instructor looked doing the routines. It was all so effortless and she always looked amazing, and she was never gasping for air like I am. But something I’ve been realising recently is how strong she is, and I find that incredibly inspiring. At the moment just turning on the news really depresses me, it feels like we are going backwards as a society and allowing men to openly disrespect women, so Lyra has become an important part of me finding a way to take control of my self and my body. I feel stronger, I am stronger and I’m determined to get even stronger.

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