If someone would have asked me six years ago, if I would be a practicing yogi and loving it, I would have emphatically said “NO!” I would have responded that it seemed like a weird cultish thing, that I wasn’t flexible enough, and that I workout to WORK OUT, not to stretch.
Where did I start?
I have this incredible best friend for which yoga basically changed her life. Without getting too much into her story, yoga helped balance personal life issues as well as physical. She was a college track athlete like me, but got involved with a program and dove in headfirst. I was still a little more skeptical, but I was in somewhat of a fitness rut. I’d done the college track thing, I’d done the half marathon and full-marathon thing, and I’d found that while I will work out religiously it’s NOT at a gym. Love her or hate her, I bought Jillian Michaels’ Yoga Meltdown. While seasoned yogis may scoff at Jillian being an initial yoga inspiration, it’s true. She played a role. Anyway, I did Level 1 with my friend, who we’ll call Ashley. Now, Ashley & I have always had our individual strengths and weaknesses, but I’ve always been better at push-ups. However, Ashley absolutely schooled me in this workout. After the push-ups circuit, there’s some sun salutations, a dolphin circuit, and I’m pretty sure I was either shaking uncontrollably at the finish, or I just dropped down onto my stomach right before the end, then felt mad at myself for giving up. I think I periodically put this workout into rotation, but it always kicked my butt because I lacked the strength, and eventually I shelved it, never even trying Level 2 because Level 1 was so bad. It got me thinking though; if I’m supposedly “better” than Ashley at push-ups, how did she just destroy me in that workout? Or how can she hold those crazy handstand poses? I mean, it’s core strength, and I’ve got a freaking 6-pack, so why can’t I do that?
Fast-forward again. Ashley talked me into doing p90x because like I said, I was looking for the next “thing”. P90x was hard, and yoga took FOREVER. We’re talking 90 minutes here. However, I was religiously completing the program, and somewhere probably four or five weeks in, I realized I was able to do all of the push-ups and was able keep my arms from shaking or just dropping them completely during the isometric poses. Tony Horton helped make yoga seem tough, fun, and do-able to the average Jane. This began what I would call my STRENGTH loving phase of becoming a yogi. I fell in love with the empowerment of holding a 30-second warrior two or holy smokes, being able to do crow pose for a minute. I also got a taste of what would come: which I’ll call my RESTORATIVE and BODY AWARENESS phases. It was mainly strength, but at the end of those 90 minutes, I realized I was a lot more flexible and relaxed than when I started. I felt like I could keep lying in savasana for forever.
Where have I gone with yoga?
I first took yoga back into my running. I ran another half marathon and read Ashley’s book The Runner’s Guide to Yoga: A Practical Approach to Building Strength and Flexibility for Better Running by: Sage Roundtree. There are these little “tests” throughout the book for runners, and I failed every one of them. I’ve never had a serious running injury, but I’ve had those little tweaks. I began using yoga to RESTORE on my off days. It helped to prevent injury and decrease pain.
By the way, somewhere in there, I totally destroyed that Level 1 Jillian and then realized Level 2 was just different, not any harder.
I’m been able to take it into my work. As a speech-language pathologist, it’s been helpful for me to practice yoga because of the BODY AWARENESS. Before getting into yoga, I’d ask my patients to take a deep breath and model it myself; however, I’d usually do the stereotypical open mouth, shoulders raised, & clavicular breath. This all would be done of course while telling a patient to breathe from the diaphragm. During vocal function exercises, to a casual observer, it basically looks like my patients are yelling or screaming. I’m asking them to be relaxed while being as loud as they can. Screaming isn’t what we’re doing at all; it’s actually very dangerous and damaging to the vocal folds. The point is that the breath and respiratory system (lungs and muscles that support respiration) are actually doing the work, and yoga helped me better teach this.
Yoga BODY AWARENESS, aside from fine tuning within my actual practice, helped a lot at work while leaning over patients, bending down to put on wheelchair footrests, and working out the kinks of being a traveling SLP trapped in a car a lot.
Where am I now?
As my readers may know, I’m pregnant. I was rocking this whole pregnancy weight deal, and then I gained like 10 pounds in a week (literally, in an earlier blog, I bragged that I hadn’t gained any weight yet). I’ve never carried an extra 10 pounds on my belly (10 pounds plus like seven more at the present point in time). BAM! Literally, within a week, my back was miserable. That clever Ashley works at a new yoga studio in town called Mojo Fit, which offers PRENATAL classes. I was hooked immediately. The environment is amazing: great smells, lighting, and a community of moms-to-be. The actual classes leave me relaxed, worked (on a lesser scale than I’m used to, but appropriate for pregnancy), and free of back pain! Halleluiah! I still get tweaks and kinks, but I pretty much do yoga five times a week now and each time, my body feels rejuvenated and the pain/tension is not chronic. Plus, it keeps the arms toned and from looking flabby, preserving some shred of bodily pride.
Additionally, yoga has helped me feel confident and less frightened of labor. I’m not going to lie to myself and say that it won’t be miserable. However, I recently took Lamaze (which was great for my hubby and great to do with him), but I felt like I didn’t learn much-NOT because the teacher or program was bad, but because I’ve already struck upon the principles of breath and relaxation in yoga.
Caution: yoga may not preserve your hairstyle
I’m not “there” yet with yoga. I can do some cool stuff, but there’s also A LOT I cannot do. I don’t know all the cool Sanskrit names for poses, but I know a few. That’s kind of the point though, as I hope I have shown through my “journey”.
Yoga is not a cult like I once thought. I’ve had some friends and friends of friends tell me that it’s satanic, and that I’m opening my body up for demon possession. I’ve prayed to Jesus while meditating. It’s been a process of building STRENGTH, RESTORING my body, building BODY AWARENESS, and now helping me through this PRENATAL time in my life.