Friday, January 14, 2011

Yoga Update

I promised in my last post to do a review of my new Yoga class that started Wednesday.


I was pretty sure I would, but it was even better than I expected it to be. I chose to start off my fitness kick with a yoga class instead of, say, a spinning or aerobics class for a couple of reasons (not sure which was more important to me, they're all kind of tied together):
  • Yoga is low-impact, which is good for people with weird knees, backs, and hips (like me, lol)

  • Yoga fosters a mind-body connection, a "mindfulness", that I was hoping would spill over into other areas of my life, so that even when I wasn't actively doing yoga, I would still be reaping the benefits

  • Yoga fosters a positive sense of self... The emphasis is on what your body CAN do, not what it CAN'T do. If you can't do a certain pose, you can modify it, and that's accepted and encouraged and not seen as a failure, but as a baby step. It doesn't matter if you're fat and round and lumpy like me, :) or slim and strong like the instructor, you can both celebrate in your success.

Despite these hopes and beliefs, it was scary to go to my first class. :) I was totally plagued by the little ANTS in the back of my head that were telling me that I wouldn't be able to keep up, that all my classmates would be skinny, that the instructor would probably not be thrilled to have an overweight person in her class... I kept shutting them down but I was still nervous when I walked in... and then I walked in.

The instructor was amazing - beautiful, but beautiful in a inner glow way rather than a created image. She actually looks almost exactly like Genevieve from Trading Spaces (does anyone remember that show?) and has that same positive full-of-life vibe. There are twelve of us in the class, all women, and we're all different shapes, sizes, and ability levels (most of the ladies have taken the class with this instructor before) - there is no more fun way to practice than with a bunch of ladies who are all in it together, lol! :)

We started off in the Easy pose to practice deep breathing and being quiet. This may be my single most favorite aspect of yoga - how often do we practice being quiet? We should! Even God says "Be still, and know that I am God."

I love the quality of self-awareness that this kind of practice builds. Self-examination is a good thing! One of the things that the instructor asked us while we were breathing was to examine how we were feeling at that moment - energized, tired? I realized that I did feel tired (it had been a long day, lol), but almost immediately I had a "muscle memory" of feeling this way when I used to work overnight, of getting out of bed at 9 or 10 PM and feeling exhausted, but I always made it through the night. When I remembered that, I realized that I am usually capable of more than I think I am - times when I've thought, "I absolutely can't do any more, stay awake any longer, walk any farther, type any more words on this essay, work one more math problem," etc, but when it came down to it, enough strength to finish what needed to be done was always there for me ("I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me"). It was a really encouraging thought and one that stayed with me throughout the workout!

At another point in the workout, the instructor called out that we should notice some aspect of our bodies at that moment (the way our legs supported us, I think it might have been? I noticed at that point but have forgotten, lol) and how amazing our bodies are. Immediately the verse "I am fearfully and wonderfully made" flashed into my mind. Our bodies ARE pretty amazing creations!

I know that many Christians feel uncomfortable with Yoga because of the aspect of meditation, etc, but I was pleasantly surprised at how neutral this class was (I'm sure there are other instructors/classes that are not this way, but this was my experience). I think that a lot of the experience depends on what you take in with you, so to speak. If you mind is empty, you're probably going to end up filling it with empty mantras like "You are a powerful and amazing being." :) On the other hand, if you're filled with Scripture you're going to see how this all relates to Biblical truths, and worship the Creator, not his creation.

The workout lasted for about an hour, then we ended in a corpse pose to finish with more deep breathing.
The most awesome part is that it really did spill over into the next day and even today. Yesterday I woke up feeling energetic, I swear it's due to the yoga because I am not a morning person! And all day I kept that feeling of mindfulness, especially in relation to food - I would pick up a piece of food and think immediately, is this to solve hunger or something else? Is this going to nourish my body? How is it going to make me feel in twenty minutes, an hour, three hours?
In short - I'm excited about making this part of my routine! Since Monday is a holiday, I have to wait a week before I get to go again, but after that it'll be twice a week, with hopefully some cardio on the other days (jogging - I'm determined to make it to a 5K by June!).
Related: I have a DIY yoga-bag post for later... check back to see the adorable one I made! :)

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