Sunday, July 11, 2010

More Yoga, Please!

Last week I posted about my dismay with the apparent lack of calorie-burning effort required for yoga. I felt stuck -- sure, an elliptical session typically requires more caloric effort than a yoga session, but yoga feels so good. What's more, yoga feels good even when it doesn't feel good, if you get my meaning. When I fold at the waist in a forward bent and, in spite of my very bent legs, my tight hamstrings are screaming for mercy -- something about that effort, or lack of effort, feels right. When I'm running (or kickboxing, or elliptical-ing, etc.) and it starts to feel bad, it sure doesn't hurt so good, baby.

So there's something about yoga. After last week's post pitting yoga against more aerobic exercise, reader Anika left this thought in the comments section:
I think Bikram's yoga would burn a lot more calories than the vinyasa flow but I am with you-it makes me feel good. And when I don't do it I need the chiropractor! The fact that it does bring you so much comfort and does wonders for your mind and body is priceless...maybe calories aren't the most important thing when you can really feel that difference. But as an aside-do it for 3 months and you will see changes in your body that calorie burning doesn't offer-and nice long,lean muscle!
Hmm, did I hear a challenge in there? Not a balls-to-the-wall, butt-kicking competition, but a far gentler try-and-see challenge. Anika suggested trying months of regular yoga practice and then judging the results. Although I didn't officially decide to embark on this yoga adventure until later, I kept doing significant yoga each day following that original post. And it never failed to help me feel strengthened, stretched, and centered.

I had an interesting experience during one of these at-home practices. I was groaning my way (joyfully, right?) through a power yoga class when we came to pyramid pose. Normally, this pose would cause my eating disordered/competitive/perfectionist qualities to emerge and I would start to get irritated, wanting to go on to a pose that I could muscle through rather than rest and stretch in. This time, however, I experienced something much different. As I was bent over my front leg, I felt this rather strange intimacy . . . for myself and my body. As I later wrote to blogger friend Clare, "Something in me was like, 'I like this leg, and it's all mine, and I'm going to hug it because I can!'" I've never had such an emotional experience in yoga, and it was rather mind boggling.

As a result, I decided to follow Anika's suggestion and practice yoga at least five times a week for twenty (or more) minutes. I was all in on this yoga thing. I was ready to explore and open myself to new experiences.

Until the next day. And the day after that, and the one after that, too, and so on until today. Unable to sleep, I started my day off with ninety sweaty, trembling, and happy-inducing minutes of an Eoin Finn podcast class. It felt glorious.

Every time I get on my mat, I remember just how much I enjoy yoga. This holds true for this morning's practice. But why can't I carrying the memory of my enjoyment through the spaces between practices? Perhaps I'm avoiding the potential for intimacy, or my brain just can't conceive of yoga as true exercise. But it is exercise, I think, and not just for the body.

All that to say . . . I'm all in (again) for this three months of yoga thing. I'm sure I'll do more than just yoga, but yoga will become a regular staple in my day to day activities. I don't know what to expect, although I do know that the best shape I was ever in came during a period when I was practicing yoga every morning for at least an hour, in addition to cardio workouts. I don't want to go back to doubling up sixty minutes each of yoga and cardio each day, but I am interested in discovering where regular vigorous yoga can take me.

Do you practice yoga regularly, and, if so, what are your thoughts? Do you want to join me? Let's have a yogadventure!


  1. yogiclarebear.comJuly 11, 2010 at 8:22 PM

    Beth,I loved that comment when you wrote it to me. I hugged my leg right then and there! (Ok, well I patted it nicely, wasn't warm enough to hug full on, ha!)Also, I was a little concerned with your challenge. I want you to consider that part of Yoga (big "Y") is knowing when the asana practice isn't the right one. Don't box yourself into physical yoga. With your admitted eating disordered/competitive/perfectionist qualities, you know this physical challenge could potentially become something yucky too. Don’t discount the toll of the asana on the body. It is the whole shebang with vinyasa- powerful breath, strength work, stretching…the body needs rest from this physical work just like it would need rest from a jog or a weight session. So again, don’t box yourself in to one type of “yoga.” Yoga can be breath work (pranayama) or meditation, yoga nidra, or even spiritual study in addition to or aside from the asana practice. The physical practice is amazing, but it is I also challenge you to use the Yoga principles and know when to rest from the physical. I'm joining you. I do not practice physically every day, but I do stretch every day and practice mindfulness.

  2. Thanks for the reality check, Clare! I agree . . . I will have to be mindful about this "challenge" and make sure it doesn't twist into self punishment/flagellation/miscellaneous unhealthiness.

  3. I started practicing yoga a little over a year ago and I have found that it is something my body craves!! I find that yoga and walking are SO good for me and relaxing. Have fun on your journey:)


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― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King