16 January 2016

Yoga: I'm a Believer

I mentioned awhile back that I've started to practice yoga, thanks to my daughter's encouragement. I had thinking about starting yoga for quite awhile, so this is not exactly "out of the blue". In fact, yoga practice has been suggested to me on more than one occasion as a way to relieve stress and anxiety. 

When Bailey was home over Christmas break, she helped me get plugged into two great online yoga communities, and I'm now over halfway through two 30-day yoga challenges. Doing a single 30-day challenge would have been sufficient but I wanted to jump-start the process -- and I couldn't decide which of the two challenges would be best for me. Each instructor has her own style and approach. So why not do both? :)

A little context here: My body is so inflexible that back when I was in elementary school, I was unable to do tumbling like the rest of the kids. In fact, during a somersault one day, something cracked or popped in my lower back so loudly that it echoed through the gym. It was not one of those "good" cracks -- it was incredibly painful and I could not stand or walk well. I was taken straight to the doctor, where I was told I should never do tumbling again. Instead, the doctor prescribed...YOGA. So from that point on during the tumbling unit, I sat in the corner of the gym with my yoga book and did my best. Of course, I did not sustain that effort long-term but looking back, I sure wish I had!

So I find it a little funny that I'm now -- many, many years later -- getting back to something that obviously would have helped me a lot! Now that I've worked my way through over 30 yoga videos, here is what I've learned:
  • I should have started practicing yoga long ago.
  • My inflexible body is starting to loosen up.
  • Stretching feels really good.
  • My balance is improving. Yoga requires you to stand on one leg in various poses. I didn't realize I was wobbly until I started practicing yoga.
  • Yoga requires you to hold poses while you breathe through them, and this strengthens the muscles and improves the balance. I had not thought about that prior to starting this practice.
  • Yoga is very hard work. It takes a tremendous amount of strength to move "effortlessly" from one pose to the next (called a "flow"). I'm really terrible at it, but each day I see tiny (emphasis on the word TINY!) improvements with less pausing to "re-set" between my poses. 
  • My arms are not nearly as strong as I thought they were. Yoga is definitely pointing that out to me, as many poses require you to support the weight of your body with your arms. But in the last couple of weeks, my arm strength has already improved considerably.
  • Downward Dog is tough for me but it's getting a little easier with practice. I understand that it's considered a "resting pose" -- HA! Far from that for me!
  • Yoga moves you focus on the present moment. This is a challenge for me, as I'm always thinking ahead and have a lot of trouble just being in the present.
  • I really like the holistic aspects of yoga practice. I know that the mind/body connection is strong, and yoga practice makes you much more aware of that link.
  • I tend to hold my breath, both in yoga and in life. I need to relax and breathe. Good advice for daily living.
Here's to finishing both 30-day challenges and seeing what comes after that! After even this short amount of time, I can definitely see the benefits of adding a yoga practice to my fitness routine. Although it's hard work, I'm very glad I'm getting started!

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