Having struggled with my weight since I was in preschool, I have been an avid exerciser pretty much since forever. I grew up doing Jane Fonda (remember her?) videos with my mother on our VCR (remember those?); lots of colorful leotards and leg warmers :) In high school I taught aerobics classes to fellow students and after graduation I trained as an Aerobics Instructor.
Whether I was doing aerobics, running on the treadmill or riding the elliptical, the goal was always to push my body as hard as possible to burn as many calories as possible. More calories lost, the more in shape I would be....right? After an intense workout, I'd feel invigorated, glad I had pushed to my limit and beyond, but physically, many times my feet and joints would be in pain. But that's just part of a really successful workout...right?
I was actually quite wrong. As one of my students put it so succinctly after a yoga class: "I've gone to so many exercise classes, but always left feeling exhausted and wondering why I was doing exercise that was hurting me." We tend to live in the uppermost hemisphere of ourselves, and neglect to realize that our bodies are just as much a part of us as our minds.
So how does yoga fit into all this? Yoga is all about consciousness and awareness. Realizing that we have so many dimensions as humans; we are made up of heart, body, soul, and mind as well. Yoga helps to address all areas of ourselves, so instead of feeling torn and disconnected from ourselves as a whole, it helps to unify all those seemingly separate parts. By pausing and breathing we bring a heightened sense of awareness into every moment and every movement. We learn how to listen to our bodies, and the language our bodies speak is the language of sensation. We learn to tune in so we can heal instead of harm.
On a physiological level, as opposed to other forms of exercise that repeatedly place stress on the same muscles and joints (think running, cycling, jogging, etc.), yoga works on every muscle of our bodily chain & therefore helps to maintain bone strength, joint mobility, and joint stability. Using the science of anatomy to position the body in the most optimum & safe ways, the risk of injury is greatly reduced. Additionally, by placing emphasis on consistency & quality of breath, practicing yoga is very helpful in activating the parasympathetic nervous system and releasing feel good hormones and chemicals thus greatly reducing the negative effects of stress. When you leave a yoga class full of endorphins, serotonin, and dopamine, your body chemistry is different than when you started that class. Ask any of my students - they'll tell you they feel the difference!
The spine is the information highway from the body to the brain and yoga places much emphasis on maintaining flexibility in the spine. One of my favorite quotes is: "you're only as young as your spine is flexible". Think about it for a moment, a flexible spine, the ability to move unencumbered, is truly the fountain of youth.
Best of all, yoga is for everyone (and no, you don't have to be able to touch your toes!) It is accessible and easily adjusted for everyone on their own level. Yoga rises to meet you wherever you and your body are.
Yoga is not magic, it's hard but rewarding work. To quote one of my wonderful students who said so elegantly:
"I noticed that I am so much more energetic and cheerful on days after I do Yoga, and therefore so much more productive :) I read somewhere that the hardest part of exercise is that first step out the door - however I find that there is so much progress from week to week that it gives that extra push - I know it's worth it, and don't want to lose the momentum. It's amazing how it's hard work, yet relaxing and energizing at the same time."
There has never been a time when I have regretted getting on my mat. It has become my most valued tool in my toolbox of self-healing. In the spirit of always being open to learning more, I am a student just as you are and I am excited to be a part of your journey of self discovery.
If you have any questions, feel free to reach out