I have a confession to make. I have been doing something different this month. My body had been feeling tired. It had been feeling not as strong. After I finished competing at the Foxwoods show April 27th I had been having an overall feeling of tax on the body from the weight training workouts/dieting/lack of recovery. Usually after a show, I take a full week off from strength training to reset my body. I incorporate all of those glorious foods that I hadn’t been eating (this part is never a problem!) I have always found that when I stop focusing so much on ‘when I am eating’ and ‘what I am eating’ and just live my normal, healthy lifestyle–this is when my body feels in its PRIME.
Well a week after, I got back into the weight room and I still didn’t get that rush that I was used to. I just felt that I hit a plateau. I was feeling bored, unmotivated and most of all, I wasn’t having fun which is the most important part of any exercise program. I spoke a few weeks ago in a post about the benefits of bodyweight training I decided to drop the weights from being a priority with my workouts and focus more on bodyweight work. In the summertime, I also tend to stay out of the gym a bit more because of the beautiful weather so those bodyweight workouts are my ‘go-to’ I always feel strong, challenged and smiling after a hardcore bodyweight workout (like the two below) I have posted these both before on my bodyweight training post, but here they are again just in case you didn’t see or get to perform them yet!
Since incorporating bodyweight training a lot more, it got me thinking more about yoga. I had always done yoga in the past here and there. I used to take hot yoga because it was always such a sweaty class and was the closest thing to getting a workout in at the gym that I could get and still being able to call it ‘yoga’ Most people go to yoga for a relaxing experience, and hot yoga was anything but that (for me!) I truly have never taken the time to be in my zone in a yoga class and take advantage of the practice for ME. Truly being able to use yoga as a stress reliever, time ‘alone’ and a compliment to my current routine was something I had been craving for the past few months but never got around to. There is no time like the present and I did it. FINALLY
I love Yoga. I don’t mean the hot, sweaty, bikram “OMG that was a killer workout and I died because I sweat so much” yoga. I mean the slow, controlled, focused on flexibility, inner calming, not heated, vinyasa style yoga. I have become stronger, more centered, more relaxed, more flexible and my body feels better than ever. Just to clarify-I have also been incorporating strength training, cardio and body weight training into my workout routine, but I have introduced yoga 2x a week into the mix and it is not going anywhere for a long time.
Everyone NEEDS to take the time for things that are GOOD for the body. Yoga is one of those things. It is impossible to go ‘balls to the wall’ all of the time (and I bet if you are going all out, all of the time, you are not feeling at your prime and something hurts) I am not here to preach why “I love yoga and now you must too!” Trust me, I could write all day long about the things I like and why you should too, but I am here to URGE you to integrate more yoga into your workout program. Its awesome. You’ll love it. And if you don’t–stick with it and keep it in the rotation because its good for you.
Take Time to RELAX
I know that when taking yoga for the first time, it can be anything but relaxing due to feeling self conscious due to lack of flexibility or not knowing what the heck savasanah is or simply having an overwhelming feeling of ‘what the heck am I doing here’ I always pushed yoga aside thinking that I don’t have an hour and a half to ‘stretch’ All I want to do is LIFT and SWEAT and WORK. I always knew I should be doing but never incorporated it. Life gets hectic and my life certainly can get the best of me! I was in need of an outlet and I know that there was no time like the present to start up on the mat. I found a studio that I love in walking distance to where I work and live. After 2 classes I was hooked. I cannot stress enough how amazing I felt that day walking out of the yoga class. Centered, stress free, calm, soothing, a bit tired (in a good way!) and just chill. Besides feeling amazingly relaxed, I also realized how valuable yoga is when it comes to the weight room. If you are on a lifting program and considered yourself a ‘gym rat’ you should think about incorporating yoga into your routine. Don’t overlook it and think you are ‘too good’ or ‘don’t have time’ If you have time to lift, you have time to center yourself on a yoga mat.
How many times have you heard someone complain about something that ‘hurts’ while they are working out? Many times when we are lifting weights, we are creating muscular imbalances due to one side ‘being stronger’ than the other and thus throwing the spine out of alignment. The key idea in yoga is BALANCE. Balance from the core and into every single muscle, tendon, ligament and joint. We are forced to get ‘centered’ from head to toe, improving our bodies natural posture and thus helping to prevent injury
No Judgement Zone
So many times we can be working out and all of the sudden that you have spent 10 minutes looking at someone else workout and what they are doing. You are not necessarily judging or watching them in a negative way, but they are there and you may be paying attention out of the corner of your eye. In a yoga class, I love it because no one cares about you. They care about themselves. Everyone is in class for a different reason. In the beginning of my class last week the instructor went around and asked everyone to share their ‘purpose’ for their practice today. It was amazing to hear the different responses! One person said “I want to sweat” another said “I haven’t slept well in 3 nights and need some energy” and one more person said “I have too much energy and need to de-stress” Simply hearing these 3 responses shows you that everyone comes to class with a different purpose and all leave hopefully fulfilling that purpose.
Try taking a class later in the day or early evening and sleep like a baby! If you are one that has or have had trouble sleeping…there is research that shows doing a 45 minute yoga class can help you relax, unwind and will provide you with increased sleep quality!
Balance With Your Workouts.
If you are gym junkie and NOT incorporating yoga, I highly suggest you start…tomorrow or as soon as possible. Lifting weights and performing crazy amounts of cardio can be very taxing on the body. When is the last time you felt a true balance within your body. I knew something was missing with my workout routine and I knew it was in the route of something less taxing and less intense. I have never felt more balanced with my body and in my life than I do since getting in more practice time on the mat.
Full Body Strength
I always had seen people in a yoga class standing on their elbows and standing on their hands with their whole bodies inverted. I always wanted to be able to do that. Yoga brings the term ‘strength’ to a whole new level. To be able to hold up your entire body takes practice, form, body awareness, progression and extreme focus. Think about holding a plank on your hands with 100% perfect form. Then think about lifting 10lb dumbbells over your head for a shoulder press. Obviously, the plank option is much harder to do (again, while keeping proper form) When you are isolating one muscle group, this is a no brain-er that most ‘strong’ people can do. Most isolated weight training exercises bring your body through one plane of motion while Yoga, uses poses that teach all of your muscles to work together through a wider variety of angles. The end result: you build functional strength that trains your muscles to work collectively, which can improve your performance in any everyday activity.
Total Body Awareness
Performing anything while barefoot requires you to transmit a crazy amount of force through the entire body than you are (most likely) used to. We spend so much time working on the rest of our body, we neglect to center ourselves from the ‘roots’ of our bodies (the feet of course!) The feet are the base of our support and thus the foundation of our everyday movement. If the feet lack strength, mobility, and proprioception (feeling yourself in space and being able to react and perform) but the rest of the body is strong…there will be so much force through the feet it can throw off balance and thus create injuries. From the ground up, we have to have 100% proprioception, concentration and strength found in the feet to transmit throughout the rest of the body.
No one else can ‘calm you down’ No one else can work for you, sweat for you, relax for you or practice for you. I am the only one who can calm me. I am the only one I can challenge. I am the only one who can be strong when I feel strong and surrender when I need a rest. I have found that yoga centers me. I do it for me
Still skeptical about trying yoga? Here are some
tips for starting out!
Tips for starting up with yoga
- Find a studio that fits YOU. Take a look around your city or town and try out classes! Most studios have a drop in class rate and some even have a ‘first time’ special. I have been to MANY yoga studios in the greater Boston area and certainly have my favorite places, instructors and classes! I also have some studios that do not fit what I want to get out of my practice. Feel around. Your place of practice should fit you
- Don’t do too much too soon. Take your time. Some of the more challenging poses take time to learn and will not be mastered in your first class. Modify and realize you don’t always have to be the hero.
- Don’t get caught up in the hoopla. Like I said before, find a practice and style that works for you. You don’t HAVE to practice yoga for the crazy workout. You can do it for the relaxation aspect. Don’t feel that you have to be going all out for the whole class. Enjoy it and cherish this time.
- Talk to the peeps! Its a great idea to get involved in the local community. Obviously, you all know I spend a whole lot of time at Lululemon. Some of the employees there have become some of my closest friends! Many of the local Lululemon (or other yoga store) employees are the best to chat with about classes and experience! They themselves are most likely instructors and if not-they can recommend a class (and a cute outfit!) for you! I have found that every single person I talk to about yoga is SUPER excited to talk about it!
- Make it about you. Take the hour or hour and a half and try to dedicate your practice to YOU or something in your life. No distractions. Be present.
- Ask questions. Feel free to approach the instructor after class to introduce yourself. Let them know you are a newbie yogi and they will be SO excited to talk to you about anything and everything! Ask them about different styles or maybe other classes they offer. What they would recommend. The best way to find out is to ask!
- TRY to not feel ‘out of place’ When you step foot into a yoga studio, this should be a comfortable space and place. You should be greeted with a smile and you should above all-feel welcome. If you do not get a good vibe after your first experience, don’t let this deter you away from yoga all together. Just keep shopping for a studio that DOES have everything you want and need. Yoga is certainly a ‘no judgement’ zone and you should 100% feel this way.
- Find a good mat! Again, take your time and shop around. Read reviews or ask local yogis what mat they recommend. Being connected to the ground and comfortable is of utmost importance! If you are going to continue yoga regularly, it could be beneficial to do your research! Some mats that were recommended to me were Lululemons “The Mat” Manduka Pro, Manduka ProLite ,Jade Harmony Mat, PrAna ECO Mat. I still am shopping around myself! At my local Lululemon, you can sign out the mat and try it for a class which is a great way to see if it will work for you!
- Pay attention to your breathing. Breathing is HUGE in a yoga practice. It is a powerful tool for managing stress and a wonderful way to feel connected to your practice. Be aware of your breathing and take this with you out of the yoga studio as well. Take time throughout your day for a few deep yoga breaths
- Try to stay for the whole class. At the end, when most classes have a meditation or ‘savasanah; time, you may be tempted to leave and get back to your desk or check your phone and think “what a waste of time this is!” Try your best to relax and stay in the room on your mat. You are being given this time to yourself to meditate in your thoughts. EMBRACE IT
Local Boston Studios
- South Boston Yoga
- South End Yoga
- Back Bay Yoga
- Sweat and Soul Yoga
- Inner Strength Studio (watertown and Dedham)
- Prana Power Yoga (cambridge and Newton)
- Baptiste Yoga
- Charlestown Yoga
- Exhale Spa (boston)
- All One Yoga
- Down Under Yoga (Newton)
- Namo Yoga
- North End Yoga
- JP Centre Yoga (Jamaica Plain)