Monday, September 23, 2013

A Life Changer

A little backstory
So, for the past three months I've been trying to seriously become healthier in both my eating and exercising habits. When I moved from Pennsylvania to South Carolina two and a half years ago, I slowly gained 25 pounds. This made me ten pounds overweight for my height, and needless to say, I was not happy about it.

I hated the weight I'd gained. I tried so hard to lose it, but it just wouldn't come off. Over the past few years, I've accumulated quite a few workout DVDs, walked almost every morning, and tried to eat smaller portions. Let me just say here that I cannot stand exercising, particularly cardio workouts. They are the bane of my existence. Despite this deep-seated hatred, I worked out hard five days a week, every week, for months on end before giving up because nothing was happening. Well, I continued to gain more weight, actually.

Time for a change
This past summer, I decided that this was it. I was going to lose the weight come Hell or high water. I was unhealthy physically, and I honestly didn't feel good about myself at all. It was time for a change for real this time.

After discovering yoga on one of Jillian Michaels' DVDs (Yoga Meltdown), I scoured YouTube for more sequences so I wouldn't get bored. Best. Decision. Ever.

If you are not familiar with yoga (like I was), and don't feel like dishing out the money to go to a studio, I highly, highly suggest you check out Yoga With Adriene. Adriene lays down the foundations of the practice to newcomers with clear instructions that make the poses seem a million times more doable. As she guides you through each movement, Adriene maintains a personable and humorous demeanor that is refreshing compared to some other YouTube videos I've seen. When you do eventually make your way to a studio, class will run more smoothly since you already know the poses.

Why am I telling you all of this?
Because yoga changed my life in more ways than one. It even helped me tone down my temper a little. Okay, so that particular personality trait of mine is not gone completely, but then I'm Irish, so I can't help it. Everyone's just going to have to deal with it. At least now I breathe deeply instead of holding in my scream of frustration when I'm confronted with an annoying problem. I'd even stopped worrying about how I looked and started caring more about how I felt after each practice. Yoga is something I actually want to do, rather than something I feel I have to force myself to do. It honestly doesn't even feel like exercising to me. It's a very personal practice, which is one of my favorite aspects. I don't feel like I have to push myself past my limits as with cardio activities. Sadie Nardini (another great online yoga instructor) points out in one of her videos that yoga isn't a competitive sport. It's all about you. You do what feels good for you.

The results?
I've lost all 25 pounds. Combined with diet and some long walks several times a week, yoga has helped me loose almost all of the weight I had gained. I feel so much better about myself—even better than I had when I lived in PA. I'm not going to lie to you: it took a lot of hard work and a bunch of my time was devoted to diet and exercise. Even though I was active before starting yoga, I still had to build the muscles needed for all of those Chaturangas and high lunges, but it was so worth it.

I'm extremely proud of the results and how fit I've become, but I'm happier to have found yoga. I really consider that the best part of this whole summer adventure of mine. I plan on keeping yoga as a part of my daily life from here on out. I’m completely addicted, and find myself turning towards it to relieve stress or just because I feel bored.

Not looking to loose weight? That's okay! Yoga is also notable for a slew of other reasons. The Yoga Health Foundation has a great list of health benefits associated with the practice here.

Are you interested?
So, have I piqued your interest in this lovely practice yet? I thoroughly hope so. If not, I guess I'll just mention that September happens to be National Yoga Month. The Yoga Health Foundation is offering a promotion in September and October for those interested in trying out yoga. What you do is go to their website here and sign up for a week of free yoga classes at a studio near you. (September is almost over, so hop to it!) A list of places that are participating will show up after you type in your zip code when prompted. Before submitting your pass request, I suggest double checking with the studio to make sure they're participating so you don't waste it. You only get one pass.
I have been looking forward to my free classes for what seems like forever. Last week I devoted much of my time to yoga. I wanted to check out other types in order to expand my practice, and have actually found ones I liked and some I didn't like. I do plan on returning to the classes that I enjoyed in the near future.

Not sure you want to go to a public class? 
Then try YouTube! It's free and you get to stay home! Seriously, that place is rife with yoga videos. And don’t think that because it looks hard or because you don't have a "yoga body" that you shouldn’t try it. Seriously, anyone can do it. It really doesn't matter what you look like or what your age is or where your level of flexibility is at. Obviously, as with anything, you have to work up to the more challenging poses, but everyone has to start somewhere. Just do it and keep doing it. I love each time I discover I can go deeper into the poses. It makes every sequence that much more exciting.
You need to make time for yoga and time for change, both internally and externally. Once you get the hang of the basic poses, the possibilities are endless. Yoga for weight loss, back problems, hip openers, stomach issues, balance, a strained neck...the list goes on forever. Just go to YouTube, type one of those in, and enjoy. You can even do it in your pajamas if you feel the need to do so! It’s your practice. Do whatever the heck you want. This is your time for yourself and to revolutionize yourself.

Best YouTube channels (in my opinion, anyway)
As I mentioned before, Yoga With Adriene is probably the best place for beginners. Once you’re ready for more sequences, go and explore the Internet for them. Try out numerous videos to see what you like. If you're not sure where to start, I think you should give the following YouTube channels a try. They each have some awesomely challenging sequences:


Emma M. said...

haha I remember bemoaning cardio exercise with you way back in the day.I still HATE it and have vowed to never run again. I don't even slightly understand people who live to run.

I've been really interested in yoga throughout my pregnancy and have been trying to do as much of it as I can. Stretching in general is very much needed as I have packed on the pounds. Turns out that extra weight tightens up your muscles big time. I also love that yoga forces you to relax and focus while in a difficult position. I'm hoping this mindset will somehow help with labor.

I'm really looking forward to trying out those youtube channels mentioned once the little one is here and I'm cleared to exercise!

Katie Kay said...

Omg, I do not miss those days in gym class. I actually tried to running a few months ago and ended up pulling a muscle in my foot. I couldn't stand on my foot for a week. Never again.

I'm glad to hear that yoga has been helping you these past few months! I've been wondering how well yoga during pregnancy works. It seems like anything associated with moving would be hard, especially the closer the due date becomes.

Forcing myself to relax is probably my favorite part of yoga. It makes me feel like I'm able to enjoy the poses.

I hope you have fun trying them out! You'll have to let me know how they work out for you.

Emma M. said...

haha I didn't even know you could pull a muscle in your foot. Running would do that though. Being forced to run would be enough torture to make me crack.

Yeah, moving is definitely hard especially close to the due date. I really have to modify a lot of things, but I find that making that effort is so worth it.