Now, anyone who's watched people do yoga usually come away with the feeling that it's pretty easy to do. You stand, put your foot on your leg and stretch, right? WRONG! Yoga, as I found out, is a whole body workout and you do as much sweating doing yoga as you do riding an exercise bike or any number of things in the gym.
Sunday evening, I got a call from Mirna, a friend that I sit next to in my Journalism 102 discussion class. She let me know last Wednesday that she went to yoga on Mondays and I jumped at the chance to get to go, so I expressed my interest and told her to give me a call Sunday night to remind me. Well, sure enough, Sunday evening, the phone rang letting me know I had to be at the Student Health and Wellness Center at 10 a.m. on Monday morning.
When Monday morning rolled around, I got up, got showered, dressed and was at the doors to the Health and Wellness Center at 10 a.m. on the button. Mirna was out front waiting for me. After exchanging hellos, we went upstairs to one of the dance studios to find the yoga instructor, Winnie, waiting for us. On the floor of the dance studio sat two yoga mats and I found out quickly that it was just going to be myself, Mirna and Winnie that session.
In a way, I was really glad that my first time in a yoga class was going to be so small and intimate. The dance studio was huge, but at the same time, with only the three of us there, it made it much easier to relax, knowing that I wasn't going to be judged by 20 other pairs of eyes. So, with mats spaced out yet side-by-side, I was on the left, Mirna was on the right, with Winnie between us.
Winnie started out by going over breathing. According to her, breathing is bar-none the most important part about yoga, shortly followed by maintaining control of your body at all times, i.e. no flailing of arms, just making sure that if you're moving, it's very controlled.
What I found out over the course of the hour I spent with Winnie is that the people who have done yoga for a long time are the ones that make it look easy. For me, the yoga class marked the first time I had been out of the house to do physical exercise in a long, long time. Ok, the Wii doesn't count, it's like yoga for noobs. It's not even remotely as difficult as going to the studio and having an instructor put you through the paces.
Yoga relies on your core muscles primarily, but it doesn't stop there, it's upper body, lower body, hips, abs, butt, legs, back...and all the while you're making yourself into a Chinese pretzel, you're still concentrating on breathing in and out through your nose.
When we did one position where my wrists were forced to take the full force of holding up my weight, my wrists screamed out in agony. Winnie stopped and showed me how to stretch and strengthen my wrists so that I could hold myself up. All the while, I'm watching Mirna as she's having little to no difficulty at all with the poses, stretches and so forth. Me? Oh hell, I was having a bitch of a time with all of it and realizing how fat I still am, how stiff my whole body is and I lamented at how limber had walked out the door 10 years ago.
All throughout the session, I found myself sweating like I was on an exercise bike, my heart rate was up, my breathing was elevated and I sat surprised that something so easy ended up being NOT so easy at all. At one point, we were in a pose I can't even remember the name of, but I had one foot wrapped behind my leg, my two arms intertwined and it was at that point Winnie asked me, "how are you feeling?" I replied quickly, "Like a Chinese pretzel," to which I quickly channeled a young Indian man saying, "Would you like curry with that?"
Throughout the class I got to become a number of animals, there was dog, dolphin, cat, camel, cobra, but the one pose that really kind of freaked me out was "corpse". Lucky for me, corpse came at the end, because by the time we were done, I was dead.
The one thing that is still sticking with me is the meditation exercise that Winnie gave us while we were in corpse pose. She said that we needed to imagine a bowl in our minds. A bowl that would fill itself up with all of the negativity and stress that we were going through. Then, she took us through the mental exercise of dumping out the bowl and letting the negative go through us and be absorbed into the ground, being carried away from our bodies. That was cool. Then, she had us go to fetal position, then slowly get up, symbolizing death and rebirth. The whole 'death and rebirth' thing flew over my head, so I asked Winnie to re-explain it to me. It was the simple fact that we were letting the negativity die, then being reborn into positivity. That was something I hadn't even thought was a part of yoga.
When we finished the class, Winnie assured me I would be sore the next day. She did not lie. My whole body is doing a chorus of "ooh", "ouch", "yikes!", "pain, lots and lots of pain".
BUT! I can say I got my fat ass out the door and took part in the world. For those of you who are wondering, YES, I'm going back again. Next opportunity that arises will see me back on the yoga mat, and I'm going to keep going again and again until I hone body back into a lean, mean, beautiful fighting machine.
Laying there, dead on the yoga mat, reminded me of the days my body was a fine tuned machine with striations and muscle definition that would make most people cry. I remembered the days of doing 250 reps on my abs doing regular crunches, then both sets of obliques, and even the really hard reps of laying on my back and having my feet thrown at the floor by my workout partner, only to have me catch them with my abs and take them right back up again, doing 50-100 of them without even thinking about it twice, then getting on the roman chair for another set of 50. Velvet ropes didn't fall for me back in the day because I was out of shape you know... When I think about the rip that went from below my bust all the way to my throat, then being able to clearly see the striations in my pecs, I want to cry. I used to look so good. But, no use lamenting the past, we're in the present now and even though I'm sore, I'm proud of myself.
Life is about perseverance. It's one foot in front of the other, and damn it, if it takes me making myself into a Chinese pretzel, so be it! For the record, I started out the Journey of the Sophomore at 175 pounds 19 months ago. I'm now sitting at 147 pounds, 17 off of my goal weight of a healthy 130. To date, I've lost 28 pounds. If you are thinking, "wow, how did she do that?" Remember, I suffer from an auto-immune disease which has caused me to have hypo-thyroidism. I have to constantly make sure that I'm driving my metabolism by eating regularly and being active. That works for me because that is the nature of my illness, if I work on being active, the weight will come off, provided that I am making sure that I'm eating. I am one that forgets to eat, so my body goes into starvation mode and holds onto everything that I eat, causing weight gain. BUT when I'm on top of my diet, eating regularly and healthy, the weight comes off just as long as I'm active. That's how those 28 pounds bit the dust and oh am I tickled pink they are gone. Just a little bit more to go. Either way though, I don't care what other people think about how I look. I know what's going on with my body and that's the most important thing. I think I look good, so pfft to all those who would say otherwise. I'm down to fine tuning and getting rid of the rest methodically and healthily.
Woot! Ok, owwww, that hurt to put my arms up and cheer...but it's so worth it...I'm investing in me.
Mind, body, spirit. Taking the three, making them one and that one spells: