Discovering the joy of yoga
Tuesday, February 12, 2013
I decided it was time to see what all the yoga hype was about. You'd have to be living under a rock to have not heard by now all the benefits yoga can provide, including decreased stress, increased flexibility, less joint pain and a calmer mindset. Considering I could really use all of these things in my life I decided it was finally time to give it a try.
I'd actually done yoga one time before, almost ten years ago now. My freshman year of college, I took a Tai Chi class as a "filler" credit and it was pretty awesome. I'd love to learn Tai Chi again. But one day our instructor was out sick and he had the yoga instructor fill in for him. Instead of doing Tai Chi, we did yoga. Except ... she didn't seem to 'get' that most of us had never done yoga, and didn't have the strength or flexibility for advanced poses. After an hour of leg lifts and shoulder stands, I decided yoga was not for me, ever! It was simply too intense.
Luckily, I've grown a lot since then and also done enough reading on the internet to realize that there are plenty of yoga poses that don't involve standing on your shoulders. I've also come to realize that if you don't have the flexibility or strength to do a pose just as the instructor shows, that's ok! The point of yoga is to gently increase your strength and range of motion to be able to get there eventually.
After wandering around on Pinterest (seriously, Pinterest is one of the best motivators I've ever found), I discovered a series of basic yoga poses that can help relax you to help you fall asleep. I've got pretty bad insomnia and it usually takes me around an hour or more to fall asleep once I go to bed. After following these yoga poses, and then focuses on meditating once I closed my eyes, I was able to fall asleep within 20 minutes of laying down. Unheard of for me!
Finding yoga classes in my area is surprisingly difficult - only one of the area gyms offers them, and of course it's the most expensive one with the longest contract terms, a.k.a. the one I'm not joining. My little $30 a month, no frills 24-hour gym only offer Zumba, but they've got the equipment I need and finding time in my schedule for a set class time is rather difficult anyway. That's why I joined a 24-hour gym in the first place.
So, I did the second best thing and bought an instructional DVD and a yoga mat so I could do it at home. I didn't do a bunch of googling looking for "the best." I went to Walmart, looked at their options and went with the one that seemed to be about my speed. It's led by a Hawaiian yogi with a soothing voice that explains each pose and movement in a way a complete newbie like myself can understand. I may not be able to bend as deeply as he can or reach as far out to the side as he can, but even he says that's ok, and throughout each instruction gives suggestions on what you can change, such as resting your hands on your shins instead of the floor. These work for me. This whole video and idea works for me.
I went to bed last night feeling more relaxed and sated than I have in years. I could feel the intensity in my muscles as I used muscle groups that haven't seen work in a while and stretched areas that are constantly tense during the poses. But afterwards, I was simply relaxed. My back didn't hurt, my knee didn't hurt, I wasn't tense, I was just calm and relaxed. My husband was so impressed by how much it relaxed me that he now wants to give it a try.
Today, something didn't agree with my stomach, so I opted to not go to class and instead stay home and relax. Yoga sounded relaxing and I hoped it would soothe my upset stomach. And so, I popped my DVD back in and followed the calm instructions, stretching and toning, and finally, relaxing. After the savasana, I felt great. My stomach wasn't upset, and again nothing in my body hurt. I felt as though I'd had a great workout, but didn't hurt and wasn't worn out in anyway.
After the 30-minute yoga session, I decided to follow an idea I found on pinterest and take a nice long relaxing detox bath. After filling the tub with the hottest water I could manage to get (our water heater is kind of wimpy), adding epsom salt, eucalyptus oil and baking soda, I sat my laptop on the closed toilet seat, turned on Pandora's "relaxation" station and full-screened a YouTube video of a fireplace. 30 minutes later, the water was starting to get cold and I felt amazing, cleansed and relaxed.
Why haven't I ever tried these things before? My goal is to do yoga as close to daily as possible, especially once the season starts back at work. In addition to gym visits, I'm hoping it will help with the endurance and strength I will need at my new position, but more importantly, help me keep a calm and level head throughout the work day and help me sleep at night. I have slept better the past two nights than I have any night in my memory. I've woken up refreshed rather than groggy (though I've also slept later and longer than I normally do) and more energetic the next day.
Now if only I can convince the husband to go for a long walk with me!