Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Let it flow

Let it flow, let yourself go, slow and low that is the tempo--Beastie Boys

This is the song that is playing in my head when I reflect on today's workout: one hour of yoga and 30 minutes of walking.

I used to be a cardio junkie. If it wasn't heart-pumping, music-thumping, sweat running, then it wasn't a workout.

Eight years ago I used to teach step aerobics and kickboxing classes at a health club. My class was followed by a yoga class and curiosity got the best of me. I was pregnant with my second daughter and thought it might be good for me to give yoga a try--relaxing, calming, stretching--all good things for a pregnant gal, right?

Well, as much as I hate to admit this, the only word that can describe how I felt about that first yoga class is: B-o-r-i-n-g!

Flash forward eight years and I am a certified advanced yoga instructor and have been teaching (I prefer to use the word "guiding") yoga classes (practices) for six years. I can't imagine not having yoga in my life.

Aside from "boring," there are several other things I experienced in that first class: sore wrists, mild headache, and a few dangerous moments where I flirted with inappropriate laughter. People respond in different ways when they are out of their comfort zone. I either blush to a shade of deep scarlet or suppress the urge (often unsuccessfully) to laugh. Even now, when I attend Bikram yoga, I'm startled by the loud breathing that kicks off the class. It is a group setting I'm still so unfamiliar with that my first impulse, before settling in, is to giggle.

But, despite my feelings after that first yoga class, I stuck with it. My wrists adapted, my head got used to the pressure experienced when inverted, and I started to enjoy yoga and appreciate what it had to offer in the way of strength, endurance, balance, flexibility, concentration and mind-body connection. I was hooked. After a full year of practicing, I knew that yoga would forever be a part of my life and I wanted to share the practice with others, so I became a student of yoga, and then a teacher.

One yoga instructor I practiced with said that, in addition to wholesome and balanced nutrition, the only thing you need in life to stay healthy and fit is yoga and five miles of walking each day. And I believe it.

But there is still a part of me that craves a good, long run or a challenging bike ride. For me, I find balance in having both the extroverted cardio experience and the introverted yoga experience. Taking my dog for daily walks is one of the best things I can do for her, and for myself, but losing myself to endless laps in the pool, conquering steep hills on my bike or sprinting that last mile of a run is an endorphin cocktail that I can't live without.

So, I've learned to find balance in my fitness life. And, though I will always crave the heart-pumping, music thumping, sweat running cardio workouts, I also value days like today when I can just let it flow, let myself go, slow and low that is the tempo.


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